The beginner’s guide to choosing wine
Has the wine train left without you?
While your friends were torn between shiraz or merlot, considering French grapes or Australian vines, your nights out were quenched by gimlets, manhattans, and the occasional espresso martini. But with dinner parties scheduled and restaurant dates on the calendar, it’s thrilling to dive into the world of wine — and be discerning about which pasta you pair with your pinot.
Consider this your beginner’s guide to choosing wine.
How do I choose the right wine?
When it comes to wine, the definition of right is as individual as your taste in music (or men). You must try a bit of everything to learn how to choose a good wine. To uncover the differences between varieties and flavours, consider these points in our wine guide:
Dryness: In wine speak, dryness is the opposite of sweet. As wine is an acquired taste, some newbies prefer sweet wines when starting out.
Tannins: Tannins are extracted from the skin of the grape. Tannins in your wine feel dry, leaving a bitter taste as you swallow.
Body: The body is the mouthfeel of the wine, whether heavy or light (you’ll understand when you sip). Wines are referred to as light, medium or full-bodied.
Viscosity: Viscosity is the weight of the wine. Viscosity and body go hand-in-hand, though body refers to the mouthfeel, and viscosity refers to the liquid itself.
Taste preferences: Your preference is the secret ingredient that only you understand. Not sure yet? We recommend you try all kinds of varieties and flavours (but not necessarily at once).
The occasion: Who’s sipping, who’s celebrating? If your wine must please a crowd, choose middle-of-the-road dryness, body and tannins — something connoisseurs can appreciate and newcomers will enjoy.
Food pairings: Check the menu before you choose. For a shortcut, pair by colour. Red wine complements red meat; white wine elevates chicken and seafood; rosé is a goes-with-everything wild card if that’s your style. Learn more about food and wine pairings here.
What is the most important factor in choosing your wine?
If you’re really starting from square one, your first step into the wine world will be to decide whether your team is white or red. How will you know? Here lies the fun part: wine tasting. Scroll through our wine selection and add to cart whichever bottle lights you up — we won’t judge if you choose by fun name or chic bottle.
Once you’ve sampled a few, a certain variety will begin to win your heart. Tick off this beginner wine chart as you try the most common:
- Pinot Grigio: White, crisp, light-bodied, fruity
- Chardonnay: White, sweet, crisp to bold
- Sauvignon Blanc: White, acidic, full-flavoured
- Pinot Noir: Red, light-bodied, fruity to earthy
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Red, full-bodied, dark fruits and spices
- Shiraz: Red, bold, full-bodied, smoky
Which wine is better for beginners?
Keen on a cheat sheet? Sauv is a safe bet.
Sauvignon Blanc, the best wine for beginners, balances citrus and floral flavours with a fan-favourite mix of sweetness and dryness. Cabernet Sauvignon (which takes entirely too long to say, hence the poetic Australian colloquialism: cab sav) is an easy-drinking red wine for beginners, ranging from fruit flavours to herbal tones.
How can you tell cheap wine from expensive wine?
Like many things, product quality is determined by the time, care and attention put into it.
Inexpensive wines spend less time in oak barrels and are fewer years old. Cheap wines are sourced from multiple regions, while premium wines come from one vineyard. Pricier wines have thick, heavy bottles to protect their integrity, with a dedicated winemaking process to develop distinct flavours. Premium wines generally have a better balance of flavour, with subtle complexity in every sip. If you’re looking for a wine-tasting experience, expanding your budget may be worth expanding — but plenty of inexpensive wines also hit the mark.
Think of wine as your wardrobe. Some pieces are there momentarily, a less-expensive passing trend (like a quick bottle of cheap red, devoured in moments as you run to catch your cab). Some are like an investment piece — thoughtfully crafted, with every detail considered — the one you choose when you want something great.
Our best advice? You won’t find your perfect match until you try.