For many, it’s a familiar scenario: you are shopping for wine, unsure what to buy. It is only a Tuesday night-in for one on the sofa, what is the worst that could happen? So you decide to risk it and buy that discounted, second-rate, supermarket Chardonnay. We have all been there, but there is no need to make this a habit. To that end, I have put together some tips for swerving a let-down wine and I’ve even thrown in wine recommendations as a bonus. You really can’t go wrong after this.
Don’t limit yourself to supermarket wine
There are wine experts for a reason. Supermarkets can be easy and convenient, you have one around the corner and you are already there to buy your groceries every week. That does not mean that the supermarket is the best place to buy wine. Online shopping for wine has a lot of benefits, not least that you can read reviews, compare wines, search by colour, type, region, flavour… Doing some digging before deciding on a wine can be a surefire way to find a wine you love.
Think about what you already love and branch out from there
If your favourite wine is an oaked Australian Shiraz, try a nice Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux instead for a fruitier experience. If you love the strawberry notes of a good rosé, you might enjoy the cherry notes of a Veneto Corvina. Even if your favourite drink is, say, a stiff gin and tonic, you could still be bowled over by an aromatic Albariño.
Think about where you’re going to drink your wine
Having a cheese and wine night with the girls, or a romantic risotto with your significant other? Go for a glorious red, like a South African Merlot or a French Pinot Noir. If you are dining with vegans, you have a range of vegan wine options like an Australian Tempranillo or South African Chenin Blanc. For a special occasion, English sparkling wine or a sparkling, Italian Pinot Noir would surely fit the bill. Cater to your companions.
Try something completely new
This is the riskiest strategy for finding a wine that won’t let you down. The advantage of trying something new is that you have no frame of reference, so you can be pleasantly surprised. It might be worth starting with something award-winning or a little bit unusual, like a Gewurztraminer from Alsace. You could try a sherry with your tapas instead of a rich Rioja. By buying something new, you could unearth a real gem.
Don’t focus solely on price
Bargain wines can be a glorious thing, don’t get me wrong. The point is that you do not need to focus solely on the price of your wine and make compromises on flavour. If you are shopping on a budget, take some time to look at the flavour profile of your wine, its key notes and the types of food it would accompany. Even if you are feeling more extravagant with your wallet, you should do the same. You’re worth it.
Now, if you’ve stumbled upon this post too late and have already bought a wine that is anything from lifeless to frankly unpleasant, you still have options. For acrid-tasting wines, try pairing with a potent, blue cheese to bring out some sweetness. For a dull red, eating mushrooms can make your wine taste richer and fruitier. You can also cool the wine down. Your mother might get upset with you, but even red wine can be chilled if you are in a real emergency and this will limit the release of some aromas. You could try aerating your wine to help any harsher flavours to mellow. This process can be expedited by pouring the wine into a jug, decanter or through an aeration gadget. You can even zap your wine in a blender for a few seconds. Finally, there are some scientific options, although they really are the last resort for wine salvation. Anything from decanting the wine and laying cling film over its surface to popping a (washed) penny in your wine glass can help neutralise unpleasant flavours. Failing all of this, slosh in some ice and mixers – you can always try again tomorrow.
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