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Wine Buying Guide

Wine Varieties

Guide to White Wine

White wines are a wonderful option for beginners looking to explore the different wines available.  Lighter in body and less pungent than red wines, whites nonetheless can be complex and highly varied in taste. The most well-known white wine grape are the Chardonnay  variety from France--which tend to be more buttery, oak-flavoured and rich--but don't hesitate to explore Riesling ,Pinot Grigio ,Sémillion , and Sauvignon Blanc , among others. And though France is historically associated with wine, don't limit yourself; try whites from California ,Australia ,South America  and more! Check out our White Wine Guide to get additional information.

Guide to Red Wine

Now we're talking.  Not only is red wine reputed to lower one's risk for heart disease, but it's also delicious and pairs exquisitely with most foods!  And thankfully, with an estimated 40-50 varieties of red wine grapes, you're sure to find the type that will suit your tastes.  While you are free to stick with the standard classics of Chianti  and Burgundy , it's a safe bet you might also like a full-bodied Australian Shiraz , a peppery Spanish Rioja  or a robust Argentinian Malbec .  Read up on our Red Wine Guide to find more options.

Guide to Rosé Wines

The art of making a rosé  wine lies in keeping the skins of red grapes in contact with the juice for about 2-3 days, after which they are discarded. This gives the wine its distinct colour, which can range from a pale orange to nearly purple. This style traditionally created a delicate and dry flavour, but in the latter half of the 20th century, medium to sweet rosés came into fashion. Blush wines  are also part of this category; they are typically North American  varieties but have also been seen in Australia  and Italy . The term has thus come to indicate a sweeter pink wine rather than a regional wine.

Champagne 

Champagne and sparkling wines  have significant levels of carbon dioxide in them, which gives them their fizziness. These elegant drinksare commonly reserved for celebrating a special occasion--but why limit yourself?  The easiest way to learn more about them is to try, try, try!  So how about popping open the bubbly while having a casual dinner with friends, or when watching sports ?  Sparkling wines are usually white  or rosé , but sparkling reds  can also be found--now you know that you have lots of options!

Fun Fact: Most sparkling wines are erroneously called "Champagnes", but the only bubbly wine that can properly be called a champagne are the sparkling wines directly from Champagne, France!  Unfortunately, they can't stop the common citizen from mistaking the two, but you can always show your wit by chatting about your "sparkling wine from Italy" at a party.

Dessert  or Fortified Wines

It's not just a clever name: dessert wines (also known as pudding wines) usually are sweet and served with dessert. However, you might want to drink them by themselves for the full experience. Consider a Sauternes , a Tokaji Aszú  or an Eiswein --but be warned that your guests may never want to leave! Fortified wines are wines to which additional alcohol has been added, originally for preservation purposes. This results in a sweeter taste which can be served either before (such as a fino  or amontillado sherry ) or after dinner (try a port  or madeira  wine).

Cocktails All Day!

Stocked up on all the wine you could possibly want? Use it to make cocktails for any fun occasion.

Morning

  • Champagne cocktails work best for early hours. The most popular drinks are Bellinis  and Mimosas, which mix fruit juice  with champagne for a fizzy concoction to wake you up.
  • There are also other variations on these drinks, which can be consumed as an evening cocktail, including the winter-time Poinsettia (champagne, Cointreau  and cranberry juice ) and the Strawberry Flapper (creme de cassis , fresh strawberries, and champagne).

Afternoon/Evening

  • Sangria is a popular drink that combines wine with fruit  and sugar to produce a perfectly sweet or tangy drink. Choose red or white wine sangria depending on your preference for taste, but do keep in mind that the red will be slightly more bitter.
  • Also, mulled wine  is a perfect winter drink that combines red wine with cloves ,cinnamon  and brandy . It's meant to be served hot, so get your toast on!

Late Night

  • Maybe you're ready to start getting into some heavier drinks in the wee hours. Wine is good for that, too! It can be used to make several types of martinis  such as the Glamour Girl (pink Pinot Grigio, peach schnapps  and cranberry juice).
  • Some other strong cocktails include English Christmas Punch (red wine, rum ,tea ,orange juice , and lemon juice ), Falling Leaf Fizz (sparkling wine, pear vodka ,pumpkin butter , and pumpkin pie spice ) or Rosè Berry Bliss (rosè, pink lemonade , blueberries, and lemon-lime soda).

Wine Tasting Tips

Wine tasting  can take a lot of practice to get right, so here's a few helpful tips get the most out of your wine and acquire a little knowledge as well.

The five main qualifications of wine tasting are:

  • Colour: You can tell the colour of a wine best when compared to a white background. The shade of the wine can tell you what grape variety it is.
  • Swirl: Swirling oxygenates the wine and helps to release the natural scents, so you can be ready for step 3.
  • Smell: To receive the full sensory experience, make sure you stick your nose into the glass (but not into the wine; that would be bad). Taking a deep inhale. You want to try to identify what you are smelling; berries, oak, vanilla, citrus or flowers are usually some of the first impressions.
  • Taste: Start with a small sip and roll it around your mouth before swallowing.  Try to identify what you initially taste; sweet or bitter, crisp or creamy? Imagine the flavour as a texture, and take your time; this skill takes a while to develop.
  • Savour: Savour is the after-taste that the wine leaves. How long does the taste linger, can you still taste it in the back of your mouth and throat? These are some of the questions to ask yourself.

Storing and Pouring

Serve your wine perfectly every time.

Temperature: White Wine/Champagne/Rosè is best served chilled (45ºF) and needs to be stored in the refrigerator for only a couple of hours to get it to appropriate temperature. But remember that whites and sparkling wines should be cool, not freezing.  Red wine's prime taste arrives at room temperature--50-55ºF or 10-16ºC.  If your room is too warm, however, consider storing it in a cooler place before drinking.

Pouring: As for pouring, be sure not to fill the glass completely. Leaving it at least half-full enables you to swirl the liquid in the glass and help to release its aromas. Large, wide-mouth glasses are great for drinking wine, and tall flutes are used when drinking sparkling wine; this helps to properly maintain the carbonation.

Storing: Most wines can be stored for a few days, but not for much longer than that. Always be sure to replace the cork on your bottle or use a vacuum pump --this removes the air from the wine when corking it.

Related Guides

Wine's not much good if you can't get into it. Consult our Guide to Wine Openers to find out the easiest way to go about it.

If you're a collector or just a slow drinker, our Wine Preservation Guide contains essential information.

Our Electric Wine Chillers Guide will help to ensure that your wine is served correctly every time.

Red, white, dessert? Check out our Wine Glasses Guide to help you really make an impression.

Whether you're a fan of the coup or the flute, our Guide to Champagne Glasses will point you in the right direction.


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