You are invited to a friend’s house for dinner and decide to take along a bottle of wine. Ideally, you should have one in your cellar, but the world is short of ideal. So you are forced to buy a bottle. What to do? In Ontario you don’t have much choice. You can go to the nearest LCBO store, or to one of the provincial winery-owned-and-operated stores. Some are in Dominion Stores others in Loblaw’s, yet Magnotta (the fourth largest winery in Canada) has seven stores in and around Toronto, Vincor 161 throughout the province, Colio 12,Peller estates over 160 and every other winery at least one.
In a store you will encounter hundreds of bottles, confusing labels, different shapes, sizes and colours. As a consumer you should consider three criteria: taste, food affinity and cost. If there is a wine consultant
(LCBO employs wine consultants in its larger stores) you can seek his/her advice, in private retail stores (in New York state and elsewhere), sales people are usually knowledgeable enough to guide you. Winery stores in Ontario, B C, California, Washington State, and Oregon generally employ well-informed individuals to steer you to at least the appropriate section, and with a little luck, to a brand, labels provide sufficient clues to well-versed individuals to make an informed decision. A well-designed label tells you where the wine originates (country, region, sub-region, and if and when applicable single-vineyard), or grape variety, if it is a varietal wine, vintage, if applicable, alcohol content, net content, and the name and address of the producer or shipper.
Generally wines with alcohol levels 12 percent and above are full bodied due to their glycerol, a viscous component of alcohol. Those below are generally lighter, with the exception of sweet late harvest or icewines. When pairing food and wine, try to match full-bodied wines with equal-weight food textures, i.e white fish with light wine, heavy grilled beef with a “ muscular “ red wine. Over time and with experience you will be able to fine-tune food and wine matching nuances.
Ask sales associates. Some know a lot and are enthusiastic. They will guide you after a few well-thought out questions to determine the price range you are willing to spend.
Read trade magazines, or even the weekend editions of your local newspapers. All feature a column recommending wines.
Wine writers dedicate their lives to tasting wines on behalf of consumers. Although some are better in describing wine than others, all perceive taste and smell somewhat differently. English tasters seem to like older red wines better than their North American confreres. Regardless, most wine writers write about sound and drinkable wines.
Not every bottle of a vintage and even blended wines tastes the same. Some are better than others, as a result of storage temperature and unexplainable chemical changes in the bottle.
The best way of determining quality and appeal is taste testing. Some stores offer an opportunity by opening a few bottles, and most winery boutiques willingly for tasting. Magnotta will open almost any of their wines, except for those very expensive.
Cost must be considered but it is not always the only determinant. Less expensive wines trend to be insipid, weak and generally of poor quality, but even amongst the least expensive sometimes one can find gems.
It all depends on the origin of the wine and where it was made.
However, sometimes an expensive bottle can be disappointing because it may not be ready to drink. Potentially outstanding red wines require cellaring for a few years depending on the quality of vintage
Buying wine can be fun, but also a daunting task. Those familiar with wines can make good decisions, while others rely on wine specialists or reliable wine writers.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.