How to Select Your Wine
Jane Masters MW is Opimian’s Master of Wine
Ever felt daunted by a wall of bottles and the sheer number of wines to choose from? Ever been handed a mammoth restaurant wine list and not known what to pick, feeling anti-social as you ignore your friends to pore over it in search of the right wine?
Wines are made all around the world from hundreds of different grape varieties and every single wine is unique. New emerging regions and the rediscovery of old ones means there will always be new wines to discover and this should be celebrated, yet it can also be intimidating.
Wine is made to be enjoyed. It should not be intimidating or daunting. We all have different flavour preferences as well as differing levels of knowledge about wine, where it comes from, who makes it and how. But at the end of the day, wine is to be enjoyed. Getting to know our own preferences and discovering new wines can be part of the fun.
When Members ask me what they should be buying, my first questions are always to understand which wines they have previously enjoyed. White? Red? Any particular grape varieties? The answers are a good starting point to explore similar wines. The flavour of wine is influenced by many factors: grape variety, region and winemaking.
If you like Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, then why not try it from somewhere new to you? For a more mineral style, head to the Loire Valley. For a smoother rounder style, try California, or New Zealand for something in between. If you like Bordeaux reds, go for Cabernet based blends from Chile, Australia or other regions of France. If you are into big bold concentrated wines with high alcohol (14%+), these tend to be produced in warm climates like Australia, South Africa and southern France.
European wines tend to have a more savoury character than the New World. If you are interested in good value, food friendly reds with cellaring potential, Portugal and Spain have some great examples. Your starting point can be grape variety, a wine region, style or producer. It really doesn’t matter!
In my role as Master of Wine at Opimian, I want to help you discover wines that you will enjoy. Every wine is tasted and selected based on its quality and value for money. I compare and contrast wines from within their regions as well as in the global context to bring you the best examples. Descriptive tasting notes and the Cellar Up categories are helpful and give better insight than a numeric score. If you like sweet toasty buttery flavours of oaked whites from California, you might try an oaked Chardonnay from Australia or even give Réccua, Branco, DOC Douro, 2020 (Lot 2791) a whirl. But if you are into rich, oaky wines, then a high scoring wine with subtle aromas, no oak and mineral character is of little significance.
For most of us, as our experience widens, so too does the variety of wines we enjoy. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life – I enjoy a wide range of foods and have an eclectic mix of music in my collection. Enjoying listening to classical music or opera does not mean I don’t enjoy heavy metal, reggae or jazz! Enjoying a particular wine style does not preclude another. Not everything you try will be a hit, but you will discover some gems, as I always do while tasting wines for the Cellar Offerings – these are the wines which are my Coups de Cœur. The Masters Case program is a way for Members to expand their wine experience. The wines in each mixed case reflect the best that a particular producer/region has to offer. It includes wines that are ready for drinking and some that have some potential for cellaring, so you can see how they evolve and over the course of a year, members will taste at least 30 wines from a variety of regions and producers. So whatever your starting point, there’s plenty to discover and enjoy.