If you’re a wine amateur, the concept of walking up to the wine aisle and choosing the right bottle for a dinner party could seem daunting. You may be wondering what the difference is (one is red, one is white, right?), and you could be worried about what other people may think of your choices, or whether they might say anything or not.
Today, you’re in luck. We’ve put together a wine selection guide that will help you to make the best wine selection based on the occasion and your taste. If you want an intro into oenology, read on, where we’ll describe everything, in words you can understand.
Understand the Basics, Read Your Labels
First, you need to know the basic terms used when discussing wines. Why? It may seem frustrating, but they will help, we promise. These are terms that are often used to describe different wines on the label and will help you in deciding on which wine to choose.
Sweet, semi-sweet, or dry: the wine of your choice will be one of the three. While the first two speak for themselves, a dry wine will not be sweet at all.
Tannins: you may have heard of or read this intimidating word before but it’s not that complicated. Tannins refer to phenolic compounds (adding flavour and texture) found within grape skins. If they’re naturally present during the wine-making process, or if they’re added through age, the wine will have a more bitter taste.
Body: you’ll have either a light-bodied wine, full-bodied wine, or something in-between. The body of the wine refers to the weight it holds in your mouth.
Alcohol: a higher percentage of alcohol present in wine will burn your throat more (in a nice way for some).
Acidity: while high acidity wines will be more tart, low acidity wines have a richer, more round taste.
If you’re new to wine, it’s always best to start with a rosé or a white wine. These will be softer on your taste buds and your mouth. As your taste matures, you may find you enjoy other, more bitter wines.
What’s the occasion?
Always keep in mind the occasion when making your wine selection. Firstly, for your tastes, you can revert to what you generally enjoy when it comes to food and drink. If you prefer sweet juices, you will more than likely prefer a sweet white or red. If you like your coffee black, you will have no problem with aged wine that holds many tannins.
When pairing your wine with food, it’s good to know what’s on the menu for the evening. A rule of thumb is that reds will pair well with dishes like beef, while whites will pair well with lighter dishes like salads and fish.
It’s sometimes a good idea to get a crowd-pleaser, something everyone will enjoy. You want the guests to be somewhat impressed with your choice, if not simply enjoying a glass of your choice. Choose a wine that is balanced in flavour - not too dry and not too sweet.
Before drinking a younger wine choice like a Syrah, let it go through some aeration. The gases in the air react with the wine, changing its flavour. Older wines don’t always need aeration as some corks allow air in over time. It will depend on the wine you have chosen.
Wine names and their flavours
Sometimes you’re standing in the aisle and all you want are signs above the wine saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If that’s you, here’s a guide to wine names and what they taste like. This can help you understand the taste before you buy it.
Champagne: sparkling wine. Sweet and bubbly.
Sauvignon Blanc: dry white. Not sweet and crisp.
Riesling: sweet white. Sweet and known as a good dessert wine.
Pinot Noir: light red. Easier on the taste buds, and is a lovely blend of fruity aroma.
Merlot: medium red. Your standard crowd-pleaser with a rich, velvety texture.
Cabernet Sauvignon: bold red. A bold choice, normally chosen specifically.
Sherry: dessert. A tot of this will warm you up on a cold evening.
The best way to impress your guests
Notably, it’s not only the wine choice that will impress your guests, but if you’re the host, you should be sure to have the perfect glassware. Many are quite particular about what they will drink their wine out of, and rightly so. It’s almost as if the wine glass changes the flavour. If you’d like to stock up on some impressive glasses for your next dinner party, take a look at our borosilicate flute glass - perfect for a celebration or a quiet dinner with the family.