How to buy your wine?
The choice of wine available to the consumer has never been greater and nor have the methods of buying it One of the most pleasurable ways to buy wine is to visit the growers’ cellars and taste before you make your decision. For wines from further afield, there are specialist shippers, merchants and wine shops which can introduce you to the wines of the world. Tastings are becoming much more common in retail wine outlets, especially wine warehouses where you buy by the case.
The label wine
Appellation contrôlée (AC) – in theory the best-quality category of French wine, with regulations defining vineyard, soil, grape varieties, yields, and alcohol levels.
Clos – an enclosed vineyard.
Cru – literally ‘growth’, indicating a distinguished vineyard site in Burgundy or property in Bordeaux.
Vieilles Vignes – old vines. Although unregulated, there can be a disctinct bearing of quality. A Chablis Vieillies Vignes for exemple, may have added concentration of flavour.
Blanc de blancs – made from white grapes (Chardonnay only).
Blanc de noirs – made from red grapes, vinified without skin contact.
Brut – dry or dryish in style.
Demi-sec – sweet.
Doux – very sweet.
Vintage – a blend froa a single year, solg after at leat there years ageing.
Grand cru – classified vineyard site.
Sélection de grains nobles – wine.
Vendange Tardive – ‘late harvest’/specially grown ripe grapes.
Cru Bourgeois – classification of chateaux in the Médoc and some of the best value-for-money wines.
Cru-classé/grand cru-classé/premier grand cru-classé – ‘classified growth’, divided into five ‘tables’ in the Médoc, or from the classification system of the Graves, Sauternes, or St Emilion.
In Bordeaux, the name of the chateau, or property, is all improtant.
Domaine – estate or vineyard hoding, belonging to a grower or négociant.
Grand cru – top or finest vineyard sites.
Premier cru – second highest category of vineyard site.
In Burgundym the name of the grower of negociant is extremly important.
Sec – dry.
Demi-sec – medium to dry.
Molelleux – medium sweet to sweet.
Sur Lie – generally associated with Muscadet, sur lie indicates that the wine has been bottled directly from its lees, without being rached of filtered.
The Loire has a relatively cool climate, so take note of the vitange,
The best wines are often from a specified region, appellation or cru, i.e. Côte Rôtie. Côte du Rhône Villages carries a higher reputation than the general appellation.
Trochken – dry.
Halbtroken –semi-dry. In Germany, the grower and grape variety is worth nothing.
Verband Deutcher Pradikatsweinguter e. V (VDP) – group of estates whose members have agreed to a set of regulations.
Amarone – dry Passito wine from Valpolicella.
Classico – heartland of a DOC zone, generally producing better wines.
Passito – wine made from dried of semi-dried grapes.
Recioto – sweet passito wine.
Riserva – should be the best wines, from the better vintages, which are held back or aged for longer than normal.
Superior – wine whit higher alcohol than usual.
Buy wine can be quite a challenge, as there is often an immense range to choose from. Sometimes a little planning will be in your favour. Just knowing the type or style of a wine you want will make your buying decision that much easier.
Building up some knowledge of the various wine merchants, in your area and on the internet, can be very advantageous. Each mechant tends to have a particular strong point. One may be extremly good on Bordeaux for example, or specialise in Italian wines, and they will be happy to pass on their experience to you – the customer.
Remember too, that some knowledge of which producers are making particularly good wine, or which regions offer good value, puts you in a much more secure position.
There was a time when you could almost tell at an instant where a wine came from, just by looking at the shape of the bottle. This still holds true for some of the more traditional regions, such as Alsace or Bordeaux, but a glance or two around the shekves of your local supplier will aslso reveal rha influence of design teams keen to catch the eye with bottle shapes that stand out from the crowd.
A wine label provides an excellent opportunity to send a message and pass on information to a potential customer.
In Europe, a place name may suffice. Chablis, Sancerre and Chateauneuf-du-Pape are all examples of French wines that the name is recongnised. In the ‘New World’ however, varietal labelling is the norm, as an increasing amount of wine is sold on the back of the name of the grape variety. The world’s most popular grape, Chardonnay, could be perceived as s wine style, such is the influence carried by its name alone. The fact that most white Burgundy is made from Chardonnay is left for those of us who care to find out.
Find more about wine label here.
Depending on the wine, and in some cases the region, the name of the producer can be extremly important. You may wish to take note of the vintage. This is particularly important where grapes are grown in marginal climates. Each label will also indicate the percentage of alcohol by volume, which can range from 7 – 15 per cent.