Which wine?

Wine 101 Aug 17, 2020

It's official! We're allowed to once again buy some wine from tomorrow, Tuesday 18 August 2020. 🍷

I have my post-alcohol-ban-number-2 list of wines that I am going to buy as soon as we can. Although, there is a very good chance that I will end up standing in front of a whole wall of wine, unable to make a decision of what to enjoy next, based on what I see in front of me.

So, how do you choose a bottle of wine?

This very much depends on what you are looking for in a wine and how much wine knowledge you have. Some producers are kind enough to give a couple of tasting notes on the back label of the bottle which also makes these decisions easier.

But, if you're stuck in front of a display, or browsing through an online shop I've come up with a a short list of things to think about to help you choose a wine (or two) when you are faced with an abundance of excellent wine options.

Choose your colour and style

The first question is what type of wine do you want to buy? Are you looking for a nice full-bodied red wine, an off-dry rosé or a fresh white?

White wine

To me, white wine is more of a summer drink or a lazy lunch wine. So, if you are looking for a fresh, fruity, slightly acidic wine for an afternoon in the garden or park look for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc or an unwooded Chardonnay.

If you're looking to pair the wine with lunch or dinner, look for something with a little more body such as a wooded Chardonnay or Semillon. If you are pairing the wine with a spicy dish you could look for Gewürtztraminer or Riesling.

If you are a little more adventurous you can try white wines made from red wine grapes such as a white Pinotage, white Cabernet Sauvignon or even a white Zinfandel.

Rosé wine

I absolutely love a rosé. It is always an easy-to-drink-wine and something that I love to keep in the fridge. Thankfully, rosé has evolved from the sweet (and cheap) drink that I used to love as a student.

Winemakers have been working hard to produce serious, dry rosés that suit almost all wine drinkers' tastes. For more information on rosé you can read this article.

Rosé is also a good wine to choose if you are looking for a lighter style wine that pairs well with most foods. It is generally also an easy wine to drink for people who are new to wine.

If you are looking for a good bottle to buy, look for words such as dry, fresh, red fruits/berries, strawberry and even candy floss/cotton candy in the description.

Red wine

My favourite type of wine. Whether you prefer a light red (Pinot Noir), medium-bodied red (Merlot, Grenache) or a serious red with lots of tannins and oak flavours (Cabernet Sauvignon) there is something for everyone.

If you are new to drinking (red) wine you could try something that is a little more fruit-forward and contains less tannins (the stuff that makes your mouth feel dry). You can also look for younger wines (2018 or 2019 vintages) as these will naturally be easier drinking wines.

In South Africa the red wines tend to be medium- to full-bodied and you are more likely to find bolder wines. However, if you like light red wines you could look for a Pinot Noir or Zinfandel.

Merlot is also a good wine to buy if you are new to the world of wine. Merlot is generally more fruit-forward. Another good varietal to try would be Pinotage.

Lastly, if you are looking for a serious wine that you can drink along with your favourite steak opt for Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon as both of these varietals will work well.

Price

A lot of people think that wine is a very snobby drink and that only expensive wines can be called good wines. While the more expensive wines tend to be of better quality, in South Africa we are extremely fortunate to have a large selection of very good wines that are less expensive (I made a list of wines that cost less than R120 per bottle; you can view this here.)

You can rest assured that you don't have to break the bank to enjoy a good bottle of wine.

Wine of Origin

Lastly, please go out and buy South African wines. The wineries need your help!

I hope that this has been helpful and that you now have a better idea of which wines to buy the next time you are in the shop or placing your online order.

For more information and tasting notes on red wine, white wine and rosé you can click on the links.

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Alicia de Wet

Web developer, wine enthusiast, blogger, South African living in London. WSET Level 2 Award in Wines, studying towards Level 3. Sipping my way through all wines SA has on offer. Follow my journey!

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