INSIDER spoke to wine experts to find the best tips for enjoying your perfect bottle of wine.
Checking the label to learn a wine’s importer can be useful.
Typically, a bottle’s region and vintage can be found right on the label. But, you might be missing out on a crucial piece of information about a wine’s quality- the name of the importer.
“Building a relationship through wine with an importer will help you find more wines that you like, especially when shopping retail,” John Paterson, wine director of Frankies Spuntino in New York City, told INSIDER. “Most importers of smaller, family-run wineries share a common ‘ethos,’ and you might discover more wines you enjoy from places you might not have expected.”
When shopping for wines from overseas, learn to read the label markings.
If you enjoy French and Italian wines, learning to read the labels can help you be more informed about your purchases.
“Wines grown within the European Union will have geographical indications if they are of a certain quality,” sommelier Jules Elkovich of Michael Jordan’s Steak House in Uncasville told INSIDER. “Look for phrases and abbreviations like appellation contrôlée, AOC, AOP, and PDO/DOP.”
These labels signify that the wine comes from a specific region, said Elkovich. Because of this, these bottles are likely held to a “strict standard to preserve the integrity of the region.”
If you’re a fan of Californian wines, keep an eye out for any mention of specific wine regions within the state.
Wines made in California count among the highest-profile versions in the world, according to Wine Folly. But, if you’re browsing bottles and come across a wine label that vaguely lists only the state of California as its region, feel free to be skeptical.
“[You want to] look for a more specific designated region. For example, a wine that has ‘Sonoma Coast’ listed as its designation is going to be more distinct and typically of higher quality than one that simply says ‘California,'” Ronald Buyukliev, lead sommelier of Estiatorio Milos at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas told INSIDER.
He said when a more specific wine region is listed, the wine is typically higher in quality.
Screw-top bottles preserve wine flavors just as well as cork-topped ones.
- Visit Finger Lakes/flickr
“There is nothing wrong with a screw-top wine bottle,” beverage director Tim Rawdig of Marsh House in Nashville told INSIDER. “It says nothing about quality and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you opt out.”
Plus, screw caps eliminate the risk of “cork taint.”
Despite what you see on TV, sniffing the cork tells you very little about a bottle of wine.
“Don’t smell the cork,” sommelier Adam Sweders of Prime and Provisions in Chicago told INSIDER. “All this does is put the off-setting smell of cork in your brain. There is absolutely nothing [useful] about smelling a cork.”
Chill your red wine if you want to.
Some wine drinkers believe red wine is best when served at room temperature or at “cellar temperature.”
“Many people think that it’s not OK to chill red wine, but that’s simply not the case,” Erin Vaughen, founder of Vinley Market told INSIDER. “There are many red wines, like Gamay, that are awesome [when] served slightly chilled.”
Quality wine glasses can change your drinking experience.
“Nothing can enhance a wine experience like drinking out of a nice glass, and nowadays, you don’t need to spend a lot of money,” Andy Wedge, beverage manager of Momofuku Nishi in New York City told INSIDER.
When asking for a wine recommendation, be as descriptive as you can about the flavors and aromas you like.
The clearer and more descriptive you can be about the tastes and aromas that appeal to you, the easier it is for sommeliers to guide you to a bottle you’ll love.
“Identifying [scents and flavors] and saying stuff out loud like: ‘Wow, this wine tastes like kiwis!’ or ‘It smells like wet pavement!’ is a great stepping stone for understanding wine,” sommelier Ryan Plas of Coquette in New Orleans told INSIDER.
Sommelier Tiffany Tobey of SĒR Steak and Spirits in Dallas, Texas, advises smelling everything around you, from your garden hose to your shampoo, to expand your repertoire of scent comparisons.
Sparkling wines aren’t only for special occasions.
- Ash Pollard / Shutterstock
Sparkling wines like Champagne, Prosecco, and Cava are often associated with formal occasions, wedding toasts, and luxe food pairings like oysters and caviar.
But, sparkling wines are some of the most flexible wines available.
“They pair wonderfully with savory dishes, fried foods, sweets, proteins, salads, etc.,” Christian Jui, head sommelier of La Petite Maison in Miami, told INSIDER.
When you’re at the wine shop, keep an eye on wines in the $17-20 price range.
- Flickr / Didriks
It turns out, it’s not a given that a more expensive bottle will be substantially “better” than a modestly-priced one.
“A great price point to look at is the $17-20 range. Wines are of noticeably-better quality when you get to this price point,” Ryan Arnold, wine director of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises told INSIDER. “And the details about the wine are more specific.”
Use a dish’s key components to help you find the right wine to pair with it.
Pairing wine with food adds a new dimension to the drinking experience, and it’s important to select flavors that play well together and bring out each other’s best qualities.
“Oftentimes, there will be a component or two that sticks out just a bit more than others, which will be the most crucial part of determining what wine you should drink with it,” Jhonel Faelnar, wine director of Atoboy and Atomix in New York City, told INSIDER.
12. Food and wine with the same point of origin typically pair well together.
- Flickr/Matt M.
After all, the residents of those areas cook those dishes and make those wines for a reason.
“What grows together goes together,” said Lilly DeForest Campbell, head sommelier at The Milling Room in New York City. “Think about where the food you are eating or the recipe you are making is from and pair it with wines from that area.”
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