|be the perfect host/ess||.||
for the picking
choosing a bottle of wine by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2
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3 Spy. Check out what other folks are buying. I find this tactic particularly handy at places like Trader Joe's or Costplus World Market, the sort of places where yuppies know to shop for a good wine bargain, and where you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who works there to help you sort through the offerings. Look for older men and women who look like they actually know what they're doing as they peruse the wine racks. See what they pick up, and note particularly if they're stocking up on one particular wine.
4 Stop right there, big spender. The most common mistake that newbie wine drinkers make when shopping for vino? Being embarrassed when they can't spend all that much. If your wine guy's asking you how much you want to spend, he's looking for an honest answer, not waiting to judge you. Don't plunk down any more than you feel comfortable. When you're talking about a $20 wine versus a $10 wine, higher price doesn't necessarily indicate better drinking. Seriously, there are yummy wines to be found to fit any budget, so decide how much you feel like shelling out, and quit worrying whether the wine shop guy or your guests are going to think you're cheap. Unless you're hanging with total snobs, the only thing they're going to care about is how the wine tastes.
5 Remember: strong-flavored dishes; nice, assertive wine. Forget about the old red wine with beef, white wine with chicken and fish rule. It's not really about what kind of meat you're serving so much as the flavors of the dish. The thing you'll mostly want to think about is the heaviness and spiciness of what you're serving. In general, a bolder, heavier dish will be best washed down with a similarly robust wine; a lighter, more delicately-flavored entrée pairs best with a lighter wine. Once you get a little more acquainted with the world of wine, you can also start considering how the specific flavors of a bottle of wine will go with the specific flavors of a dish -- pairing an herb-sauce with a crisp white with herbal notes, for example -- but when you're first starting out, it's best to keep things simple.
6 On the house: establish your own house wine. Eventually, you're bound to stumble across an inexpensive wine that you really, really like, and that goes just dandy with a wide variety of foods. Keep a bottle or two of these kinds of wines in house at all times. That way, you can confidently try out new wines even when you're hosting pals - if you find a hitherto-untested wine is actually undrinkable, you always have a reliable fall-back option.
7 Be bold. Everyone picks a bummer bottle every once in awhile, and the only way you know how a wine tastes and whether it makes your tastebuds happy is just to give it a try. Be adventurous - try a new grape varietal, experiment with a new region, pick up a bottle because you like its pretty label. Don't just stick with the same old same old; the only way to learn about the wide world of wine is to try, try, try as many different wines as you can. So quit stressing about whether you look like you know what you're doing, and have fun with the wine shopping.