March 3, 2018

A beginner’s guide to buying wine.

Today I’m going to be talking about one of my passions outside of fashion/beauty/interiors. If you didn’t know already, my full time job is in the wine industry and one of the #1 things I get asked by friends/family is advice on what wine to buy. So today I thought I’d share a few tips that I’ve picked up since working in the world of wine!

Just as a bit of a disclaimer – I am by no means an expert in wine. I’ve had some wine training and I also write about wine on a daily basis with my job, so I know more than most, but I’m by no means the next Jancis Robinson. I want this post to be a simple guide for those who don’t know that much about wine – I would have loved to read something like this before I started my job!

I guess what I’m trying to say is, wine is a lot more enjoyable when you know what sort of thing to choose. Before working in wine, I thought I didn’t like red wine and drank mainly Prosecco and the cheapest white wine I could get in the supermarket. Now my tastes are so different – it’s incredible how learning about about it changed everything for me.

Find out what you like

The first thing I’d recommend doing if you’d like to get more into wine (y’know, beyond necking a bottle of Prosecco before a night out) is to try as much as possible. The only way you’ll find out what your tastes are like is to try different things!

A lot of wine shops offer tastings – like Majestic or Vagabond – where you can try a few different things before you buy. What I’d also recommend doing is just seeing what’s on offer in the supermarket and giving them a go!

Try to forget any preconceptions you had about wine before – for example thinking that you don’t like red or you don’t like white. I used to think I didn’t like red, when it turned out I just didn’t like the cheap nasty red wines I had tried before. I started off drinking light-bodied reds like Beaujolais and Pinot Noir, and now I’m a total convert. So trust me – go out and try something you’ve never had before!

Avoid the big brands 

Ok, so by this I mean I would recommend avoiding the Gallo and Jacob’s Creek type brands. I know these are normally quite a low price, but in all honesty you can get much better wine for the same price or less. Don’t be scared of supermarket own labels – things like Tesco Finest or Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference wines are normally made by good quality producers and offer great value.

There are some exceptions to this rule – things like Champagne and other sparkling wines often come from big brands and are normally quite good quality. But for still wine and especially red wine, avoiding big brand names is the way to go. Aldi and Lidl are also great places to find wine – their range offers really great value (as long as you avoid the super super cheap ones!) and you can often find wines that would cost a lot more elsewhere.

There’s value in lesser-known wines

One thing that I have loved since joining the wine industry is trying a lot of wines from lesser-known wine regions. A lot of these wines are cheaper than other options, because they’re not in as much demand. So next time you’re in the supermarket wine aisle, check out the countries or regions that you wouldn’t normally associate with wine growing.

As a bit of a cheat-sheet, here is a list of wines to look out for that offer great value:

  • Southern Italian wines – look for Puglia on the bottle. The reds like Negroamaro and Primitivo are fabulous wines, full of rich fruit flavour but without the massive price tag.
  • Alternative Spanish wines – there’s more to Spain than Rioja! Albarino is a lovely, fresh white wine that is normally a good price. Godello and red grape Mencia are also ones to look out for.
  • Beaujolais. This wine is from France, near Burgundy, and is one of my all-time favourite wines. It’s light-bodied red that you can serve a bit chilled and you can normally find it in the supermarket at a good price. It’s definitely cheaper than buying Red Burgundy!
  • German wine. I love German wine, but it’s no where near as popular as other European wine-growing countries, so you can find some good value here. Look out for hero-grape Riesling (these range from dry to sweet, so keep that in mind. If you see off-dry on the label this will mean it is a bit sweet!), Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Gewurtztraminer.

Spend a bit more – it’s worth it

I totally understand that when you’re on a budget, you want to find the cheapest option possible. I was like that as well, until I found out what actually goes into those bottles of cheap wine. Tax on alcohol is really high in the UK – so if you buy a bottle of wine for £5, most of that money is being spent on Duty and the actual liquid in the bottle will cost around 30-40p. That’s less than a can of coke…

If you spend a bit more on wine, say £10, you get far more quality for your money. I mean, if you don’t care about what the wine tastes like and you just want to get drunk then ignore this rule. But if you want to enjoy the wine, I’d 100% recommend spending a bit more.

Just as a note – this rule doesn’t apply to wine that is on a sale promotion. E.g if a wine’s original price is £10, but it’s on sale for £5, you’ll still be getting better quality wine.

Do a bit of research

If you want to find out a bit more about wine or look up a grape variety you haven’t encountered before or anything like that, there is so much information available online. I supplemented my formal wine education by looking at the following websites and it helped so much. I still consult them if I want to find out more about a specific wine or if I want to pair food with wine correctly.

I have also heard great things about the wine app Vivino, which allows you to look up any wine you come across and get ratings from other users as well as more information about it.

So there you have it – my beginner’s guide on what wine to buy. I really do hope this has been somewhat helpful and not too confusing! If you’d like to see anything else wine-related from me please do let me know or if you have any specific questions you can always DM me on Twitter or Instagram.

Or, alternatively, if you want to go back to the usual interiors/beauty/lifestyle content then you can catch up with my recent posts below!

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Tips on Arranging Fresh Flowers.

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