When we fall in love with a particular wine, we often are hesitant to try anything else. This is a pity, as this attitude closes the door to all sorts of new tastes and experiences. If you’re buying the same bottle of wine every time you shop – stop – look around – and consider trying something new and exciting.
Start by shopping lesser known regions. Many wine regions are becoming better known and have very nice wines at reasonable prices. Spain, Australia, Argentina and Chile are just a few that come to mind. If you always buy Italian or French, take a stroll over to these other regions and indulge in what could be a very pleasant surprise. Don’t forget the lesser known American wine regions, as well. Many fine wines are being produced outside of California!
Expand your horizon by trying wine from areas just beyond a well known wine growing region. Instead of an expensive Pomerol in Bordeaux, try Lalande-de-Pomerol. This wine is actually made from the same grape (Merlot) but grown just outside the region and is typically available at a much lower price.
Look for the “second labels” of more established wineries. These are quality wines sold under a different label at a lower price, a practice quite common in Bordeaux and gaining popularity in California. This is similar to a major department store having their own brand of clothing. The same manufacturers produce them but display a store-brand label and sell at a lower price.
Sometimes palates change, and can do so quite dramatically. A person who normally loves the burly red wines, may start enjoying the lighter, crisper white wines. This would be a good time to reassess your tastes and try totally new wines of all varieties.
Red or White
This is the basic decision that most people make. Choosing red or white wine is pretty much the starting point when looking for new wines for your particular taste. While both wines can offer a “full bodied” taste, it is important to understand the basic differences between red and white wines. Red wines usually have more of a dark fruit taste. These are fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries and even a cranberry flavor component.
White wines have a higher acidity level, rightly so as they usually embody the citrus flavors of lemon, lime and grapefruit. These wines are usually more tropical in their bouquet and have a much lighter persona to them. The white wines also come with a little more “oak” flavor, as they tend to pick up the flavor of the barrel they were aged in.
Dry or Sweet
Dry and sweet are two categories of “mouth feel.” The drier the wine, the more tannin it has in it, usually. These tannic blends are usually a bit bitter at first, but are cut by the acidity of the wine, or are mellowed by the alcohol. Wines with a higher tannin content are better when left to sit and age, as the tannins will begin to fade after a while, becoming incorporated into the wine.
Sweet wines, on the other hand, can have a bit more sugar aspect to them. These wines leave the palate wet and usually ready for food. Higher sugar content will give the “nose” of the wine a bit more of a bite, but typically balances out with the flavor of the fruits.
Hot or Cold – Alcohol
While it would seem these two designations are based on the temperature the wine is served, this is not the case for this discussion. Hot and cold wines refer to the alcohol content in the wine. Typically done by volumetric ratios, hot wines will have alcohol content above the 12.5% level. The cooler wines will be below this, even down into the 9% range.
If you are struggling trying to choose a new wine, start by making the basic decisions first about whether you want red or white, dry or sweet, and then hot or cold. Once you have those factors in mind, ask your local wine shop expert for suggestions. Take a chance on an unfamiliar wine and surprise your palate!