Trying new wines can be like playing a game of roulette. You never know how it’s going to end. Here are 3 tips to help you feel more confident about trying new wines.
- Location, Location, Location
- New World Vs. Old World
- Price Range: $15–$30
Location, Location, Location!
First, location is everything. Do you like thick, well rounded and ripe fruited wines? Or do you prefer water-thin with refreshing acidity? Here’s the simple thing to remember:
Hot Climate = riper and fuller wines
Cold Climate = higher acidity (more tartness) and thinner wines
Why? Have you ever eaten a grape (you know, the stuff wine is made out of)? When you first get them, maybe they’re not quite ripe. They still have a mouth-drying grimacing tartness to them. Then, when you let them sit out on your counter for a while, they sweeten up. If you let them sit for too long they start to get wrinkly like a raisin and become even sweeter.
It’s similar with how wine grapes grow — in hotter climates the grapes can get riper. The sunshine allows the grapes to develop more sugar. Whereas in cooler climates, grapes can’t get to the same level of ripeness.
So what does that mean? If you like well rounded, bright and tropical chardonnay — you should look in South America and California (especially Napa). If you like crisp and bright chardonnay with some minerality, you should look at Chablis, Mâconnais, New York, Washington, and a few places in Tasmania/Southern Australia.
If you like jammy reds, again — go for South America, California, or the hotter zones of Australia. If you like tart and fresh reds, look at Oregon, Burgundy, and Chinon, just to name a few.
New World Vs. Old World
Second, there are terms called New World and Old World in the wine-world. New World means the “younger” winemaking countries. This includes the U.S. and Australia, and much of South America too. Old World implies the OG winemaking countries. Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Portugal, etc.
I like to tell people about these differences, especially when they are looking at wines from the U.S. and Europe because I find it’s a great way for people to divide their wine interests.
New World wines are, typically, very fruit forward. Old World wines are, typically, very earth forward. Compare an Italian Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) to a Sangiovese you may find in California. The California wine will still have a similar acid and body profile, but also have a lot more fruit on the nose and palette. The Italian will be more earth (mushroom, tomato leaf, potting soil etc) on the nose and then show the fruit in the palette.
So, are you fruit or earth driven? Do you like ripe and rich, or tart and mineral? If you can answer these two questions you are already well on your way to finding a few very specific spots in any wine retail space with some wines that suit your fancy.
This third point should help you bite the bullet on a new wine — the price range. If you are buying internationally, keep in mind the shipping price to get a bottle of wine across the pond, is about $10. When you see a $12 bottle of red from “France” it probably cost about $2 to make. Alternatively, if you see a bottle for $22 from Beaujolais-Villages, Burgundy it probably costs $12 to make, and it will be a noticeably better bottle of wine because of it.
Now, I know I said earlier you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot. It’s true, but you do have to spend something. Most tasters have a hard time telling the difference between a $100 bottle of wine and a $40 bottle of wine. That $60 price range has so many nuances, that a lot of people don’t notice them. That’s not to say that the $100 bottle of wine isn’t worth the money. Rather, it’s not worth the money to someone who would appreciate a $30 bottle just the same.
So, I recommend staying within a $15-$30 price range when trying something new. That way you’re giving the wine a fair shot and if you decide you don’t like it, I hope you can appreciate it for what it is. If anything, spend some time on why you don’t like it so that you can have a better shot next time at finding something you do like.
Have you purchased anything interesting lately? If so, please comment below, I’d love to hear about it!