5 Key Elements in Choosing Wine

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Choosing wine can be a stressful event if you're new at it, but with some good pointers, even the novice can pull off a great wine choice. The truth is, there are many different things to consider when deciding on a wine. For example, pairing wine with food for a dinner party is going to a completely different experience from, say, choosing wine as a gift for someone or to add your own personal collection.

But no matter what the occasion, it's always important to look at these 5 things when choosing wine:

1. Varietals. Knowing your varietals is the best way to identify different wines-- when you know the types of grapes used in making them, you have a much better idea of what to expect from the wine. The varietal determines the overall flavor, color, intensity, and overall character of a wine. For example, champagne has its name because the varietal of grapes used to make it are only grown in the Champagne region of France-- not just because it's bubbly.

2. Tannin Content. Tannins in wine are crucial elements, as they greatly affect the flavor of the wine. What are tannins? They are created by crushing the stalks and skins of the grapes during the wine making process. Tannins are an important part of allowing a wine to age well; but in a young wine they can result in a somewhat bitter taste. In a mature wine, tannins become gentler and have a more subtle taste. When choosing wine, consider whether it's intended to be drunk now or stored, and be sure to ask about the tannin content.

3. Aroma. The aroma of wine is not only the way the scent of a wine is described, but also the flavor. It starts with the first sniff of wine in a glass, to the moment it touches the lips, to swirling it around inside the mouth and eventually swallowing. Understanding, identifying, and truly enjoying the many different aromas of a good wine is something that comes with experience. If you want to find just the perfect wine, it is important to sample as many wines and varietals as you can in order to get the best idea possible of the aroma you're looking for.

4. Cost and Alcohol Content. If you have been to a decent wine shop lately, you've probably noticed that fine wine isn't only for wealthy people anymore. Many wine retailers offer a wide variety of top quality wines at a very friendly cost, which means you can be a risk taker and try new wines that you have never heard of-- and, hopefully, for prices you can actually pay. Also, remember that the alcohol content is usually labeled on the bottle. Full-bodied wines are meant to have high alcohol content, whereas dessert wines commonly contain the least amount.

5. The Food You'll Pair it With. Wine pairing has come out of the realm of snobbery and into the mainstream in the last few years. Anybody can learn to pair wines well with food. The basics are pretty simple. That said, choosing wine for a meal can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. A good rule to remember when pairing wine is that dry red wine is typically served with red meats and richly flavored, non-cream based dishes. White wine is most commonly served with fish, poultry, some pork dishes, and cream-based entrées. Naturally, there are always exceptions to this rule, especially when you take ingredients and flavors of a particular dish into account. However, if you're starting from scratch and don't know a thing about pairing wine, this can serve as a good rule of thumb.

Planning a dinner party and want to learn as much as you can about choosing wine? Don't forget to check with your wine merchant about upcoming tasting events that they might be conducting. These sorts of events will give you the opportunity to sample many different types of wine, and are usually organized by a wine expert that can give you plenty of helpful advice. Choosing wine can be a very fun hobby even for wine novices, and can be a fun learning experience. Just don't be afraid to ask questions... and be sure to purchase plenty of extra bottles, just in case !