Young couple enjoying his wine

There are so many factors to think about when deciding on the wine you want to buy next. There is an enormous range of different grapes, vintages, types of wine and pairings. Wine is a living drink and every occasion requires a different wine. There are wines that have a soft flavor and others that are very intense, replete with fruity aromas and different color notes. Choosing the correct wine for a particular occasion can be a challenge.

For the uninitiated, or for those who simply want to enjoy a nice wine without having to take an oenology course, there are so many excellent options available on the market. However, before making your choice, you should have a decent understanding of the fundamental aspects of wine. If you really want to find the best wine to suit your preferences and your budget, keep reading!

Key Facts

  • Wine is extremely delicate. Temperature, humidity, direct sunlight and environmental factors can alter its taste and quality.
  • Wine should always be kept lying on its side, so that the liquid touches the cork – preventing it from drying out. Once the bottle is opened, the wine will begin to oxygenate. Oxygenation alters the taste of wine. This process is especially beneficial for young wines, but less so for older ones.
  • The vintage and the country of origin will be the biggest influencing factors on the quality and characteristics of the wine.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about wine

Wine is the alcoholic beverage with the oldest established tradition and history. It is the ideal accompaniment for food and part of any fabulous meal. In this section, we answer the most frequently asked questions from users, so that you have a better appreciation of this beverage and have all the information you need to make a great purchase.

Vino tinto

To properly enjoy your wine it is essential to use a wine glass.
(Source: Kzenon: 18344917/ 123rf.com)

What is wine?

Wine is a drink sourced from grapes, through the process of alcoholic fermentation of its must or juice. Fermentation is produced thanks to the metabolic action of added yeast, which transform the sugars present in grapes into ethanol. Wine, unlike other drinks, is influenced by external factors such as weather, latitude, daylight hours and temperature – which affect the grapes during the growing cycle.

Wine is the name given to the liquid resulting from the total or partial alcoholic fermentation of grape juice, without the addition of any other substance. Wine is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks made by humans, with evidence of wine consumption dating back to the Neolithic period.

Wine is either sparkling or still. Sparkling wine, was commonly known as champagne until this name was reserved only for wine from the region of Champagne, France, which is just outside of Paris. So all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. Think of the term champagne as a reference to a wine growing region, not a type of wine.

Botellas de vino reposando en una cava

Wine must be stored and consumed at the correct temperature to properly enjoy its flavor.
(Source: Hxdbzxy: 33781418/ 123rf.com)

What types of wines exist and which one should I buy?

Having an understanding of the different types of wine, and their characteristics, is essential in determining which is the most suitable wine for you. You should consider not only the taste, but also the best dish to accompany each type of wine. Wine pairing is very important to consider, red wines pair with red meat and white wines with fish.

In addition to color, another factor that distinguishes different types of wines, is the grape variety. Different varieties produce their own particular nuances, aromas and flavors. Age is another important consideration, as wines are a living drink their taste and properties change over time. Young wines are consumed only six months after they are produced.

To make this information a little easier to understand, we have prepared the following table:

Classification Type
By color White: Made without grape skins, only juice. From white grapes.

Rosé: Is fermented just like white wine. The desired color is obtained during maceration.

Red: Made with grape skins and juice. The skins, seeds and crushed grapes create the anthocyanins and the tannins in the wine.

By sugar content Dry: When the total acid content of tartaric acid per liter is less than 2 grams lower than the residual sugar content.

Semi-dry: When the total acid content expressed in grams of tartaric acid per liter is not more than 10 grams less than the residual sugar content.

Semi-sweet: When the total acid content expressed in grams of tartaric acid per liter is not more than 10 grams higher than the residual sugar content.

Sweet: When the total acid content expressed in grams of tartaric acid per liter is not more than 40 grams less than the residual sugar content.

By age Young: Wine that is consumed the same year it is produced, after spending only six months in the bottle.

Crianza: Aged for two years – one year in a barrel and one year in the bottle.

Reserva. Aged for three years – two years in a barrel and one year in the bottle.

Gran Reserva. These wines are aged for two years in a barrel and another three years in the bottle.

By the content of carbonic acid Still wine: These wines are not carbonated or only contain a residual amount of gas.

Sparkling wine: Carbonated wine, easily recognizable by its characteristic bubbles. The maximum pressure for these wines should not exceed 90 PSI. The gas can be natural, created during fermentation, or added.

By its method of production Carbonic maceration: A classic method of producing Rioja and fruity wines such as Beaujolais.

Vintage:When the grapes are picked late in the season, they usually produce sweet wines, since the grape is dehydrated and contains a lot of sugar.

Non-vintage: Wine produced from a mixture of grapes harvested from different seasons.

What are tannins?

Tannins are a natural chemical substance of plant origin that are found in wine. The are derived from fermented grape skins and also from the wooden barrels in which the wine is aged. Tannins are more abundant in red wines than in white wines, solely due to the fact that white wines are aged in barrels for a shorter period of time.

The ageing and softening of tannins is one of the most important processes in the production of wine, as it is one of the main factors influencing the quality of the final product. Tannins are composed of polyphenol and other elements responsible for the color of the wine and the presence of anthocyanins, which are found in reds and rosés. Over time they fall to the bottom of the bottle and form part of the sediment.

Existen varios tipos de vino

Red, rosé and white are the different classifications of wine by color.
(Source: Doroshin: 46917610/ 123rf.com)

What are sulfites?

Sulfites are chemicals derived from sulfur that are used as food additives and preservatives. Sulfites are found in wine in its natural state, although in very low concentrations. Additional sulfites are commonly added by winemakers to prevent the formation of molds and bacteria or the oxidation of the wine.

An excess of sulphites in the wine also worsens the quality, making it lose its color, develop a fairly rancid odor and also cause the taste to deteriorate. If the wine contains a level of sulphites above 10 parts per million (ppm), it must be indicated on the wine label. Sulfites have allergenic properties and can affect people with asthma.

What is a varietal wine?

A varietal wine is a type of wine that is made primarily of a single variety of grape. The variety of grape must be indicated on the bottle, and have been used to produce at least 85% of the wine. Some of the common types of varietal wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. Don’t be confused and think that a varietal wine is made from a variety of grapes, the term actually refers to the single variety of grape used in creating that particular wine.

This is a table of some of the most common grape varieties used to produce red wine:

Type of wine Variety of strains
Red Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Tannat y Malbec. Also, Bonarda, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Carmenere. Finally, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Marselan, Pinot Noir, Carignan y Cinsaunt.
White Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillón, Torrontés and Pedro Ximenéz. Other strains are Riesling, Viognier and Chenin Blanc.
Rosé Pinot Gris, Syrah, Gewüztraminer and Canarí.

Do wines need to be cooled?

All wines, even red wine, should be cooled if they are not at the optimum temperature. Wine should be stored and consumed at room temperature, drinking wine that is warm will worsen the flavor and is not recommended. Different wines should be drunk at different temperatures, as this will affects the taste and aroma.

At a higher temperatures the aroma evaporates more quickly and there is also an increase of acidic flavors. A lower temperature will eliminate the olfactory capacity, and you will notice a fuller body and the astringency of the tannins. A cool temperature moderates the excess of sugar (and therefore the level of alcohol), as well as the bitterness of the tannins.

There are specially designed wine fridges, which are a great way for keeping your wine stored at the perfect temperature. If you are serious about wine, this could be a worthwhile investment.

The following table shows the ideal temperature for the most common types of wine on the market:

Type of wine Ideal temperature
Sweet white Between 39-45º
Young dry white Between 42-46º
Barrel-aged white Between 48-54º
Rosé Between 9 y 12º
Young red Between 54-59º
Aged red Between 59-63º
Red Reserva or Gran Reserva Between 60-64º

How should wine be stored?

As we mentioned in the previous section, the most important factor consider when storing wine is the temperature. Any sudden changes will greatly influence the speed of the natural evolution of the wine. The most important thing is a stable and constant temperature, without major fluctuations.

Abrupt temperature changes can be very detrimental to wine, however you also need to make sure that it is not subject to major seasonal changes in temperature. Low humidity can dry out the cork, while an excess can create bacteria or mold. Bottles should always be stored horizontally, so that the cork remains moist.

Atardecer en un viñedo

The quality of the grapes is very important, as it will influence the quality of the wine.
(Source: Georgiev: 15818243/ 123rf.com)

Is the vintage of a wine important?

The quality of the vintage of particular wine will be effected by the weather the vineyard experienced over the course of the season in which it was grown. Especially the weather during the spring and summer periods. These times are important because they are the periods during which the grapes grow and mature. There are more vineyards in areas where the weather is brisk, with rainy summers, for example.

The vintage is important but keep in mind that within the same vintage, the quality can vary depending on the amount of care taken in growing the grapes at a particular vineyard. It is an important factor, but far from decisive. US wine labeling laws require that at least 95% of the grapes used must be of the same vintage year for it to appear on the wine label.

Botellas de vino añejandose

Red wine is the perfect accompaniment for a romantic dinner.
(Source: Hxdbzxy: 22838669/ 123rf.com)

What exactly does aeration do to wine?

Whenever wine is transferred from one container to another, this necessarily implies aeration (or oxygenation). This process brings the wine into contact with an amount of oxygen much higher than simply opening the bottle and pouring it into a glass. It results in a much faster oxygenation. Oxygenation has a positive impact on the aromas, body and flavor of wine.

It is important to decide whether it is a good idea to aerate a bottle of wine. It will depend largely on your experience with the specific wine, your personal taste and how soon you want to drink it. Old and fragile wines lose most of their aroma when they are oxygenated. However, young wines will definitely benefit from this process.

What is decanting?

Wine ages and matures in the bottle and, especially in the case of red wines, this process produces sediment – caused by tannin polymers falling to the bottom of the bottle. Decanting is basically just the process of separating the wine from the sediment, using a decanter or carafe. These vessels are usually made from glass or crystal, and are specifically made to perform this function

To correctly perform decantation, it is recommended that the bottle has been standing upright for at least 24 hours. Once the bottle is opened, you need to pour the wine into the decanter with a continuous and smooth movement – leaving the sediment in the bottle. While pouring you should hold the neck of the bottle up against the light, so you can see when the sediment has reached the top.

Shopping Criteria

Choosing a great bottle of wine is not a simple task, especially if you are not a vintner (winemaker) or sommelier (wine expert). There are many factors to keep in mind that will affect the taste, aroma and quality of the wine. Remember to take your time, there are many wines from many different wineries on the market. If you want to choose a quality wine, just follow these criteria:

  • Type of wine
  • Vintage
  • Variety of grape
  • Ecological wine
  • Aging process
  • Trusted wineries
  • Alcohol content

Type of wine

You already know that there are many types of wines available on the market, so it is important to know which one you should choose. The first thing is to think about is whether you want a red, white or rosé. In addition to your personal taste, when choosing between different types of wine, you should also take into account what it will be accompanying. Particular types of meals are best paired with a specific wine.

Red wines match very well with any kind of meat and cheese. Older reds, such as reserves, match best with meat that has an intense flavor – such as grilled and game meats. White wines are perfect for rice and fish, while rosés are best when paired with light meals and appetizers.

Lugar adonde se cosechan las uvas

The most famous vineyards in the world are in France, Chile and Spain.
(Source: Duvernay: 8093420/ 123rf.com)

Vintage

The vintage is one of the factors that will determine the quality of a particular wine. Some years produce significantly better wine than others. The vintage is the year in which the grapes were harvested and the fermentation process began. The quality of the vintage is effected by the weather of the region where the vineyard is located, and any possible diseases that may have afflicted the crops that season.

Poor quality vintages do sometimes improve as they age in a barrel or bottle. Additionally, the care taken by the winemaker during the cultivation and production stages, will also have a positive or negative effect on the quality of the vintage.

foco

A good vintage will always help to improve the quality of wine.

Es importante dejar respirar el vino para poder tomarlo

A glass of red wine is elegant and sophisticated.
(Source: Stokkete: 82836135/ 123rf.com)

Variety of grape

The grape variety used in the production of a type of wine, is another factor that can give you more information about the quality of the wine. Wine can be varietal, meaning that it has been made with a single grape variety (or with a concentration of at least 85%), or multi-varietal when it is made with two or more types of grapes.

Although it is not a huge factor, the variety of grape used to produce a particular wine does influence the personal taste of the consumer. If you, or the person for whom you are buying wine, have a preference, you should always choose a varietal wine or that contains that grape variety.

Ecological wine

Organic wine is made from grapes grown following organic farming techniques, and without the use of chemicals to fertilize the vineyards, or to treat pests or diseases. Organic farming improves the biodiversity of the vineyard, preventing pests, while also helping the vines to grow strong.

Organic wines have qualities and traits characteristic of the land on which they are cultivated, something that conventional wines have lost. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides alter the character of the grapes, so that all wines seem to end up tasting the same and lose the personality of the area where they were produced.

Ageing process

A good wine, that has been aged properly for many years in the bottle, will always be better than a young or vintage wine. However, an old wine may not be the most appropriate, and not just because it might be more expensive. Aging alters the flavor and characteristics of wine, so keep this in mind when thinking about pairing.

The aging process also varies between different winemakers. Some use stricter criteria than others and may decide to label their wines differently.

Trusted wineries

Some wineries are famous, names like Chateau Montelena or Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou are known to all wine lovers. These wineries have won the trust of consumers by producing high quality wines, over many years. They follow very strict guidelines when cultivating their grapes, and strive to maintain high quality standards.

A good tip is to think about wineries that produce some of the wines you already like, and make a list. It is possible that, over time, your tastes will vary, so you should know which wineries make the wines that you like. Of course, this is totally optional and not a determining factor, but is worth keeping in mind.

Alcohol content

On the label of the bottle you can find out about the body, or the softness of a wine. This is the alcohol content. For example, wine that has an alcohol content over 14% is full-bodied, while wine with a lower alcohol content is considered as soft, or light-bodied. This is a big factor that could influence your purchase.

It is important that you check the alcohol content before buying wine. At the same time, you should remember to check for the presence of sulphites. If the wine contains high levels of this chemical it must be indicated on the label, as it is an allergen that can be harmful to certain people.

Summary

Everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to wine. Choosing a great bottle of wine is not easy, as there are so many factors that affect its flavor, aroma and overall quality. Wine is a living substance and is susceptible to heat, sunlight and humidity. Wine is the perfect drink to accompany your meals, and to share with your friends.

Choosing wine is an art form. As we have mentioned previously in this article, there are a variety of factors that you should keep in mind, such as the vintage, the type of wine, the food you will pair with it and your personal taste. If you don’t want to go wrong, just follow our buying guide and choose the wine that’s best for you.

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Our writers and editors at THEGOODESTATE.com focus on making your life easier by selecting the best available options on the U.S. market of everyday objects and supplements.