Without spending a lot of money
For some, wine is a way of life, for others it is a cultural tradition, but most of them both want to better navigate wine, at least when they find themselves in a store. How to choose what you need, and preferably not go broke, is an urgent issue for many, regardless of the tasks set. We asked Daria Khripushina, the author of the Doctor Wine Telegram channel, to arrange an educational program for everyone who loves wine.
First, decide what kind of wine you want - and we are talking about the elementary definition of color: red, white, rose. Now there are both orange and blue wines, but this is a story for very advanced users or experimenters. Most likely, you already know what kind of wine you like - red or white; I can say from my own experience: if you have not yet understood what you like and cannot decide - try rosé, it contains less tannins than red. Tannins are grape skin polyphenols that are responsible for the structure of the wine, giving it that very bitterness and astringent sensation on the palate. Since there are fewer of them in rosé wine, the taste is refreshing and with sweetish berry notes.
In addition to color, it would be good to determine the content of residual sugar in wine: dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet or sweet. This will make life easier for both you and the consultant, if you consult with him, and generally save time. Here's a cheat sheet for you: sweet wines are dessert wines, they really taste sweet, like candy, and are not suitable, for example, to drink with food at dinner. Dry wines are the most common, and semi-dry wines may appeal to those who find dry wines too sour or tart.
It is better to refuse semi-sweet wines altogether: no, not because when you drink it, a little kitten is crying somewhere; and not because all over the world it is considered bad form. Semi-sweet wine is bad because it is bad, and sugar is used to mask its low quality: it is made from unripened grapes or with a criminal excess of yield from a bush. Such wine does not allow you to enjoy delicious food, discordant with it.
We are all victims of labels - and sometimes we buy wine because of the “beautiful picture”. Fortunately, then experience comes, and with it the understanding that content is more important than form. To easily choose wine in the store, you need to learn how to read the information on the label. For example, if the name of the farm and the manufacturer is not on the front side of the bottle, then you should think about whether you need the wine produced by someone who knows no one.
The year of the grape harvest must also be indicated - otherwise, you can get a mixture of berries of different varieties that did not ripen in the same year. Without indicating the “year of birth”, they sell either, unfortunately, a product made from cheap wine material, it is not clear where and by whom it was harvested, or table wine. Table wine itself is not so bad, there are fewer requirements for it: there may not be a specific year of birth, you may not indicate where the grapes come from. Table wine is inexpensive and suitable for a large family dinner in the open air, for example, at a dacha with barbecue, when there is no need to open bottles of good aged wine - there will still be no chance to appreciate its subtleties. I do not advise you to take any outstanding wines with you to nature - in the fresh air, the wine loses its aromas and properties.
Sometimes the manufacturer sings the praises of grapes as “the best” or “selective”, but you need to pay attention to the indication of specific varieties on the front or back label. Grape varieties are, for example, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat, Sangiovese, Carmenère. Sometimes, by law, it is not necessary to indicate the variety - in French wines, the composition is often not written. At the same time, not all French wines are good, so while you are not very well versed, it is better to choose other regions.
For decent wines, indication of origin is mandatory. Wine should have a "home" in the form of a region or a so-called appellation - a zone of production. Every country has famous localities whose names speak for themselves: Rioja or Ribera del Duero in Spain, Bordeaux or Provence in France, Mendoza in Argentina. If the region is not listed on the label, it is often a low quality wine that the producer does not want to be discovered. As for the country, French wines are often more expensive just because they are French, and other European wines often suffer from markups. It makes sense to pay attention to the countries of America, Australia, South Africa - for the same money you will most likely buy wine that will be better than French or Italian.
Aged wines, all other things being equal, are better than unaged ones, but they also cost a little more. Most often we are talking about aging in oak barrels - oak gives the wine unique woody shades, smoothes and “calms down” the taste. There is also aging in steel containers - and this is also not bad, because not all grape varieties get along with oak. But if you want something light and fruity in style, then you don't have to pay attention to how it's aged. Bottle aging is required for almost all types of wines. Depending on the production technology, some wines are bottled after fermentation, others after barrel aging.
Some producers emphasize their quality wines with certain wording - for example, "Riserva" in Italy (aging 2 to 3 years in bottle) or "Crianza" in Spain (at least 2 years aging in barrel, steel tank or bottle). This means that the wines were aged for a strictly defined time, and the best berries from the harvest were collected for their production. But there are countries in which the inscription "Reserva / Reserve" is not fixed by law and does not mean anything at all, but only plays the role of a marketing ploy - Chile and France are guilty of this.
Wine, if it is not sold under a special offer, cannot cost less than 500 rubles. If the wrap is already in the store, then how much does this wine really cost? To make high-quality wine, you need to make a lot of effort, time and money, this is a very painstaking and costly work. At the same time, a very high price is also not an indicator of quality and taste. Basic white, not the most outstanding wine from the French region of Burgundy costs two thousand rubles, and for this money you can find wonderful, much more interesting wine from the countries of the New World - the same Chile or Argentina. In addition, buying too expensive wine not in a specialized winery, you can face certain risks: it is not a fact that the wine was stored and transported in accordance with all the rules.
There is such a popular myth about wine that the older the better. But many wines, such as those made from Pinot Grigio, should be drunk young, and for French Beaujolais, aging is completely fatal. Table wines need aging up to three years, light whites and reds need four to eight years, noble white wines ten or even twenty years. Saturated dry red wines can be aged even longer - thirty-five years, and a hundred years of aging will not hurt the best reds of outstanding years. Finally, strong and dessert wines can age up to one hundred and fifty years.
Neither a "cork" stopper nor a metal screw cap is indicative of the quality of a wine. Screw caps are more common in New World wines, where they know a lot about the allocation of resources and the use of the latest technologies. Wines with metal lids have several advantages: they are cheaper because the cork tree costs a lot of money; their production is more environmentally friendly, because the lid is not a living tree. A piece of iron; wine under a cork, if stored and transported improperly, can oxidize due to trapped air, and a screw cap is almost a guarantee of absolute tightness. Of course, a real cork is all about charm and style, especially in the case of expensive and rare wines. The screw cap is an excellent solution for young wines that are drunk within 3-5 years after production.
Wine must be drunk from glasses intended for it. The shape of a glass can change our perception of taste and bring out the full flavor of wine: underestimating the importance of glasses, you can deprive yourself of a significant share of pleasure. The glass should be glass, transparent and perfectly clean, for example, without water residue. The shape of the glass determines the area of contact of the wine with oxygen, which affects the taste of the wine - therefore, for red wines, deep and wide glasses are used, which need to be filled only one third. For white wines, glasses are needed, in which the bottom is expanded and the edges are narrowed, and white wine should be poured into the glass about halfway. For champagnes and sparkling wines, choose a long narrow flute-type glass, the shape of which will slow down the disappearance of bubbles.
The right serving temperature doesn't make a wine better, but it does help it reach its fullest potential. White wine should be drunk very cold; there is little that can be worse than warm white wine, so before serving, you must definitely keep it in the refrigerator for at least half an hour (or better, an hour). True, there are wines that are best not chilled too much - for example, the Italian variety Vermentino, which has a very subtle and lush floral aroma and will last half an hour in the refrigerator. Red wines are also best served a little chilled: although they say that they are best served “warm”, they are referring to the comparison with whites, and not absolute temperature.
In most cases, the better and more expensive the wine, the less time it should be chilled. This does not apply to champagne - this wine should always be served cold, at a temperature of 7 degrees. If for white wines the optimum temperature is 14-16 degrees, then for red it is 16-18 degrees - much lower than the usual room temperature of about 22. In general, the following rule applies to temperature: the acidity of wine is enhanced by cold, and the strength - by heat. And I ask you, do not throw ice into the wine, do not make a mistake.
Let the wine "breathe" before drinking. This applies primarily to red wines. Just pour the wine into a glass and swirl it - oxygen will do its job and the wine will open with a beautiful bouquet. If the wine is aged in a barrel or has a powerful and dense structure, then decanting will not interfere in order to reveal the aroma and calm this very structure a little. To do this, you need a decanter - a decanter for wine, which is designed for settling and aeration, that is, contact with air. This is a must-have item if you like bright, dense or oak-aged wines. Some white wines and champagnes can also be decanted, but this story is more suitable for expensive and rare wines.
There are certain recommendations in the compatibility of wine and gastronomy, but there can be no strict rules in this matter. Red can go great with some fish, not just the stereotypical steak, while white goes well with red meat: veal goes great with white chardonnay, for example. If you like to drink merlot, snacking on zucchini caviar from a can rolled up by your grandmother, and this will make you happier, then how can anyone ban it?
Befriend a kavist, a man who works in a wine cellar. This is the specialist who offers you exactly what you want, but for some reason you cannot choose. I myself work as a cavist: I can’t say that I communicate with people who come for the first time in any other way, but for regular customers I am a valuable source of information and a guide to the world of wine pleasure. I remember each client, his tastes and preferences, my job is to make his choice easy and right. But, of course, no matter what you are advised, listen to yourself first of all.
If you didn’t like the wine that everyone is delighted with, don’t force yourself to drink it and certainly don’t complex that “you don’t understand something”. Wine tastes can be compared to visual tastes: someone loves minimalism, and someone likes golden stucco and carved furniture. There is no universal taste. Try, remember, write down your feelings and impressions. Do not blindly trust wine critics and apps, remember that reviews are written by people just like you. There are wines that more often meet the universal taste, but it is better to join this exciting game and find the wine that suits you. I advise you to switch more often, not to stick to one variety or region you like: if you like sauvignon blanc from France, try New Zealand or Chile. There is no need to turn the process of drinking wine into an intense intellectual activity; leave that to the wine critics and snobs. And in general, not show off. Ignore the label, drink to your heart's content. Taste develops from the taste, not from the price of the bottle.