Understanding the basics when it comes to picking the right bottle for the right occasion
We’ve all been there. You want to make a good first impression but where in the world of wine do you begin?
It can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’re faced with a towering wall of choice knowing what to pluck from the shelf.
With a vast amount of choice to consider, from grape variety, region, flavour notes, price, and even whether to opt for a cork or a screw top, not forgetting the occasion and guests, it can feel like an impossible task, mentions Ben Revell, founder of online wine club Winebuyers.com.
However, there really are no set rules, rather more guidelines and considerations. “If you treat the process as you would when choosing a meal, or a book e.g. ‘I enjoyed these flavours previously,’ or, ‘I know I like this genre,’ then basing your decision on said experiences and familiarity has already put you on the right path and you can’t go far wrong.”
Here are his top five tips and tricks to ensure you pick a winner every time.
- Know your audience
The way in which we interact with our closest friends is different to how we interact with work colleagues. Therefore, it’s important to remember to tailor your choice of wine to who you are keeping company with.
For example, a bottle of sparkling rose, such as Bluebell Vineyard Estates Hindleap Rose 2015, has certain connotations and role, setting the tone for a romantic evening at home. However, this choice could be viewed as a less suitable drink for an afternoon watching football.”
- Know what’s on the menu
Although not always possible, it’s good to try and find out what’s on the menu before arriving with a bottle to a dinner party, or an occasion serving food.
If being served red meat such as beef, lamb or duck, a bottle of red wine is a safe choice and for a reason. With red wines higher in tannins, they complement red meat as they can cut through the richness.
A delicious medium rare roast beef will pair beautifully and taste more tender when paired with its classic companion, a cabernet sauvignon. With its opulent dark fruit and spice, this Haddad Estates example from Jordan has the body and structure to ensure any Sunday lunch goes swimmingly.”
- Assess the time of day
Look to lighter wines whilst the sun is high in the sky, such as a Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc in southern France. Moulin de Gassac – Picpoul de Pinet 2019 is crisp, light and aromatic, remarkably fresh on the palate and perfect for a daytime tipple.
If you’re experimenting with Picpoul de Pinet for the first time, you can also try a supermarket own label such as Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet (£6.50, Tesco) to test run the tangy flavours.
- Note the time of year
Similarly, the time of year can impact We all know that a rose wine tastes better in sunshine, whereas if you’re in the mood for a warming jacket potato, you probably shouldn’t reach for a delicate muscadet.
Rich Spanish reds, such as Dehesa de Luna, Origenes, 2016, might be just the thing. This organic wine from the ‘meseta’ has the weight and elegance to make the drabbest winter weather a distant memory.
- Open or close the occasion
When bringing wine to an event, this is a great time to try something new. With several bottles being opened, there’s less consequence should a choice fall short.
If you do want to impress, think to open or close the evening with an aperitif or digestif, keeping your aperitif sparkling and your digestif sweet.
A sparkling wine is a great opening choice, as there is no pressure for it to be opened during dinner. Arrive with it already chilled and the host can decide whether to open straightaway or later on into the night.