The most valuable thing I’ve learned as I take my first steps in the world of wine is also my new mantra: accept a little guidance. Why waste time and money on buying the wrong thing?
Spoiler alert: this article has a happy ending. Or rather a happy beginning. It turns out that the guy at the wine store is like a walking, talking wine encyclopedia.
Wines clubs and other tips on choosing wine
Ever since my success with Hayley’s gift (which I’m still super proud about, by the way), I’ve been taking small but determined steps further and further into world of wine. One day, I’ll be an expert.
I started out with what I had to hand: a little Google, a little Instagram, asking friends what wines they like and which they loved. I´ll be there for you, ´coz you´re there for me too. I got some good feedback and tips on choosing wine.
That week, I decided to head out into the wine community, learning about the different wine clubs at Club Social. But I made a definite leap when I met Alex, the guy who does the afternoon shift at Stranger Wines, a really cool wine store in Williamsburg.
Step by step tips
The wine store guy doesn’t just know his wines, he also understands that in the giant drinker’s universe people have different motives, expertise, buying power, diets, tastes and interests. So my wine guru isn’t just helping me to train my palate, he’s also building up my confidence to choose the best wines for every occasion.
Because happiness is enjoyed best when shared, I’ve written down a few tips on choosing wine that I’ve learned about:
- Beginners: walk before you fly. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s best to start with the simplest wines to begin your palate’s education. If you start out with the best wine on the planet, all you’ll do is overload your senses with a lot of information they’re not yet ready to process. The upshot will be a far less sophisticated and elegant drinking experience than you were hoping for.
It’s best to start out by exploring the basic categories of red and white. Don’t get bogged down with varieties yet. Begin with two or three young, light, fruity – even cheap – wines. Among the whites, try a Sauvignon Blanc, which should have expressive flavors that explode in the nose and the mouth. Among the reds, you’ll fine young Malbecs to be very easygoing on novice palates, but Bonardas and Pinot Noirs ought to be gentle and fresh as well.
- Match your flavors. What other drinks do you enjoy? Do you like whisky, cocktails, beer? If your favorite cocktail is a Negroni, you’ll probably enjoy an intense Cabernet Sauvignon but if Daikiris are more your thing, then a well-chilled, fruity white will be the way to go. If you’re looking particularly glamorous when you head into the wine store, they might well offer you a sparkling wine or a rosé but if you’re in flip-flops, they’ll likely suggest something organic or natural.
If you often find yourself drinking outside, surrounded by nature, it might be a good idea to choose a screw-cap just in case you forget your corkscrew.
- Let the occasion be your guide. What are you looking for? Is there a particular wine you’ve loved? Are you looking for something similar? Is it a gift? Are you going to a party or a romantic dinner? What’s your budget? The basic reason you’re buying the wine might well be a useful deciding factor in your choice.
If you’re going to a party with a lot of people, why not choose something good but affordable that you can get two or three bottles of without spending a fortune? Try the entry-level ranges of well-known wineries that you know you can trust for toast after toast. You might even opt for a little sweetness to ensure they’re amenable to new palates.
I’ve already begun to play around with the three tips on choosing wine mentioned above. Every time I stop by the wine store or fooling around online I pretend that I’m going to choose a wine based on a few of these factors and then I talk to Alex to get his input. I don’t mean to sound big-headed, but I think he’s quite proud of how far I’ve come in a short space of time.
On the weekend, he congratulated me when I asked him about a red that would go well with a 70% cocoa bar of chocolate from Ecuador that I’ve been saving. It was a treat I was giving myself to celebrate new beginnings, new passions and a new eagerness to learn.
What did he recommend? An Argentine Malbec with a full body, ripe flavors and power. Something to offset the cocoa, he said. He suggested a selection of wines from a region I’d never heard of: Luján de Cuyo. And he lined up four labels on the table: Biolento Malbec (I liked the drawing of the big ant, as well as the bird on Cuartel 2 from Marchiori & Barraud), while Casarena Jamilla’s Vineyard and Sin Fin Guarda looked reassuringly serious. I won’t say which I bought so you can decide for yourselves, but it went great with the chocolate.
There are so many more lessons that I need to put into practice but I still have to absorb and process them properly. I’ll be sharing them with you very soon though! Have any of you tried a new wine recently? Does anyone want to share their tips on choosing wine? What are you going to do to celebrate today, and what will be in your glass?