Wine: Choosing a wine for yourself.
by Ben Nuttall (WSET® Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits)
Professional learning in Bordeaux, at Millesima Fine Wine Merchants
When choosing your wine, ladies and gentlemen, it does not HAVE to be expensive to be enjoyed and savoured! You do NOT have to spend $100+ to get a wine that will blow your mind and enchant the senses so much so that you remember it for years to come. Being a wine connoisseur or even just enjoying your evening drop doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg – I’ve had some bottles of $15-20 wine that I enjoyed far more than some $150 bottles I’ve tried. There are a number of questions I ask myself or customers when buying a bottle of wine:
1) Am I/are they drinking the wine in the near future?
If I’m drinking the wine soon then buying a $100+ bottle of 2-3yrs old red wine is not the best option. The wine will be too young and the experience won’t be as enjoyable as the winemaker envisioned it to be. The various elements of the wine won’t be in harmony as they are yet to mature in the bottle fully. Sure, it might taste amazing in 10-15 years time but not for tonight. Instead, try turning to something in the $10-20 range that may be youthful but was designed by the winemaker to be enjoyed young and fresh. All the flavours will be there and working together and will make the overall experience far, far better.
2) What do I / they want out of the wine?
Do you want something that has layers of different flavours so that every time you have a mouthful you get a different experience? Or do you simply want something you can sit and enjoy without having to consider it? Something with layers of complexity will generally cost more (the winemaker has invested a lot of time and money into creating their masterpiece) but sometimes the experience is worth the extra cost. It’s all about weighing up whether this matters to you for the occasion – not many people want a Penfolds Grange with their pizza and football when they might enjoy a cleanskin Barossa shiraz just as much. If you don’t want to think about every mouthful, don’t stress! As long as the wine is right for the occasion it doesn’t matter if it cost you $5 or $500.
3) How is my / their palate?
Wine is a very subjective drink and everybody has a different palate – if you give the exact same wine to 5 people, every single one will take something different out of it. Your palate changes day-to-day based on what you’ve eaten, how much sleep you’ve had, your mood and a multitude of other factors. Even after taking that into account, everybody’s palate is different – some people like lots of sweetness, some people like their wines very dry – and no palate is wrong. To be able to get the most out of wine it is a matter of learning what your palate is like and exploring the different flavours out there. If your palate can’t tolerate very grippy tannins then it won’t matter if you spend $100 or $10 on a Cabernet Sauvignon, chances are you won’t enjoy it. Find the varieties that work for you and work within those or look for others similar to them. A $10 bottle of a variety that you love will be far more enjoyable than a $100 bottle of one you don’t.
In essence, the more expensive wine isn’t always the best and there are some incredible wines out there that don’t cost a fortune. Find what works for your taste and for the situation and go with that – sometimes it might be an expensive bottle but often there is a cheaper and just as enjoyable option!