Sometimes the world of wine can seem a bit daunting because of the overwhelming range of wines that are available, and the wine jargon that typically goes over the heads of your normal person who may just enjoy a casual tipple with their dinner. So for all of you wine lovers that feel like you lack the expertise, Le Cordon Bleu London are demystifying the topic by giving you this two-part series covering the wine essentials that you just need to know.
Nowadays it is easier than ever to access interesting, good-quality wines wherever you are located so this first article in our Wine Essentials series will walk you through the buying opportunities and which wines to buy for immediate drinking and which to buy for laying down.
Where to buy wine?
There are a range of different ways in which you can buy wine depending on the quantity and the purpose for which you’re buying it, and also whether you know what you want to buy or not.
For a large amount of wine you could go to a warehouse to benefit from bulk order discounts, or if you know exactly what you want you could try an online retailer as it is also relatively cheap for large quantities, and it is the most convenient option. If you don’t know what you want and would like some expert advice, you could try a specialist retailer. They tend to have a wine-tasting facility as well, which is definitely a bonus!
For a small quantity you could try a supermarket as they offer a good range to choose from, or if again you are not sure exactly what you want you could go to a wine merchant. If you build up a relationship with your wine merchant you can go to them whenever you need some new wine, and they will be more than happy to source it for you. There are also auctions and brokers for fine wines, and wines from older vintage, as well as a plethora of other options, including direct ordering, and wine clubs, where you have access to better value wines, and the ability to easily track its provenance and where your wine is coming from.
Buying wine for early drinking
Most of the wine that we buy and drink is supposed to be consumed young which is generally between six and twelve months after bottling.
Red wines - Our experts suggested red wines to buy for early drinking includes anything that is made by carbonic maceration such as Gamay from Beaujolais, entry level Grenache from The Côtes du Rhône and Tempranillo from Spain. You could also try an entry level New World Pinot Noir, which can be drunk young when the flavours are at their fruitiest.
White wines - Our experts’ white wine choices include New World Sauvignon Blanc which has high acidity, and is very fruit forward and fresh, and a Viognier which is very perfumed and rich, and does not tend to age well so is best consumed when young.
Buying red wines for laying down
When red wines are allowed to mature in the bottle the following six changes happen which makes it even more pleasurable to drink:
- The colour changes from purple to brick red
- The aroma develops in complexity
- The drying tannins begin to soften up
- The texture becomes silkier and smoother
- The taste lingers for longer after you swallow it (more length)
- In some cases more sediment collects in the bottle
However, if you allow a red wine to age for too long its flavour becomes flat and eventually it turns into vinegar! So before it gets to this point our experts have picked out some top choices of red wines that are worth ageing:
- Cabernet Sauvignon based blend from Bordeaux, California or South America.
- Great Italian reds such as a Nebbiolo based Barolo or Barbaresco from Piemonte, and Sangiovese based wines from Tuscany, such as Chianti Classico, Brunello Di Montalcino and Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano.
- Syrah from Northern Rhône (Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Cornas), or from the New World, as opposed to Shiraz, which will keep for a long time but will not change or develop in the same length.
Our experts agree that in order for a wine to be able to age, it needs to have structure (tannins and/or acidity), a high intensity of flavours and long length.
Buying white wines for laying down
It is widely acknowledged that most white wines should be drunk young which is actually true for the majority of whites, but there are a few exceptions that can age magnificently, and can even last longer than a lot of reds with the correct storage. Here the key is structure, concentration and minerality, with or without the help of oak. Our experts’ top choices for white wines worth ageing include:
- Dry Riesling – They tend to have high levels of acidity which contributes to its longevity. Mature Riesling (10-15 years old) is much more honeyed than the young, fruity variety.
- Traditional unoaked Semillon – This is very sharp when young but after about 8 years it becomes wonderfully rich and succulent.
- Chenin Blanc – Chenin Blanc from the Loire and from South Africa would be your best bet. These wines develop lots of honeyed, candied citrus flavours with age.
So there you have it, Le Cordon Bleu London’s quick guide to buying wine, but If you cannot wait for the next article in this series, Part 2: Storing Wine, then why don’t you sign up to our Wine Essentials short-course, for an in-depth look into the fundamentals of this much-loved beverage.