Wine Buying 101 – Part 1
Well it’s Friday night or the weekend and you head to your favorite wine shop like the one here at Mecenat Bistro to select a wine for that special dinner, or weekend get together. So tell me are you overwhelmed by the selection of brightly colored labels competing for you to select one particular bottle over another……. That’s marketing for you…. How did it worked for you last time how was that bottle of wine? Did it meet your expectation and satisfy your palate?
To many of us, myself included at one time or another has purchased a bottle wine purely based the marketing – “That Really Pretty Label”….. I know guilty as charged.
So I thought that over the next couple weeks I would help you avoid the trapping of “Marketing” and a disappointing bottle of wine. Choosing the perfect bottle of wine is really all about understanding the flavors you are looking in that bottle or glass of wine. In addition understanding the flavor profiles that you enjoy many also allow you to venture out and try some new wines within the same flavor category.
Like my wine cellar filled with bottles of wine which when I find a wine I like I purchase it by the case, my library is also filled with a wide variety of Wine books on grape varietals, the wine making process, building and stocking that home wine cellar to Wine and Food pairing books. Ok so where should we start, let’s start with some basic flavor profile and work from there.
The flavor profiles that most white wine fall into include: Bone-Dry and Neutral, Green Tangy, Intense Nutty, Ripe Toasty, Aromatic, and Sparkling. Ok so let me help translate this a little further for you so that this is something that you can use the next staring at the rows of wine at your favorite wine shop or reading the menu at favorite restaurant.
Crisp, refreshing white wine would fall in to the category of “Bone-Dry and Neutral”. White Wines that you drink when you don’t want oak or tropical fruit flavors on the palate. Look to the Old World for this style of wine, while the same varietals may be grown in the New World these winemakers are looking to produce a much more flavorful wine with the same grape……
Consider this example a unoaked Chablis for Burgundy which allows the chardonnay grape resulting a dry style wine with beautiful minerally. Other Old World wines look to Italian whites such as some Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay from the Alto Adige might be the perfect choice. When I talk about wine I find myself talking about food as well….. These types a wines you’ll really want some fresh shellfish – Oysters, Scallops, Shrimp, Crab you know the kind really, really fresh and that flavorful seawater saltiness……
Next…. “Green Tangy” these are those bright, zesty, tart, wines with a sense of minerally rather than fruit. Wines coming from traditional cooler climate in the Old World like the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, and even some Germany wine would qualify. The New World – New Zealand probably without a doubt produces the most classic Sauvignon Blancs that would fall into this flavor category. If you want to be adventurous or a change from your regular New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough try a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume from the Loire Valley of France. Another option in this category would also include Chenin Blancs from Vouray, Savennieres and again the Loire Valley. Something newer on the horizon comes from Spain Verdejo or Vinho Verde could become your alternative to the Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand.
Moving on to the “Intense Nutty” flavor profile is most recognizable flavor profile; usually wines with some oak regiment resulting in dryness and soft round edges. If I sent you into your favorite wine shop many of us would head directly to the California Chardonnay aisle, and that is a great choice, but if you what exit the normal path alternative would be a classic oak aged Chardonnay for Burgundy, along with other New World regions like New York, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
If you still what this flavor profile but don’t care for Chardonnay, a Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc blend might just have the creamy, nutty flavor with a touch of stone fruit to please your palate. Yes some of these recommendations carry a higher price tag, for some value it would be worth checking out Chardonnay’s from Spain (Navarra or Somontano).
Ok how do you feel about “Ripe and Toasty” They are fruit forward stone fruit including peaches, nectrines, apricots, hints of tropical fruit with vanilla, butterscotch, toast. Again we looking at Chardonnay, but this is a flavor profile that really changed the industry and the consumer’s palate. If you are a loyal California Chardonnay drinker you might want to try some Chardonnay’s from South America, Italy, and Penedes Spain. I think I’ll leave it at that.
Let’s talk “Aromatics”…… Exotic blend of perfume and floral on the nose that mysteriously translate right to your palate. If this category pleases your palate you are probably enjoying Gewurztraminer possibly from Germany. If you want to venture out Gewurztraminer really is a grape of Italian descent slightly a bit more subtle than the German versions. Other varietals that you find in this flavor profile include the floral notes of Dry Muscat’s, Viognier’s apricots and spring flowers, Spain’s Albarino’s with its crisp notes of apricots, and Muller-Thurgau from Germany, and New Zealand “pot-pourri” in the glass……….
Well, let me finish our lesson on the flavor profiles covering the world of white wines. No discussion would be complete if we didn’t talk about ”Sparkling Wines”. Why is it that we associate Champagne or Sparkling Wines only with special occasions? Why not popping on cork on a bottle because its Wednesday evening middle of the week, and traffic was while you know but you made it home… You just be in a better mood with some bubbles, beside when you think about it is truly is a versatile wine because of it palate cleansing effect of those little bubbles. Why not keep a bottle in the frig for any night of the week, champagnes and sparkling wines come in a wide variety of sweetness level to satisfy any palate, as well as price points to meet any budget…. Think about the next time you are in that favorite wine shop.
Well that is “Wine Buying 101 part 1” I hope that this was helpful and gave you some tools for the selecting the perfect wine to enjoy rather than relying on the “Pretty Labels”, marketing stuff. See next week….
Join me at Mecenat Bistro & Gathering Place on Friday and Saturday’s for complimentary Wine Tastings.
Fridays 2:00 -4:00 pm, Saturdays 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Gregory Hayes, cs, cwp
Sommelier – Wine Buyer
Mecenat Bistro & Gather Place - 821 West Burlington Ave. Western Spring, IL.
Phone: 708-246-8668 . email: Gregory@MecenatBistro.com