It’s a common misconception that buying and serving wines is complicated. It’s not. It’s just that the wine world is often shrouded in myths and rumours. So forget what you’ve heard, and follow these simple tips below to get the most out of your wine purchases.
Once you’ve read this, you should know where to look, what to serve and how to serve it.
1) Know what you like
The most important factor to consider when buying wines is to know what styles of wine you like. You may see a fantastic deal to get 75% off Reserve Quality Rioja but if you don’t like fruity oaked red wines there is no point spending even £1 on it. You can find out more about wine styles here in our WineZone, or even better, you can speak to one of our Wine Advisors on the phone and have a proper chat about it!
2) Hunt out the small wineries
To ensure that you get value for money, it is best to look to the small wineries that don’t have a marketing budget and where they are more concerned about making fantastic wines. Sometimes it can be hard hunting out the small winery. Here at Virgin Wines we take care of this part and introduce such wineries to you. Not only do the winemakers get exposure for their wines but you get great tipple too – a winning formula!
3) Seek out less fashionable regions
Wines from much sought after regions such as Bordeaux are often very expensive. But at Virgin Wines, we try to look at neighbouring sites just a stone’s throw away from their more expensive siblings, or countries / regions that produce similar wine without the fashion tag. The quality of the wine is just as fantastic, but it is often far more wallet friendly. A good alternative to Bordeaux for example would be a Chilean Cabernet Merlot, as would a Chilean Chardonnay to a Chablis.
4) Don’t be afraid to experiment
We hold numerous tastings throughout the year, which gives our customers the opportunity to try before they buy. Why do we do this? Well for one they are incredibly fun and it allows us to get to know our customers a little better. But it also gives our customers the opportunity to experiment.
Would you purchase a wine from Romania? How about Lebanon? Slovenia? We stock wines from all of these regions, and they are absolutely delicious. However with all due respect to the areas, they aren’t well known for their wine making abilities. So getting to experience and sample these wines allows our customers to broaden their horizons, discover new areas.
5) There’s no need to splash out
The mistake that most people make is to splash out because they are entertaining. Everyone likes to make a good impression, but serving the right wines at the right times is far more impressive than a fancy label.
A single glass of champagne/sparkling wine to start will invigorate. Look for a prosecco from Piemonte in Northern Italy. It’s extremely popular, and it won’t break the bank. Our top choice is the Due Colline which is just £10.99 a bottle.
Then, move on to an easy drinking wine just before the food is served, designed to build an appetite. Full-bodied wines should be saved for food and a dessert wine will round off the meal nicely.
6) You don’t have to buy Champagne to add a little sparkle.
Sparkling wine or champagne is a great aperitif. But you probably don’t need us to tell you that big name champagne labels will add to the cost. Instead, go for a value sparkler and we guarantee that your guests will be just as happy! Prosecco continues to grow at an alarming rate, causing some in the Italian wine industry to panic over production not being able to cope with demand. All those people can’t be wrong can they!
However as sparkling wine/champagne is very acidic, it’s important not to load up your guests before the food arrives. It can also go to the head rather quickly, so unless you want grandma adorning the table doing the Charleston, we’d keep to just one or two glasses maximum.
7) Choose your pre-dinner drinks carefully
If you are serving food, your guests will probably be drinking on an empty stomach, so choose wines that are soft and gentle. A neutral or fruity wine such as Pinot Grigio or Australian Riesling will work well, as will a soft or fruity red like Merlot or Syrah. It’s probably best to avoid serving an acidic wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or a heavy red like Cabernet Sauvignon as they can be too harsh on their own. Instead, these are best saved for food.
8) Change your wines to match the food
To get the best out of your wines, you should change your wines as you progress through a meal. Generally, wines that taste great on their own will be overwhelmed by food. Also, try matching the weight of the wine with the weight of the food, so while a crisp Sauvignon Blanc may taste great with a starter of Calamari, a Spanish Rioja will go far better with roast lamb for example.
9) Match food and wine origins
It’s no coincidence that wines of Chianti go brilliantly with the tomato rich pasta and roasted vegetable dishes that are the staples of the Tuscan diet. Similarly, it makes sense that the fruity, full-bodied Pinot Noirs of Burgundy go so well with herby meat and poultry dishes such as coq au vin. These food and wines grew up together and this is well worth considering when you are matching food and wine. A Spanish red will work wonders with tapas, as will a crisp Loire with moules marinere and whilst you may be more tempted to opt for a pint of water or lager with your Indian dishes, try a spicy white such as Viognier, Riesling or Gewurtzraminer.
10) Don’t forget dessert wines
Make sure that you have a bottle of dessert wine to hand, as this is goes a treat with cheese and the sweeter part of your meal. A lovely Semillon blend or Muscat offering will have your guests leaving with the right impression.
11) Serving Red Wines
Most reds will benefit from being opened half an hour or so before serving, in order to allow the wine to open up and the flavours to develop, both on the nose and on the palate. If you have a decanter (if not any measuring jug will do), a quick splash decant will bring alive the wine’s characteristics.
For older wines that may contain sediment, stand the bottle upright for 24 hours to allow this to settle at the bottom. Sediment is often found in aged and minimally filtered reds, such as Claret and Burgundy. Pour these wines carefully and leave a small amount at the bottom of the bottle, as this is the part that will most likely to contain the sediment.