Choosing the Perfect Wine
We’ve all been there - you are invited to a holiday party and tasked with bringing the wine, but where to start? We asked Drew Horton, enology specialist at the UMN Horticultural Research Center, and graduate student, Anna Underhill, their tips on the art of choosing the perfect wine.
Tip one: Don’t start your wine journey at the big box store. Instead, find a local wine shop. “The seller at your local wine shop will care about the wine on their shelves,” Horton explains, “and, if you form a relationship with this person, over time you’ll be drinking a lot of great wines and you won’t be spending a lot of money.” You would be amazed at the high quality of wine you can find for $12 to $15 from places like Spain, South Africa, and Chile at these small curated wine shops -- this is where working with a small store proprietor really pays off.
Tip two: Read up. Wine bottles often host a whole range of jargon; some are for marketing and some have a lot deeper meaning. Look for words like ‘estate grown’ or ‘estate bottled’. This means the wine was made with grapes grown entirely by the winery itself and not purchased elsewhere or blended with purchased fruit or wine. Since grapes are an agricultural crop, their flavors and character heavily influenced by the soil they are grown in. “Soil is everything,” Horton says, “wine gets its taste from a specific place.” Furthermore, look for the words “Produced and bottled by…”, this means the winery itself made the wine from grape to bottle. If you see the words “Cellared and bottled by”, or “ Vinted and bottled by,” this means the winery bought the wine in bulk from another producer and just put their names on the label.
Tip three: Start sipping. There are so many wines on the market that you could try a different one every day and never drink the same wine twice. When first starting, sample a wide variety. However, if you try something and hate it, don’t kick it out of your life forever. “You probably hate Chardonnay because you had a bad experience with a Chardonnay,” Underhill explains. “Trying things will help develop your palate. Wine is more tied to a place, or time, or year; that’s the magic of it.”
We’ll toast to that.