Exploring Wine can be Expensive and Overwhelming!
The number of different wines out there is daunting! Just walk into any wine shop (heaven forbid a Total Wine) and your first thought is: there are hundreds (if not thousands) of wines to choose from. How do I make a decision and who knows if I will enjoy it? When I first decided to explore wine, it killed me to think of wasting good money on lousy wine… just to find a few I liked. It became very clear to me that price had no correlation to matching my taste. I would guess many of you feel the same way. So… to lessen the pain, you limit yourself to trying wines by the glass at wine bars, or attend tastings at wine shops and/or even travel to wine country to hit the tasting rooms.
How Can I Choose Wines That I Will Enjoy?
Learn Your Palate
The first step is to learn your palate… Do you enjoy red fruit, or black fruit flavors? Do silky, or velvety textures appeal to you? Do you enjoy some astringency in the wine? Do you drink wine by itself, or with meals? Do you prefer slightly sweet, or dry wines? Taking the time to review and decide what you like, will go a long way towards helping you select wines to try.
Strategies for Finding Wines You Will Like
This can get very involved depending on your level of wine knowledge, but lets pare it down to the easiest, simplest strategies:
Follow the Winemakers
Many winemakers will allow each vintage of fruit to drive the wine. Some prefer to add wood, spice and vanilla flavors by selecting certain species of oak for aging. While still others will try to make the wine fruitier with whole cluster fermentation, or extended maceration. The processes really don’t matter though. Find what you like, identify the winemaker and track their labels. You will be more likely to find wines you enjoy this way.
Follow the Regions
Classic examples are:
Sauv Blanc from New Zealand typically has tropical fruit flavors, while the NorCal Sauvs are more citrusy.
Syrah dominated wines from the Northern Rhone typically have lower alcohol, are inky, with tar, floral and olive tapenade flavors added to the black fruit, while Southern Rhones are very fruity, with high alcohol, highly textured and likely to have more red, or blue fruit flavors.
Red wines from Rutherford in Napa have an interesting dusty characteristic many find enjoyable.
Again, the specifics do not matter. If you enjoy wines from a specific region, selecting others from the same region will enhance your chances of hitting on wines you can appreciate.
Follow the Vineyards
This is my favorite! The fruit from different vineyards makes wines taste VERY different. Examples of this are:
Cool, coastal vineyards tend to add acidity and structure. Early morning fog at inland vineyards can have the same affect.
Chalky soils can add a mineral aspect to wine – like the Chalk Hill area in Sonoma. Slate can add a flinty component like Riesling from the Mosel.
I regularly seek out wines made from vineyards whose flavors/characteristics I enjoy. It is a sound strategy for finding wines you have a better chance to appreciate.
Follow the Varietal
This is the most obvious. I am sure all of you have settled on grape varieties you prefer, but this is also the least reliable strategy. There can be so much variation within wines from even the same varietal, it does not provide a dependable method for choosing wines to enjoy.
These Strategies can Save $$Money$$
As you find success, you will notice it becomes easier to select wines to try. I have been using these strategies (and more) for many years. I am now comfortably buying wines I have not tasted via the internet and taking advantage of overstock and clearance pricing. I am hoping these ideas will help to end your waste of good money for lousy wine. Good luck and may you find many enjoyable, reasonably priced wines in your future!