There are many advantages to buying wine online. For those who enjoy browsing their local wine shop, the online experience should extend this experience. Moreover, special offers online may suit your needs with the added convenience of not going to the store.
However, there are a few things presented below which you need to know before buying the most suitable wine.
If you are looking for a wine specifically to pair with dinner tonight, then take into account what the key ingredients will be. Will it be white or red meat? Will you be using fresh or dried herbs and what types? Will the dish be spicy or fruit-filled? In general, white wines accent lighter flavoured meals really well, while red wines often compliment heartier meals a bit better. Keep in mind that pairing foods and wines is 99% personal preference and 1% science.
Types of wine
Its colour can be derived from a vast assortment of grape varietals ranging from grapes that are reddish to deep purple, and even a beautiful blue on the colour scale.
It is the grape skins that are responsible for the red wine’s distinct colour spectrum.
The wine’s particular red hue depends on the grape type used in the process and the length of time the skin’s pigmentation is in contact with juice.
The most common types of red wine grapes are:
Cabernet Franc is more often blended with other grapes than bottled by itself. Cabernet Franc is light to medium bodied and sometimes made into a wine called Chinon. It is mostly grown in France’s Loire Valley, although it is usually overshadowed by the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is also grown in California and New York, and is gaining popularity in other regions.
Cabernet Sauvignon can be found in many of the wine regions mentioned above. In the Bordeaux region of France, it is considered the noblest grape of all. It is, in fact, the grape that makes fine Bordeaux wines. Cabernet Sauvignon can age well for decades. It is dark purple or ruby in colour, medium to full bodied, and has a beautiful array of intense aromas and flavours. Cabernet Sauvignon is considered a dry red wine and blends well with Sangiovese, Merlot and Shiraz.
Grenache is grown in Spain and California, but most notably in the southern Rhone valley of France. However, Grenache is gaining popularity as a fine standalone grape in many areas. It is also commonly blended with Mourvedre and Sarah. Grenache is medium to full-bodied with good structure and raspberry flavour.
Malbec is now the grape of Argentina which thrives in their hot, dry summers. Once important in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, it is one of the types of red wine grapes losing popularity there. Its acidity can vary and it is frequently blended with other Bordeaux varieties.
Merlot has become very popular in the last 10 years. It is one of the more drinkable types of red wine with its low acidity and mellow softness. Merlot is grown widely in many of the regions mentioned above and can be blended, particularly with Cabernet, or stand alone. Merlot has rich flavours of blackberry, plum and cherry.
Nebbiolo is another of the types of red wine grape from Piedmont, Italy and is responsible for many of Italy’s finest red wines. Nebbiolo tends to be light and quite dry with high acidity, so it does well with considerable aging.
Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow, but yields an exceptional wine with great complexity when conditions are correct. It is grown in the Burgundy region of France, in Oregon and in the cooler regions of California. Many California grown Pinot Noir grapes are used for rose champagnes. It has light to moderate body with deliciously varied aromas and flavours.
The signature red wine grape of the Tuscany and Chianti regions, Sangiovese has been produced with little success outside of Italy. A good Sangiovese can be complex, with varied aromas and flavours. It is frequently blended with Cabernet.
Syrah or Shiraz
Known as Shiraz in Australia and South Africa and as Syrah in California and France, this wine has low to moderate acidity making it very drinkable. Shiraz/Syrah exhibits wonderful flavours of spice and fruit. Many think the French version is more acidic, therefore better to accompany food than the Australian version. Shiraz/Syrah is blended with Grenache and Cabernet.
Zinfandel wine is most always grown in California, where, unlike other red wine grapes, it thrives in the heat and sunshine. It has low to moderate acidity and medium to full body with jammy, spicy flavours. Zinfandel is often blended with other grapes but not named on the bottle.
White wines tend to be anything but a true "white" in the glass; instead they put forth a spectrum of colour ranging from light straw often with green tints to a deep golden yellow.
The colour components of white wines are derived from the distinct grape varietals or blends used to make the wine.
White wines are made from the grape juice and grape skin of green, gold or yellowish coloured grapes.
“The Big Eight” when it comes to white wine varietals are:
Considered the queen of white wine grapes, Chardonnay is grown widely in many of the regions mentioned above. It is a very versatile grape whose character reflects its growing region and production process. Of all the white wine types, Chardonnay produces the most complex wines in the world. Most chardonnays are golden and velvety, with hints of fruit, nuts, butter, oak, spices or vanilla and have medium to high acidity.
Chenin Blanc has been cultivated for thousands of years in the Loire Valley of France. It is grown widely in California and has higher than average acidity. The character of Chenin Blanc can be difficult to define, but it generally is light and fruity.
Literally translated as "spicy", Gewurztraminer is grown primarily in Germany and in the Alsace region of France, where the cooler climate allows it to ripen fully. It has a light acidity and a bold flavour.
Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio
Known as Pinot Grigio in Italy and the Alsace region of France, and Pinot Gris in the United States, this grape's character will vary depending upon its growing region. European Pinot Grigio tends to be more acidic with less body than its American counterpart. All Pinot Grigio/Gris possess a citrus aroma.
Riesling, the most notable white wine grape from Germany, is also grown in France's Alcase region and in New York's Finger Lakes District. It is grown in California and Washington, although with less frequency. Riesling has medium to high acidity and light to medium body with a distinct flowery, fruity aroma.
Sauvignon Blanc, also known as Fumé Blanc, is grown in the Bordeaux and Loire regions of France, as well as in California, New Zealand and South Africa. It is characterized by a light acidity. It will often contain several fruit components and is frequently blended with Semillion from the Bordeaux region of France.
Semillon is one of the more unique types of white wine. It is rarely standalone, frequently blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Semillon can also be very rich, making a favourable dessert wine.
Viognier is grown primarily in the Rhone region of France and in California. It has low to moderate acidity with hints of peach and apricot and lacks the flowery aromas of other white wines.
Rose wines are typically made with red grapes, but which have a much lighter colour than red wine due to the way in which they are made.
The actual hue and sweetness vary depending on the grapes and winemaking method involved.
Rose wines can be sweet or dry: traditional European varieties tend to be dry, while many rose wines produced in the US are sweeter.
The top rose wines most commonly known are:
- Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 Rosé 2005 (France)
- Red Bicyclette French Rosé 2005 (France)
- El Coto de Rioja Rosado 2005 (Spain)
- V. Sattui's 2005 Gamay Rouge (California)
- Folonari Pink Pinot Grigio 2005 (Italy)
- V. Sattui 2005 Rosato (California)
- 2005 A to Z Oregon Rosé (Oregon)
- Bonny Doon 2005 Vin Gris de Cigare (California)
Sparkling Wine and Champagne
The characteristic all sparkling wines have in common is the presence of bubbles, or that fizzy appearance and taste we associate with sparkling wine. The bubbles come from carbon dioxide that forms in the bottle during fermentation. There is more than one fermentation process that will create a sparkling wine.
The Champagne we know comes exclusively from the Champagne region of France and is the most famous of the sparkling wines. Technically, it is the only sparkling wine that may be referred to as "Champagne."
Depending on the sugar levels, sparkling wines and champagnes are categorized as:
Extra Brut - is "extra" dry (the opposite of sweet wine)
Brut - dry (most popular style and very food-friendly)
Extra dry - medium dry, not as dry as Brut (great as an aperitif)
Demi-sec - pretty sweet (pair with fruit and dessert)
No matter which type of wine you buy, remember that wine, especially a good one, is more enjoyable when served at a temperature that best brings out its flavours, aromas and structure.