Since I started blogging about wine, friends keep asking me about how I choose wine so I thought it would be worthwhile sharing a few of the rules of thumb that I have served me well. I hope you find them helpful!
- The most important thing is to relax about it! Don’t get all het up worrying “what if it’s not any good?” Take a chance, try something new! What’s the worst that can happen? You’ve tried something different and it wasn’t too your taste. You can always use it for cooking (or give it to me!) if you can’t bear to finish the bottle. I’d rather end up with a few duds than never try anything new. Experiment! Avoid the big names and try something you’ve never heard of. Try something just because you like the label. Try something Organic. Try something Biodynamic. Try something English. Try something from a country you didn’t even know made wine!
- When you do find something you like make a note of it. I make a note on my phone so I’ve always got it with me, but you could write it in a diary or just remember it if your memory is better than mine! The most obvious starting points would be the grape variety(ies) and region. In “new world” countries like Australia, New Zealand or Chile you’ll see a lot of single-variety wines that place more emphasis on the grape variety whereas “old world” countries like France tend to prioritise the region of origin and hardly mention the varieties that they have used. Once you’ve found something you like, play around with finding similar wines. Over the next few months I will try to write some more features on the key regions and varieties so keep an eye out for some more pointers.
- It makes a big difference where you buy your wine. Whilst supermarkets are convenient they are not the best place to buy wine. My favourite places to buy wine are (preferably small) specialist wine shops. A few of my favourites are Green & Blue, The Wine Pantry, The Sampler and Joseph Barnes Wines. Majestic is a good bet too. Compared to a supermarket you’ll get a much more interesting selection and good advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, they won’t mind if you don’t know the first thing about wine. Also don’t be afraid to tell them how much you want to pay! Online is also a great place to buy wine. You can buy direct online lot of wine shops/merchants plus with sites like Vinopic and Naked Wines you can make a much more informed choice by finding out a lot more about wines before you buy them and seeing what other people say about them.
- You can still find decent wine in supermarkets but it’s worth remembering that all supermarkets are not equal! By far my favourite supermarket for wine is Waitrose. I’ve found some really interesting stuff there that you wouldn’t find in any other supermarket. My next favourite is Asda. A pretty good selection and some very good value wines. Sainsburys and Tescos are both pretty disappointing, although Sainsburys is probably slightly better overall – there’s a few gems to be found in their own-label range. I don’t have a Morrisons or the Co-op near me so haven’t bought enough there to really comment but will try to change that! When buying at the supermarket unless I’m just looking for some cheap plonk for glugging I tend to ignore special offers. It’s doubtful that you’re really getting a £10 bottle for £5
- Try unfashionable or lesser-known wines. Rather than going for Pinot Grigio, try Falanghina. Instead of Sancerre, try Sauvignon de Touraine. If you’re looking for inspiration ask someone. Ask me. Ask the friendly owner of your local wine shop. Ask the internet!
- Medals, especially those like Decanter or IWSC do mean something. They don’t neccessarily mean than it’s going to be the most amazing bottle you’ve ever tasted but they are benchmarks that say ‘this is a good example of this type of wine at this price’.
- I probably won’t make myself very popular with my last point but I’m going to make it anyway. Spend more. If you spend £8 a bottle rather than £5 I think you’ll notice a massive difference.
Well hopefully these points should give you a few ideas to get started!