How to Choose a Wine
Questions to ask yourself before you purchase a wine:
- WHERE does it come from? — First the country, then the appellation or region or type. While traditional countries like France and Italy have hundreds of names defining the area where the wine was grown, knowing at least the main regions of production will give you an idea of what you will get. Big names reassure (Bourgogne, Bordeaux) but up-and-coming regions have more diversity to offer (Languedoc)
- WHEN was the wine made? — Most labels state the vintage or year the grapes were harvested and made into wine. Nowadays most wines (white and roses obviously but a lot of reds too) are meant to be experienced fresh and young (from a few months to a few years) as drinkers tend to look for the fruit. Conversely, as you become sophisticated you will want to wait a few years to appreciate more mature and complex wines. And at the top end you will find real differences between vintages that justify the prices (that is, if you can afford them!).
- WHAT went into it? What grapes were used to make the wine? — A single varietal on the label indicates that at least 75% of the wine was made from it. Most appellation wines are a blend of 3 to 9 different types of grapes, usually mentioned on the back label or assumed to be known by the buyer (Bordeaux wines are typically a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot for instance).
- HOW was the wine made? — This is of paramount importance and we will assume here that you restrict your search to wines made organically (avoid no sulfites wines rarely satisfying), biodynamically or at the very least with environmental practices. Organic certification is a must since anyone can pretend anything they want if nobody watches over them. NOP (USDA standards) is an unfortunate and costly duplication of standards but we at The Organic WIne Company make sure that all our wines are certified in their country of origin. Check for our name on the back label as a guarantee of quality.
- HOW MUCH ALCOHOL in the bottle? — While most French and European wines culminate at 12.5%, a balanced level of aromatic support with a digestible product, most domestic wines commonly reach or exceed 14%. Alcohol is certainly toxic for the liver and is the first culprit in the case of headaches and heartburns. Better go with the lowest possible option.
Tips on Purchasing Wine
- Wine Club Membership: Our monthly selection takes the guessing out of your hands and bring you a surprise at your door every few weeks. Fun!
- Ask for help — we are only an easy phone call away 1-888-326-9463 (or ECOWINE for your memory).
- Check for the GUARANTEE! — Who provides 100% satisfaction, replacement of bad bottles, full refund and dedicated service? The Organic Wine Company, that’s who!
- Wine tastings — Let us help you create a tasting at your home or business. It’s a great way to discover new wines and have fun while sharing your experience and knowledge.
- Take notes — It can be difficult to remember which wines you like, – and which ones you don’t. And that helps develop your memory over time.
- If buying from a store, do not buy refrigerated wines — Cold refrigeration over a long period of time can have a negative impact on the wine. Avoid also bottles that have been standing in the light for too long, accumulating dust.
Choosing Your Wine: FAQ
Q: “How do you know how to choose a wine by whether or not it is a “good year” if you don’t follow wine growing news? Or is the year even important when you are tasting wine?”
A: The truth is: even if you follow wine news they will tell you that every year is a great vintage! It is easy to understand that no one in the industry is ready to say: “This is a bad vintage, do not buy it!”. It ususally takes a few years before the truth about a vintage emerges, by which time 90% of that vintage will have been drunk. But really, for most wines in most regions, modern day technology tends to erase the differences, mask the imperfections and put out of the market the truly unpalatable wines. Since there is way more wine produced than consumed you can be sure that only the best survive! The vintage is a factor when you start buying wines that are generally out of the budget of the average wine buyer. There it can make the difference between a simply good wine and a fabulous one. This is very much the case in the Bordeaux region where the weather can radically alter the growing conditions from one year to the next. It is true nevertheless that for a given wine each vintage will have its own characteristics and flavors. And this is probably even truer with organic wines which reflect more closely their natural conditions.
Q: “What does a wine trailing in a glass, I believe known as legs, have anything to do with its quality? Does it mean anything, does it tip you off to age, flavor, etc…?”
A: Legs or tears are traces of wine sticking to the glass when one swirls it around the glass. Glycerol, one of the alcohols present in wine, is responsible for that effect (you know about glycerine, don’t you?). A wine rich in that alcohol will probably be smooth and round on the palate. Since it is a solvant for a number of volatile compounds, it will therefore likely harbor a richness of flavors. It gives therefore a hint about the aromatic potential of the wine. Beyond that….!
Q: “Does sniffing first affect the “taste” in the mouth? I suspect it does, but perhaps you can address the sensory transmission.”
A: The 4 or 5 savors felt through the tongue (sweet and salty, acid and sour, savory being a recent discovery) go through a different neural pathway. The nerve endings in the upper part of the nose go directly to the brain and can discern thousands of different chemical compounds. In other words the nose is responsible for the biggest part of your sensory evaluation of the wine.