How to choose the BEST WINES this SPRING
As the days get brighter, it’s time to lighten up your wine list, too. Our in-house expert Julian Twaites shares the best bottles to complement your spring dinners and garden get-togethers. Plus, underneath these top picks, Aleesha Hansel shares her tips on what to consider when choosing wine; we all know how tricky it can be to find that perfect match. Also, don’t forget to check out our big Wine Sale where you can find your new favourite.
Produced in the Loire, the spiritual home of sauvignon blanc, this wine comes from one of the larger and more progressive winemakers in the region. Made from sauvignon blanc grapes, the style is restrained with crisp, dry and fresh undertones showing hints of lime, apple and a dash of flint. Enjoy on its own, or at the start of a meal; it’s a great partner for seafood and white meats.
With its gooseberry and passion fruit aromas, followed by freshly cut herbs, white peach and lemongrass, this wine is perfectly balanced. And it has that classic, lingering Marlborough finish too. When lightly chilled, this sauvignon pairs wonderfully with fresh seafood, spicy Asian dishes, grilled chicken or spring salads.
This pinot noir from renowned Chilean winery Cono Sur is a great example of a certified organic and vegan red wine. It’s fresh, juicy and crisp with notes of cherry, raspberry and strawberry, as well as hints of black fruit, plum and a soft smoked feeling. Best served slightly cool and ideal for spring drinking. Pair with salmon, smoky fish, lobster and scallops, or with white meats, lamb or plain grilled steaks.
This wine comes from a top producer crafting elegant and expressive albariño (known as Spain’s finest white grape) close to the Portuguese border. The style is bright and clean with aromas of fresh herbs, floral tones, citrus, lemon and tropical fruit. Try it with appetisers or snacks, shellfish, fish, light pasta and vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Fresh on the back of the tongue with a fruity and harmonious finish, this prosecco is a great way to celebrate the arrival of spring. But it’s also a fine foodie prosecco. Match with Italian antipasti of prosciutto and cured meats, full-flavoured cheese, mushrooms and spicy Asian starters. You won’t regret it.
HOW TO CHOOSE WINE
Learning what you like about a particular wine will give you the confidence to explore alternatives, while making sure you enjoy each glass more. And if you’re keen to follow a mindful approach to drinking, understanding some basic principles will allow you to drink less (but better). Check out these tips from wine writer, judge and presenter, Aleesha Hansel, and you’ll be a pro in no-time.
It starts with smell
Anyone who has ever had a cold knows that not being able to smell completely changes your tasting experience. One of the joys of wine is delighting in the aromas flowing from the glass, giving you a tantalising hint as to what your taste buds are about to experience. So take time to sniff.
Understanding flavour profiles
There are so many styles and varieties of wine, it can seem pretty daunting. This often results in us buying a wine we might not like, or falling back on a few familiar names. One way to easily expand your range is to think in terms of the four basic flavour profiles:
- White wine – citrus (grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin)
- White wine – stone fruits (apricot, mango, nectarine, peach)
- Red wine – red fruits (cranberry, raspberry, red cherry, red plum, strawberry)
- Red wine – black fruits (black cherry, black plum, blackberry, blackcurrant, damson)
Using this simple breakdown, fans of sauvignon blanc, a citrus-led wine, might also like albariño, verdejo or picpoul de pinet. Keep track of wines you do/don’t like in apps such as Vivino to build up a picture of your preferences.
LEARNING THE LINGO
‘Wine body’ is used to describe the weight of a wine and is best compared to milk. A light-bodied wine is similar to skimmed milk, a medium-bodied to semi-skimmed and a full-bodied wine to whole. Several elements contribute to the wine body, including tannins (in red wine), alcohol which is more viscous than water, and acidity which gives a wine freshness and makes it feel lighter.
Finding your favourite style will give you more ideas about which other wines to explore. If you like lighter-bodied wines such as pinot noir, for example, try gamay, país or zweigelt. For in-depth learning, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) is the perfect place to start. Its Level 1 Award covers the main grape varieties, principles of food and wine matching, and its standard approach to tasting and describing wine.