An Honest Guide to Buying Wine (Minus the Stuck-Up Stuff)

An Honest Guide to Buying Wine (Minus the Stuck-Up Stuff)

Written by
June 28, 2018

Whether it’s a cosy red in winter, a citrusy white as the weather warms up or a bottle of sparkling for the height of summer, ya gotta know what to look for when you’re picking up a bottle of wine. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a hoighty toighty genius to know what’s good. We’ve got some tips on buying a bottle that won’t make you feel like a pretender.

Does ‘vintage’ matter?

Talking about a wine’s vintage feels very fancy, but what does it actually mean? The term ‘vintage’ refers to the year in which the grapes used to make the wine were harvested. It doesn’t have anything to do with when a wine is sold or how long it has been aged for.

So, why are they good? When people talk about buying wine based on its vintage, what they’re talking about is buying wine based on a flavour profile of that specific year. A wine’s vintage can really affect the taste. Why? Because of the weather that affects the vines during the growing season. A ‘vintage variation’ is the difference in taste between the same wines made in different years. The change in flavour depends on the way the weather has influenced the crop.

But this doesn’t mean that non-vintage wine (or NV) isn’t any good! A non-vintage wine is made by blending grapes from multiple harvests. A vintage wine may not necessarily taste better or worse than its non-vintage (NV) counterpart, but it can produce notable differences.

Does it matter where it’s from?

It’s easy to think that if a wine comes from overseas it’s automatically more important than Australian wine. But that says more about our cultural cringe than anything! Last year a ranking of global wines actually found that Australian wines are among the most-awarded in the world.

Of course, some countries and regions have specialties: Australia’s most famous wine is probably the Penfolds Grange (but if you’re looking for something a little cheaper, there are plenty of other nice reds coming out of the Barossa Valley). In terms of sparkling wine, champagne from France (champagne can only be called that if it comes from the literal region of Champagne) or prosecco from Italy hits the spot. A sav blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand will also always be popular.

The good thing to remember with wine is that just because it’s under $20 and from a local region, doesn’t mean that it’s no good. In fact, once a $6 Liquorland shiraz won a Double Gold medal against a bunch of more expensive wines. It’s possible to make a delicious wine for cheap! That wine is no longer available, but you’ll find a bunch more affordable (and tasty) options at your local Liquorland – trust us.

Do you really have to sniff and swirl a wine to be able to taste it properly?

No! That’s to say, you should drink a glass of wine however you want (not while standing on your head – that would get messy). Swirling a glass of wine does release the aromas, but it can also lead to you dropping said wine all over the carpet. Probably best not to show off.

Still not sure? Ask heaps of questions!

Some people get nervous at the thought of asking shop assistants for advice about specific wines, but that’s what they’re there for! Next time you go into a Liquorland store and you’re a bit iffy, just stroll up to a team member and ask them what you should pick.

Here are some questions that may be handy:

• Can you recommend a wine for [enter whatever you’re eating for dinner here]?
• What’s new in-store? (Finding out about the hot new thing will only broaden your wine knowledge.)
• What’s a wine that is like [insert the only other wine label you know]?
• What are you drinking at the moment?

Basically, you should never be embarrassed at not knowing everything about wine. Everyone needs to start out somewhere! And in the meantime, it helps to consult an expert when looking for something new.

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