Selecting a wine can be a real challenge for most, especially if they are facing 100 labels or brands in a store; a high number in the Indian scenario! Some can get spoilt for choice in such a situation, some settle for a wine recommended by the store chap who does not understand a word of wines, but most will succumb and bring back home a bottle of their favourite spirit and guzzle down a beer on their way to celebrate their “wine failure” yet again!
So how can you have a more informed wine shopping experience? If you can “phone a wine friend”, nothing like it…..if not then some broad guidelines as below
- Store: Pick a store where you can find a good collection. More importantly for wines, patronize a store which is air-conditioned as temperatures beyond 20 degree Celsius are not conducive for wine storage and most wines get spoilt at warehouses and stores.
- Budget: Go with a budget. For those with a fat wallet, go explore!
- Food: Ideally if you are going to pair your wine with food then the menu would really matter, but for simplicity let us choose a wine for a drinking by itself with no food. I will subsequently write about wine and food pairing.
- Type of wine: Considering you are a first time wine drinker, rose wines in my experience are the best bet; as they suit the Indian palate because of their fruity notes. For the seasoned ones pick a colour/grape varietal. And for those who are the “deal hunters” pick the price and the wine will follow. If possible do some homework on google.com before you set out!
- Countries and labels The wines in most stores are displayed country wise or in some according to the grape varietal. When it comes to labelling; “old world” wine countries like France, Germany, Italy, their classic wines are named after the region and not the grape, and every region mostly resembles a particular style of wine. This kind of knowledge can only come with experience and study making understanding of these labels difficult. “New world” regions like Chile, Australia, New Zealand on the other hand have descriptive labels mentioning the grape varietal and the tasting notes. So I suggest new worlds to begin with or get yourself a wine app like https://www.vivino.com/ which helps you decode labels. The “wine informed” customer service associates at many modern retail formats can come handy too.
- Myth- Older wines are better: The adage holds true for perhaps only 2% of the wines produced, the rest are meant for early consumption when they are fresh bursting with flavours. So the next time you go shopping ensure that you do not pick wines older than 2 years.
- Corks versus Screw caps: Many of us consider wines with a cork to be of a better quality, but it is certainly not the case! I agree natural cork have characteristics which can hold wines for decades but a synthetic cork or a metal screw cap cannot, however for wines meant to be drunk young and fresh; screw caps serve the purpose. What you miss out on is the sensuality of easing a cork out…but the flip side is that you would never put the bottle back in the rack because you did not have a corkscrew!
- Make notes: Lastly start making notes, a few lines in your own style about the wines you have tasted. This personal record will certainly be of great help…..
Cheers to good health!