How To Choose A Wine That Tastes Good

We'll start this article by asking the questions: "Why is wine so confusing?" and "Does selecting a wine intimidate you?" If your answer is yes, then you are not alone!

Most people have been to a liquor store or a restaurant and been absolutely overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer variety and number of selections offered. Herein lies the problem: too many choices.

So what is the solution?

If you've just begun to learn about boutique wine, even choosing a bottle may seem intimidating. The variety of choices among wine varieties, brands, labels, and prices seem almost infinite. Here are a few tips to point you in the right direction.

Discover Your Palate

Many people know when they like a wine. The difficult part is understanding why. What do you like about it, and how do you communicate your feelings? Is it light or full bodied? Is it tannic or not? What are tannins anyway? Is it fruity or sweet? Do fruity and sweet mean the same thing? And, if you try and like a Shiraz, does that mean you will like all Shiraz?

All these questions can be answered by tasting, and then tasting more. Yet tasting is not enough as you must pay attention to what you are tasting. Even better, in my opinion, is to learn with comparative tastings.

Consider the Chardonnay grape. It is grown in Mornington Peninsula, Victoria as well as in a region in Margaret River, Western Australia. Tasted side-by-side, you may think they have little in common, yet they are both made with the Chardonnay grape.

When you taste them side-by-side, you easily begin to get the idea of full body versus light body, and fruity versus mineral.

From such tastings, you may form a preference, or you may like them both, simply wanting one or the other depending on the occasion or your mood.

So given the above, here are some tips on how to choose a wine that is right for you:

Step 1:
Decide whether you want a white wine, red wine, sparkling wine, dessert wine or fortified wine. This will narrow down your choices and give you some direction.

Step 2:
Have a think about your wine tasting preferences

As a minimum, decide whether you prefer a dry vs sweet wine. (Dry is the term used to describe the absence of sweetness in a wine.)

If you are a little more knowledgeable on your wine preferences you may like to decide on which of these wine characteristics you prefer:

1. Low Tannins vs High Tannins: Tannins are a vital ingredient in wines, especially red wines. It comes from the stalks, skins and pips of grapes. Tannins in a young wine produce a bitter, puckering taste on the palate.

2. Short Palate vs Long Palate: The "length" of a wine is the amount of time the sensations of taste and aroma persist after swallowing. Usually, the longer the better.

3. Low Acid vs High Acid: Acids of various types are present in wine, and are essential to the wine's longevity and also to your enjoyment. Too little can affect the wine's quality and too much can spoil the wine. A higher acidity makes the wine more tart and sour tasting; whereas a low acidity results in flat tasting wine that is more susceptible and spoilage. It is that quality that makes your mouth water and your lips pucker, and without it, wines (and anything for that matter!) taste pretty flat and one dimensional. However, when acidity is present in the right quantities, it is the element that makes all of the other flavors in the wine stand out, including the undertones of fruit, spice and herbs. Note that when people discuss cool years and warm years in regards to the vintage, one of the most important elements they are alluding to is the acidity level in the wine. A cooler year will produce wines with more acidity whereas a warm year will produce wines with less acidity The flavor in wine that you would describe as tangy, sharp, refreshing, bracing, bright, crisp or zingy is the acidity.

4. Light Bodied vs Full Bodied Understanding the differences between a light-bodied wine and a full-bodied wine is about as simple as understanding your preferences for milk. Think of light-bodied as skim milk and full-bodied as cream. In between you have 2%, and right there you have your body range.

What makes it even easier, is that a wine’s body is directly proportional to its alcohol content. On every wine label you’ll notice a percentage of alcohol by volume, just as with any alcoholic beverage. Note how it applies to body:

7.5% - 10.5% indicates light body
10.5% - 12.5% indicates medium body
12.5% and over indicates full body

no oak vs heavy oak

Wines might be stored in oak containers, usually to impart extra and more complex flavours. French, American and German oak barrels are widely used in Australia, but are getting quite expensive as oak trees become scarcer. Oaky Describes the aroma or taste quality imparted to a wine by the oak barrels in which it was aged. Can be either positive or negative. The terms toasty, vanilla, dill, cedary and smoky indicate the desirable qualities of oak; charred, burnt, green cedar, lumber and plywood describe its unpleasant side.

Step 3:
It's important to purchase wine from stores that take proper care of their inventory. Extreme heat or cold, direct sunlight, and dramatic temperature fluctuations are enemies of wine. Also, before you buy, make sure the wine is filled up to the neck of the bottle, the cork is not pushing out of the bottle, and there are no signs of leakage.

Step 4:
There's no reason not to explore all of the wines that Australia has to offer in all its diversity. Don't stick only to the well-known varieties like Chardonnay or Shiraz -- experiment with other whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer or reds like Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. Also, try examples of a variety from different wine regions to understand how regional conditions affect wine character. Expose yourself to every type of wine.

Step 5:
When you find a wine you really like, consider buying wine by the case (12 bottles). Most wineries will offer you a 10% or 15% wine discount when you purchase a case of wine or more.

Step 6:
The ultimate goal of wine buying is to buy wines that taste good to you. Just because a merchant, friend or writer says a wine is good doesn't mean you'll like it. Conversely, don't shy away from a wine because someone else trashes it. The only arbiter of good taste in wine is you.

And most importantly, be open to possibilities and then, make note of them.

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About The Author, Jodie Smith
Article by Jodie Smith of a leading online cellar door offering uniquely different wines from over 120 boutique wineries. It makes finding the hard to get wines of Australia’s small wineries easy.