You don’t have to be a sommelier to choose the perfect wine – what matters is knowing how to ask the right questions. Yes, it’s all a question of ‘back and forth’ with yourself.
Here, then, are the four essential questions to choose the right wine at the right time.
Who will I drink the wine in question with?
A decisive factor when choosing wine is the context of an evening, and even more so the company, which can vary considerably – just think of a business meeting or a dinner for two.
In these two very antithetical cases, the wine, as the common thread between those present, can convey so much and can even help or hinder the situation. A wine that melts hearts, thanks to its warmth or intoxicating rich, red notes, is a perfect ally against the shyness of a romantic date; just as a fresh, lively white can aid concentration during a business dinner, which certainly requires an alert mind and clear ideas.
Obviously, besides these two examples there is a wealth of other possibilities: an aperitif with friends, which should be enlivened by something sparkling, or even a post-match drink, which may require a light, playful and tasty wine such as a macerated white.
What time of day will I drink the wine?
The time of day is important when making the correct choice of what to drink. It isn’t always possible to embark on long, relaxing Sunday lunches, due to short times and delicate stomachs, so it’s important to be able to roughly divide wines by time slot. For the pre-lunch aperitif: quick, light and cheerful wines, such as Charmat-method sparkling wine or whites with light gradations. For lunch, you can raise the bar a little: structured whites or slender reds accompany the meal and resolve any doubts. With a snack or as an evening aperitif, we return to something along the same lines as in the morning, but with greater intensity – Champagne is perfect. Dinner, on the other hand, requires a certain persistence and a pleasant intensity, giving us the go-ahead for persistent and structured wines. For after dinner or a nightcap, there’s nothing better than a nice reflective wine which takes time to tell its story – but if we’re in a hurry, we can spoil ourselves with a sweet dessert wine, perhaps to accompany a biscuit or one last piece of cheese.
What will I eat with the wine?
Even the choice of pairing changes the cards on the table: we always play by contrast.
For example, when eating a fried dish, a sparkling wine will help cleanse the palate. Dishes with sweet flavours, such as pasta, pumpkin, toast or pizza, are paired with a wine with good sapidity; conversely, a savoury dish needs the sweetness of a soft wine, perhaps with notes of flowers and ripe fruit. The important thing is that it’s not too sapid – remember that alcohol helps degrease the palate after greasy or oily dishes.
Finally, it’s only with desserts that we match flavours, sweet with sweet, so we pair them with a dessert wine.
How much do I want to spend?
The expense is an integral part of the decision. It’s a personal evaluation, but it needs to be made before you choose, so as to narrow the field and allow you to focus on the perfect wine.
Two last tips: always read the label carefully, as it bears essential information, and ask for advice from those who work in the field. They’re sure to be happy to guide customers through the Fantastic World of Wine.
for Tenuta Liliana