Clearly choosing a particular type, brand and year of wine is a matter of individual taste. But, disregarding the subject of price, there are various general principles on which there is agreement amongst wine drinkers.
Fortunatey the growth of vineyards across the world and of Internet sites featuring wine means that availability is fairly simple today. If you live in Arkansas or Edinburgh you can order a New Zealand Syrah not stocked by your local wine merchant as easily as anyone living in Tauranga.
Disregarding questions of pairing wine with food, are you looking for a light white wine or a full red wine? Some say that Madeira is far too heavy while others feel that a German Riesling is too dry. Many easily available wines are intended to be consumed shortly after they are purchased, however wine drinkers who want to drink the very best wine will have to learn to be patient. A Cabernet Sauvignon will without doubt be much better after it has matured.
Chardonnay from a cool climate, like those from Canada, will be of interest to drinkers who prefer a young wine with prominent acidity and also to those who want to experience it's honey and nut character that comes from age.
Describing wines according to class may also be useful. Wines in Class 1, sometimes labeled 'Red Table Wine' or 'Light Wine' have an alcohol content between 7% and 14% when measured by volume. On the other hand, Class 7 wines have an alcohol content of not lower than 15% when calculated by volume. These wines have generally had Brandy added to then and perhaps flavored using herbs with those wines with the greatest concentration being considered as 'fortified'.
Study the label for an indication of the amount of sulfites in a wine. Sulphur is normally added during the winemaking process to stop the growth of unwanted organisms, but some producers introduce more sulpur than many drinkers would wish. Sulphur dioxide is sometimes also sprayed onto the grapes themselves in an effort to reduce pests and can find its way into the skin. Some drinkers are sensitive to sulfites and may experience an allergic reaction. Concentrations that are below 10 parts per million are usually fine for most individuals.
When sampling a wine you should cool it to the proper temperature of about 52F (11C) for white wine and 65F (18C) in the case of reds and use a thin rimmed glass that is free from dust.
Pour not more than about 1/3 of a glass and lift the glass by the stem to avoid getting fingerprints on the rim and warming the bowl.
What you are looking for is a clarity of color by viewing a wine against a white background with a wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon being a dark violet in color and a Pinot Noir displaying a lighter ruby color. Wines that are fermented from grapes grown in hot summers and dry falls will display a darker color than those wines made during cool summers and wet falls.
The final stage is to move the wine slowly around coating the bowl of the glass and let your nose sample its aroma before tasting the wine.
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