You’ve heard a lot about the world of wine and you want in! But…you haven’t got a clue where to start. With all the different grape varieties and wine producing regions out there, it is easy to feel lost when approaching the world of wine for the first time. Grab a bottle of wine and let’s review a few basic steps to help start you on your journey.
How low can you go?
The price of a bottle of wine in Ontario varies widely, from less than $10 to several hundred dollars. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money for a great tasting bottle of wine. However, when the price is low (generally under $12) it can be an indicator that the product is a mass produced bulk wine which will fail to offer a complex flavour profile. When starting out, look for bottles that fall between $15 and $20. These wines should be well made and offer complex flavours without breaking the bank. (Pro Tip: The Vintages section of the LCBO occasionally has bin-end sales. Scour this section for great wines at great prices to help build your collection!)
Paint the town red…or white!
Consider what flavours and taste sensations you enjoy. If you like beverages that are refreshing and fruity, and you enjoy orchard fruits, grasses and flowers, you will probably enjoy a white wine. If you like beverages that are deep and warming, and you enjoy red and black berries, you will probably enjoy a red wine. Rosé wines tend to have flavours of red berries with the freshness of a white wine.
You’re hot and you’re cold!
A grape will manifest different flavours when it is grown in different climates. Hotter climates (ie: Southern California, Spain, Australia) tend to produce grapes with fruit flavours that are more “cooked”, “dried” or “jammy.” Cool climates (ie: Ontario, Bordeaux, Germany) tend to produce grapes with fruit flavours that are fresher and brighter. Decide what types of flavours you enjoy and choose a wine from the corresponding climate.
To oak or not to oak?
The vessel in which a wine is matured will have a significant influence on the final character of the specific wine. Wines matured in steel containers will possess fresh and fruity flavours. However, wines matured in oak barrels will possess interesting non-fruit flavours like vanilla, wood spice or smoke. Do you prefer your wine fresh and fruity or do you prefer it grounded and intriguing?
Keep notes to keep learning!
Pay special attention to the variety of grape that your bottle of wine was created from. Wines from the New World usually state the grape variety on the label. Wines from Europe tend to state the region from which the wine was made on the label. (A Google search should help you discern what grape varieties makeup an Old World wine.) When you find a grape variety that you enjoy, try buying a wine made from the same grape but grown in a different region. Keep note of your tastings in a wine journal to continue learning.
A great way to start your journey into the world of wine is by joining a professionally guided tour of Niagara wine country with Niagara Vintage Wine Tours. Get exposed to the spectrum of styles that Niagara wines offer and begin to get a handle on the flavours that different grape varieties possess. Contact the guest services agents at 1-866-628-5428 to sign up for your first wine tour today and get the bottle rolling!
By: Michael Twyman Sommelier and Wine Smart Guide