You Don’t Need to Be a Sommelier to Know Good Wine — Just Follow Some Simple Rules
According to the Wine Institute, citizens of Andorra drink about 56.9 liters of wine (which is about 76 bottles) per person annually. For many people, this figure may sound incredible but we have to remember that the culture of drinking wine is very well-developed in many European countries. We don’t call you out for drinking alcohol, but we do think that the ability to choose good wine for affordable prices is always a good skill to have. We celebrate grand occasions from time to time and knowing which kinds of good wine to put on the table is crucial!
Here at Bright Side, we’ve found 11 simple rules that will help you choose good wine confidently and competently.
1. Wine markings
If the manufacturer followed all production rules, then the bottle will have a mark depicting its level of national quality control. Here are some examples: AOC, VDQS, VdP, and VdT can be found on bottles from France; DOCG, DOC, IGT, and VdT are found on those from Italy; and AVA, Varietal, Reserve, and Meritage are for those made in the USA.
How can we choose the right wine without getting totally lost? Here is a simple rule to follow: the closer the category of quality control is to the letter A, the better the wine is. Among the 2 categories starting with the same letter, the one that has a longer name is better.
2. You shouldn’t be afraid of all additives.
Very often, you’ll see a label saying that wine contains sulfur dioxide (E220). Many people are alarmed by this but you should know that almost every drink contains dioxides in small amounts (about 10 mg per liter) and this is the result of a product’s fermentation. If a manufacturer doesn’t add sulfur dioxide to wine, then their expenses on storage will increase because they will have to create special storage rooms with a constant climate, which is very costly and requires much work.
The allowed level of E220 is different in different countries. For example, the allowed concentration in Australia is 250 parts for dry wines, while it is 350 parts for all types of wine in the USA. But if you get a headache or a stomachache a couple hours after drinking a moderate amount of wine, it means that the manufacturer has put too much sulfur dioxide in it.
3. The year it was manufactured matters.
Pay attention to the harvest years when choosing wine. You can evaluate the freshness of wine by the date. Some types of wine are better to drink when they’re fresh and young. For example, if you have chosen a dry white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc 2010, you’re better off choosing something else because this wine isn’t meant to be stored for a long time. However, if the label says that this wine is reserved or aged, then there is nothing to worry about.
When it comes to sparkling wines, this rule is different since the harvest date is rarely depicted on their bottles. The manufacturers from the province of Champagne indicate only outstanding years, which is 2-3 years per decade. That’s why in this case, it’s better to pay attention to the date of bottling and the decoration of the bottle.
4. Pay attention to the types of grapes used.
A wine label should explain the type of grape used in producing the wine. Very often, cheap wine labels say “made from the best grapes”. It’s likely that these are the leftovers of those best sorts. France is an exception because the country prohibits the indication of grapes on the bottles that are exported abroad.
5. Avoid heat and light.
When choosing a bottle of wine in a shop, don’t take the bottle that was under direct light, a bottle from a shop-window or a bottle that was stored near a heater. The impact of direct light or heat makes the taste of wine bitter and deprives it of freshness.
If you have bought wine in advance for some celebration, find a dark closet at home and keep the bottle there. It’s better not to consider a fridge because it shines light every time you open the door. The ideal place to keep your wine is at the bottom of a wardrobe closet where the temperature is stable.
6. Give preference to bottles that are stored horizontally.
If the wine is corked with a natural stopper, choose one that is stored horizontally. This type of storage keeps the cork wet and prevents it from drying. Otherwise, oxygen might get inside the bottle through the cracks, causing the wine to oxidize. If the cork is made of plastic, wine can be stored vertically.
Moreover, wine shouldn’t be affected by shocks, hits, or vibrations. All these factors are considered a type of stress for wine and can affect its taste negatively.
7. Pay attention to the level of wine in a bottleneck.
Check the level of wine in the bottleneck. If you put a bottle vertically, there should be about 1 inch left above the wine level. If there is more oxygen in the bottle than required, it can affect the taste of the wine negatively due to the wine’s excess contact with oxygen.
8. Find out the shape of the original bottle.
At first glance, it might seem that all wines have the same bottle, however, this is not true. Many manufacturers try to protect their product and use asymmetric bottles along with a sign on the glass. If you are a fan of a certain wine brand, study the information about its protective signs on the manufacturer’s website. As a rule, it’s difficult and not profitable for imposters to fake them, especially if it is a non-expensive wine.
It’s better not to buy cheap wine in fancy bottles because the more complex the bottle, the more expensive it is. It means that the biggest part of the money the manufacturer invested has gone into the bottle, while the expenses for producing the wine itself were very low. Therefore, even if it’s not fake, the product’s quality is probably low.
9. A big amount of sediment should alarm you.
Before opening a bottle of wine, direct it to the light and turn it sharply upside down. It is not okay if there is a lot of sediment present. However, there can be some sediment in costly aged wines but either way, it shouldn’t cover the entire bottom of the bottle. Moreover, it should quickly go down to the bottom after shaking the bottle.
As a rule, a large amount of sediment means the drink has been stored incorrectly or that the manufacturing rules haven’t been followed.
10. The more southern the manufacturing country is, the better.
Grapes like heat and light a lot, which is why the more southern the manufacturing country is, the better. Don’t be afraid to try wines from Chile, Spain, South Africa, and Argentina. However, you should be careful when choosing Italian and French wines — despite the common opinion that European wine is the best. In fact, its taste depends on the harvest date. For example, if the season was rainy, the grapes might be sour. That’s the reason why experts often indicate the harvest year while analyzing wines.
11. Good wine doesn’t always cost an arm and a leg.
If a wine doesn’t cost too much, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. There are many light and tasty wines that cost up to $10. Many large manufacturers have their own budgets and trustworthy versions. It doesn’t mean that they use leftovers, it’s just a special method of working the market.
Don’t opt for French or Italian wines exclusively. When choosing bottles that cost less than $10, it’s better to pay attention to the New World wines like Chile, Argentina, and South Africa. The chances of finding a good wine from these countries at affordable prices are higher.
What do you pay attention to when buying wine? Please share your secrets with us in the comments!
Preview photo credit depositphotos