How To Pick A Bottle Of Wine
Even If You Know Nothing About Wine
We have all been there, in a grocery store of wine store looking for a bottle of wine as a hostess gift or to have with dinner and you have no idea what to pick! Today many buyers make decisions based on marketing, the same is true for those looking to buy a good bottle of wine. Many make decisions based on if it is appealing to the eye, the look and shape of the bottle, the bottle seal-cork versus screw cap, and catchy slogans or artwork.
There is no such thing as a “scratch and sniff” wine label (what a great idea though!), so the novice (and not-so-novice) wine buyer has to be enticed by the bottle’s graphics. The winery has to make many decisions that will create buyer interest to compete with other wine producers. Labeling is geared to make the wine drinker want to take their bottle home. Until the wine is tasted, it’s all about the bottle and what information wine buyers can find on the label.
The wine’s name and label info will give the buyer their first peek into the bottle’s content and influence the taster’s senses well before their taste buds can assess the wine. As the wine drinker wanders the aisles, they get an impression of the wine, even a bias against a wine based solely on the bottle and label appearance.
How To Pick A Bottle Of Wine By Looking At The Bottle and Label
What is the grape varietal?
That should be front and center on the bottle. Familiarize yourself with the popular types of wine, as there are more just red and white wines. Pinot Grigio is a popular white wine that is typically dry and crisp, where Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine that usually has high citrus notes. Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular red wine that is full-bodied, where a Pinot Noir is more medium-bodied with red berry and tobacco notes.
Screw-top or a Cork?
Honestly, drinkers equate a nicely corked wine bottle to a higher degree of wine quality. This is widely held perception and bias; in truth, screw caps on wine bottles are becoming more common on all groups of wine. A study conducted several years ago by a Wine Intelligence consulting firm stated that nearly 52% of Americans and 60% of British wine drinkers didn’t like the idea of using screw caps on wine.
What about the synthetic corks?
Since the bottle has a foil or plastic wrapper, it is almost impossible to tell is the bottle has a natural cork or synthetic cork. Some wine snobs dislike anything other than a natural cork seal and claim that the wine can be tainted by man-made seals. A good cork of any type or a screw-top cap will both protect the wine, and neither should impact the wine’s taste or quality unless they are faulty.
Boxed wine, Jug wine, or a 750ML bottled wine?
The 750ML is the standard most buyers reach for when at the wine shop, but there are some very good boxed and jug wines, even award-winning wines. These wines just don’t represent the image drinkers think of for an impressive wine.
A bottle label as “Estate” wine or a “Table” wine?
The image of an Estate conjures up a lifestyle; the word table is just an everyday image. The word “Estate” should be reserved for special wines and can be a clue to the wine’s pedigree. Estate wines do denote that the wine is from grapes on the named vineyard.
Wine named George’s Grape Gourmet or one named Ste. George’s Premium Estate?
Okay, maybe the buyer thinks this one is extremely easy to pick, but don’t judge a wine by its maker’s name. Some great wines have crazy names or even lackluster names, so judging by the name isn’t always a good clue. Stag’s Leap is a simple name but is an excellent wine.
A bottle costing $7.99 or $37.99 or $97.99?
There probably is a reason for the price difference, but depending on the occasion, the less expensive bottle is often a good wine buy. Many factors can influence price from the cost of distribution to the limited quantity bottled. For very expensive wines, do some research before buying. Try less expensive wines and find some hidden gems.
CK Mondavi and Family is an affordable wine for every day that is the perfect example of does an excellent job of educating buyers based on their wine labels. CK Mondavi and Family adds tasting notes to their wine labels so you can tell at a glance if the wine is fruity, crisp, or smooth. They also have a seasonal wine, a Spritzed Rosé Moscato that has a fun label, it actually changes color when it’s at perfect serving temperature. So always be sure to look at their labels.
What is the Alcohol Percentage?
Wine should be anywhere from 11% – 15% alcohol level, too low could mean it’s too sweet and too high could mean it’s jammy. To play to play it safe look for a percentage of alcohol to be around 13-14%.
Where is the wine from?
There are popular wine regions that you should make yourself familiar with, but a few popular ones Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Bordeaux France, Barossa Valley Australia and Spain Rioja. And you can almost never go wrong with a good bottle of Champagne.
Only after “trying on” the wine will you decide to be a repeat wine customer, as marketing and eye appeal of the bottle will only get the bottle home. Have fun with wine buying: ask questions of wine shop staff, choose a wine or two that challenge your natural bottle bias, and enjoy!
Have you ever bought a wine based on the label? What’s important to you when you pick a bottle of wine?
I definitely have bought a bottle of wine strictly for the label! I have a 50 Shades of Grey and a Naughty Red on my wine wall strictly because they are conversation pieces. It makes my husband crazy, as he will not buy a bottle of wine unless he has researched it on his wine apps and knows their wine ratings.