Spoiled For Choice: Selecting your next wine
Brendan Jansen MW
May 28th 2019
The other day, I found myself in a supermarket looking to buy toothpaste. I was confronted with two, maybe three different brands, and only had to choose between “whitening” or “Extra Whitening” options!
I left the supermarket to walk into the neighbouring bottle shop (as is my wont), and there was confronted with walls and walls of wine. I thought to myself that this was much more of a delicious challenge! But I also wondered if such choice represents a dilemma for many.
It is no surprise that we return to familiar brands, styles and varieties in wine choice, and no surprise that we rely on the recommendation or advice of others in making our choice. The subject of fashion in wine, and the importance of a brand’s story was the subject of a previous wine musing…!
Yet I believe there is a way out of the quagmire. Just a little bit of knowledge can go a long way….
To some, the wall can be threatening, overwhelming, almost closing in. But breaking down the parts of the wall is the first step. Thea easiest breakdown is red, white or bubbles. After that there are typical styles and varieties – that vary depending upon aromatic intensity, aromatic profile, palate weight, tannin structure, even acidity and alcohol content.
The key, I feel, is to sample enough wines to know what you like – and what you might be looking for on that particular occasion. Food is a factor, but ultimately, your preferences are what matters most.
It will not take long before you develop a familiarity with those preferences. For example, my own personal tastes are for a preference of Riesling over Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, exceptions apply, and preferences can vary from occasion to occasion and even within a variety.
German off dry Rieslings from the Mosel can be as different from a high octane, high alcohol dry Riesling from the Wachau in Austria – and there may be certain occasions when I would prefer one over the other. If I were to be choosing a wooded white style, my preference would be for a more sleek and slender or linear incarnation rather than a bigger style.
I prefer Pinot Noir and Cabernet to Shiraz (I know, blasphemy for an Aussie!), and have an idea of the different manifestations of say Margaret River and Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.
So on entering the bottle shop, it is not a big wall you are confronted with, but a small part of that wall. And even then, only a few “bricks” in the wall are relevant. I strongly feel that such a level of comfort and ease with wine choices are within the grasp of most people.
Recently I found myself at a top-end Pinot Noir tasting where the very best of Australasian Pinot Noirs were on show. I have to say that I did not taste a “dud” wine. But my own preferences came to the fore. And I was able to identify those wines that might be more attractive to those seeking, for example, greater new oak influence, or greater extraction. There were those in the more floral/strawberry spectrum, and yet others in the cherry spectrum. Even then, you could choose black, red, or Maraschino cherries, depending on your whim! I could see the quality in all the wines, but looked for a style I like. So while I rated all the wines highly, I only put in an order for one….