As worldwide sales in wine increase and prices are set to attract economically minded buyers, this is apt time to explore the many variations wine has to offer.
At one time, it was common to make a division between red and whites depending on what meal the wine was to accompany. Some generalizations may still apply, but due to the sheer varieties or diversity of grapes, wines types, and changing tastes this division has become less rigid. My approach to wine is based on exploration and experimentation. There is much to be said for random choice or ‘accident’. The norms of established European wine culture may have their place, but not here.
Each of the wines (red/white) has some very general characteristics. Whites often (not always) have citrus overtones (grapefruit or its zest), sometimes green apple or melon, straw to honey-coloured, dry to sweet, light to full bodied and, if not oaked, acidity provides a certain structure that prevents the wine from tasting like fruit juice. Reds can be oaked or not, sometimes acidic, tannic, light red to almost garnet-coloured, light to heavy bodied, plum, cherry or berry fruits, dry to sweet and just as enjoyable as a white.
When considering a wine, no one characteristic should outperform or be more present than another. If the wine is oaked, are the vanillins overwhelming or just enough to “frame” the taste? Is there too much alcohol when you smell/taste the wine? Too much fruit? Is the wine overly acidic? Is it too sweet? Better quality wines present a balance through to the finish (the sensation on the tongue after the wine is swallowed). Balance does not mean neutral or bland. It is the best way of presenting complexities of taste, smell, colour and texture (ex. carbonation) with each mouthful. Thought went into making the wine and a little effort to appreciate this work will enhance your experience. As you practice you will become more sensitive to the details of the taste experience and get a feel for how the wine could be paired with food.
You must decide how much you would like to spend on a bottle. There are five smallish glasses or four decent glasses in a bottle, so the economics is straightforward. There are some Winnipeg eateries where one glass of average table wine is over 10.00 CAD! Start your discovery at the Manitoba LC or a local wine boutique. It’s cheaper and, if you find something you don’t like, well, you have not lost so much. You could decide if you want the wine with dinner, snacks or for the pleasure of drinking it without food. That will depend on your sense of risk and experience.
Most shops arrange their wines according to region to enable customers to quickly make choices, get to the till, and then out the door. I recommend avoiding fine wines and wines with higher price points until you have gained some experience and have explored for a while. There are gems to be found at most price points but you must take a risk. I prefer to taste the wine before I think about the food it may compliment. If you are unsure, you can always do some research online or better; speak to the experts in the shops.