If you’ve ever walked into your local liquor store and felt overwhelmed at the mountain of varying wines lining the shelves, you’re not alone. The many choices are enough to send even the most knowledgeable person running for the door or reaching for the 'old reliable' bottle.
Finding a great wine doesn’t have to be such a challenge, and we’ve got expert tips from one of winemaking’s legends to help you pick the perfect bottle.
Red vs white
“I’ll always believe that you’re going to find that people should commence on a white wine. Because it’s lighter in style, it hasn’t got a very strong flavour,” says Wolfgang Blass, the man behind the iconic Wolf Blass winery. “It’s very important initially to eat it with food and in moderation,” he says, “This way, it is easier to digest.”
Then, if you’re so inclined, you can move onto a lighter style red wine such as a pinot noir, he says. “If you’re a heavy tea drinker, then you’re going to be very much accustomed to tannin,” which is what gives red wine it’s sometimes bitter taste, he says.
After that, deciding what style of colour you’re interested in (if at all) and what part of the world you’d like the vino to be from are your next steps in finding a bottle to enjoy.
“And then you’re going to start looking at reputation of the company,” says Blass. Big name brands are generally a good place to start as their wines are consistent in production and taste. Also, don't be afraid to ask for a little help. “Go to the store manager and ask him what he would recommend,” he says.
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Does price matter?
“Price is not the criteria to give you a guarantee if it is quality or if it’s a poor wine,” says Blass. Instead, drinkability is the key to a great bottle. A very well-balanced wine is going to have a very enjoyable flavour.
“If you’re going to have a very expensive wine, like the [Wolf Blass] black label, make sure you’re going to have two or three friends with you who understand what a good wine is all about,” he says, “You should never drink a top glass wine by yourself.” Many bottles of good-tasting wine can be found in the fairly reasonable price range of $12-$18 if you do a bit of research beforehand.
Use the right tools
When sommeliers train, they use an ISO glass in order to standardize their tastings and really let the tasting of the wine itself be the focus, rather than enhanced by a custom glass.
That said, having a wine-specific glass is nice but not a necessity, says Blass, but you should always, always decant a red wine – especially if it’s less than 5 years old. “The absorption and the oxygen while you’re doing this is lifting the wine and lifting the flavour,” he says.
You don't have to spend a lot – just a basic wine glass will do for most budding wine consumers, however, Blass does say that, “It would be a sin to drink good wines out of a water glass, it’s not acceptable. It has to be something like a tulip where the flavour is concentrating.”
What he drinks
Blass isn’t afraid to try any of his competitors’ wines to better understand where the Wolf Blass label’s vintages fit into the viniculture market, although he says most comparisons nowadays take place in a laboratory.
His favourite is a grape that’s well-known in his native Germany.
“I’m a Riesling freak,” says Blass. “Dry, they have to be dry. And Australians make magnificent style of Riesling.”
Above all, get out and experience as many different wines (always drinking responsibly) as you can, as it’s a surefire way to find something you love.
What’s your favourite wine?
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