We've all been there - standing at (or scrolling) a wine rack and feeling overwhelmed by all the bottles which, let's be honest, look pretty much the same. And everything you did know about wine goes out the window in favour of a bright bottle with a cool label. (That means it has to be fancy, right?). While that method can work, it's a risky gamble that can sometimes end in disappointment.
The fact is, the world of wine is tricky, confusing, and at times, annoyingly elitist. With endless myths and lofty jargon, it's easy for anyone to feel puzzled or break into a slight sweat when someone hands you the wine list at a restaurant.
So as your partners in wine, we're launching the #WmSipGuide to uncork all things wine and to kick off the series we're sharing our tips and tricks for picking a winning wine every time.
1. Avoid the big big brand names
Think about wine in terms of music - you know those mainstream music artists that everyone knows? While the music can be pretty good, it quickly becomes overplayed and a bit boring. But think about that guy with the killer playlist filled with small, unknown music artists and refreshing new beats that really gets your attention...
Well, wine is kind of like that. The big names you recognise are made to appeal to wide mainstream tastes and as a result, can taste pretty boring. But those small crafted wineries are fighting for recognition, and therefore making their wines with a special taste that you'll remember.
And if the music analogy doesn't appeal to you - big brands mass-produce their wines to make as much as possible. And the only way you can produce that much is with a whole lot of chemicals and additives... Vs the little guys want to protect their vineyard from nasty chemicals and utilising generations of family knowledge for authentic handcrafted wine.
We get asked all the time "is the most expensive wine always the best?" and we can't say it enough, price does NOT always mean quality.
FUN FACT: when you're at a restaurant, don't do that thing where you just automatically order the second cheapest wine on the menu. Restaurants know that's what people do, so that's usually the bottle with the biggest mark-up and actually the cheapest wine the restaurant has.
There is a lot that goes into the cost of a bottle of wine (we'll work on an in-depth Sip Guide) but the simple answer is that you can have fantastic wine at just about any price point. However, going too low in price can be dodgy - refer back to our points on mass-produced wines...
And on the other side of the coin, those really, really expensive bottles are most likely from more famous wineries, have been aged - think vintage, or have better ageing potential - which doesn't matter too much unless you have a personal wine cellar in Hong Kong (and if you do, can we visit??).
The takeaway: stick to the middle price range, not too cheap, not too expensive, and you'll find excellent wines.
3. Reading a Wine Label
You know when the waiter brings a bottle of wine over to your table and shows you the label, then you look and nod like you actually know what you're supposed to be looking for? It's a relatable feeling, but if you know some basics about decoding wine labels you can actually find out a lot about the wine inside. Here is a quick guide for understanding the key info on a wine label:
Things to note: every country has many different requirements or wording laws so it's critical to look into your specific favourite wine and region to know what details to look for. Not every label will have all this information on the front so be sure to check the back and sides.
5. Think of your food
If you're heading to a dinner party or at a restaurant, you'll want to make sure the wine won't clash with the food. Now we could fill entire books with wine and food pairings, but to give you the highlights here are your basic food and wine pairing rules:
- Powerfully flavoured food needs deep full-bodied wine.
- Light dishes call for white wine or light reds.
- Most versatile white wines: Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling
- Most versatile red: Pinot Noir
- When in doubt: go with sparkling wine. (because who doesn't love bubbly?)
For more on the topic of Food and Wine visit our Food Friday blog series where we pair wines with all different dishes and cuisines. And with our Food & Wine page you can select your food type and shop our recommendations for wines match best.
4. Know your regions
One way to ensure wine picking success is to know which wine region/country is best known for producing the type of wine you like. For example, Germany is known for making incredible white wines such as riesling. Italy makes some of the best light reds. France is known for complex reds and Portugal is great for dry white wine.
We could go on but you get the picture. Figure out what style of wine you like and then learn what region does it best. To learn more about different wine regions try our European Wine Tour box or our Winecation Travel Series!