Choosing the Perfect Bottle of Wine


Whether you are having wine at home, as part of a holiday meal, or in a restaurant, choosing the correct type of wine need not be a bewildering experience as you face the multiple shelves in a store or extensive wine list in a restaurant. A few basic tips can help anyone navigate the maze and look like an expert to family, friends or colleagues.

Red or White?

Finding the perfect wine companion to complement food might seem difficult. Many people fall back on the “old rule” of a red wine with meat and a white wine with fish and chicken. With so many different styles of cooking and a new relaxed approach to dining in or out, it’s more acceptable today to go with a wine you like.

“Wine should be enjoyed with food without fear of rules, so these days it is much more important to go with what you like,” says Doug Gore, award-winning wine maker for Columbia Crest, one of the largest domestic wineries. “Merlot has increased in popularity more than anything because it goes equally well with a variety of foods, from meat dishes to grilled salmon, as well as being a great accompaniment to party appetizers.” Experimenting with different combinations of affordable wines and foods at home will stand you in good stead when you are out in a restaurant.

Price and Quality

Price is by no means a guarantee of quality and quality does not have to come with a hefty price tag. To ensure the flavor and quality you are looking for, follow some of these suggestions:

• Read the neck tags on bottles des-cribing the flavors and qualities of the wine.

• Ask the servers at restaurants, they should be able to guide you, and don’t be afraid to ask what they enjoy.

• Work with the on-site wine consultant in retail stores, in the same way you would with your butcher, to ask for his or her recommendations.

• Winery Web sites offer information and advice on different types of wine and great food pairings to try at home or out.

• Check how the wine scored in a wine industry publication such as The Wine Spectator (80-100 indicates a high-scoring wine). They rate all price categories of wine and these scores often show up on packaging at retail.

Three Favorite Wine Varietals

• Chardonnay has become the most popular type of white wine. If it is described as oaky, nutty or smoky, you can expect it to be a bit drier. Descriptors such as apple, pear or coconut are typical for this variety and indicate a sweeter and more fruity flavor.

• Cabernet Sauvignon is often described as rich with tannins, meaning you’ll experience a full and somewhat dry flavor. This is why this red wine works best with stronger flavored foods and meat dishes.

• Merlot is a softer, lighter red wine and often is described with fruit descriptors, such as cherry and raspberry.

When ordering wine by the bottle, remember there are between five to six glasses of wine in a standard size bottle of wine (750 ml). So for a party of four, one bottle would provide everyone with at least one glass of wine with dinner.

In a restaurant setting it is always important to be inclusive of everyone’s tastes. Ask what food items your guests are choosing and whether they would prefer a red or white, and dry or sweet wine. Ordering two bottles of wine is recommended if a variety of entrees will be served to your guests.

When planning a gathering at home, a good rule of thumb is to plan for half a bottle of wine per guest and to provide a mineral water option to clear the palate, especially when you are serving different types of food.

Choosing an affordable, high quality wine, like those from Columbia Crest, gives you the opportunity to decide on the varietals that match your taste buds and make your next meal even more enjoyable and memorable.