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Food & Drink Lifestyle

Buying Wine – A Beginners Guide


Buying wine can be a bit of a tricky subject. With so many varieties, colours, flavour profiles and countries of origin to choose from, it can be a bit of a minefield for beginners. So, with National Wine Day coming up on the 25th of May, we thought we’d put together a beginner’s guide to wine. That way you can have a tipple, and know exactly what you’re talking about.

From whites, reds and rose, to food pairings, and some dietary questions, we’ll give you a rundown of the basics. Then you can take your new found knowledge to the supermarket and make a more informed decision when you whack a couple of bottles in your basket.

Red, White or Rose?

The most obvious difference for beginners, is the colour. But the colour can play a huge part when it comes to picking out a bottle and buying wine you’ll like. With white wines tending to be lighter and crisper, red wines offering more complexity and texture, and rose wines sitting somewhere in the middle, there’s a huge difference between them.

White Wine

Beginners Guide to Wine - White Wine

White wines tend to be light, crisp and fresh. Generally, their considered to be more refreshing than red wines, so they’re perfect for a pre-dinner drink. Because they’re so light, a rich dinner can often over-power the wine, so it’s not ideal if you fancy a big, delicious steak. But on a hot Summers day, it pairs perfectly with a light pasta or a salad. Because of its acidity and its ability to tenderise meat, white wines are great for cooking with too!

You’ll want to pop your white wine in the fridge, and once you open it, you’ll want to drink it within 24-hours. This is because unlike red wine, the flavours and the aromas will flatten and disappear more quickly, so you won’t get the best experience.

What are some popular white wines?

Popular white wines include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chablis, Chenin Blanc and Moscato. Some countries known for their white wines include Chile, Germany, South Africa and New Zealand.

Red Wine

Beginners Guide to Wine - Red Wine

Red wine tends to be fuller and bolder than their counterparts. One thing that you’ll notice when you take a sip of some red is the ‘tannins’. It’s a slightly bitter flavour that you experience on the front of your mouth and on the sides of your tongue, and it can make your mouth feel a little dry. This is a huge decider when it comes to a person’s preference for red, wine or rose.

When you get a bottle of red, it’s worth cracking it open and letting it breathe ahead of time. That way the wine has a chance to aerate. The oxygen will help to soften those tannins a little, giving a less bitter experience. It’s also worth keeping your red wines at room temperature, unlike a white wine that’s perfectly fine to be kept in the fridge. Red wine takes about 3-5 days to go off, so you’ll have plenty of time to drink it compared to a bottle of white.

What are some popular red wines?

Top red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec, Bordeaux, Rioja and Pinot Noir. Countries that are known for the red wines they produce include Italy, France, Spain, Australia and Portugal.

Rose Wine

Beginners Guide to Wine -  Rose Wine

As you’d imagine, rose wine is somewhere between white and red wines.It tends to have the flavour profile of lighter red wines, but then has the crispness and freshness of a white wine, so it’s perfect if you’re not sure which one you want on the day. They tend to be aromatic and bright, so it’s another type of wine that’s perfect now that Summer is coming up.

Like white wine, you’ll want to keep rose wine refrigerated so you can enjoy it as a lovely refresher on a hot day in the garden. It’s perfect as a side to some light chicken dishes, a salad, some soft cheeses or even some lamb, so it really does pair well with some delicious foods.

What are some popular rose wines?

A few of the popular kinds of rose wine include Provence rose, Grenache rose, Sangiovese rose, Syrah rose, Zinfandel rose and Cabernet Sauvignon rose. The majority of the world’s rose wine come from Provence in France. But the United States also make a cracking bottle of rose.

Other Factors When Buying Wine

Beginners Guide to Wine - Selection of Wi8nes

When it comes to wine, there are plenty of reasons to go for one kind over another. From the meal you’re pairing it with, to the occasion, and even dietary concerns, it all plays a part in your decision. So, we thought we’d shed a little light on what to bear in mind when you’re buying a bottle.

Food Pairings

If you’ve got a meal in mind that you plan to pair your wine with, it’s important to consider what would go nicely alongside. Whether you have rich foods that’ll need a bold wine to cut through, or you’re having a light lunch and want something crisp to sip, it all makes a difference when you’re buying wine.

Beginners Guide to Wine - Food and Wines

Meaty dishes like Bolognese and lasagne go well with a red wine. As well as braised meats and steaks. When you’ve got a lot of rich meat on the plate, you need a full-bodied red, that way you can actually taste it between bites. Whites and rose wines tend to be better with light lunches like chicken dinners, seafood and fish dishes, salads and cheeses.

Another thing to consider is whether you’ll be cooking with the wine. Red wines are great for braising meats and cooking stews, while dry white wines are perfect for adding a little acidity to your food. Generally, you can afford to cheap out a little when you’re cooking with wine, because there’s plenty of other flavours going on. But as a rule of thumb, don’t cook with something you wouldn’t drink!

Wine Dietary Information

woman using body tape measure while measuring her waist

There are a few dietary questions that are worth asking before you buy your bottle. Some of us may have heard of the red wine health benefits, or that wine a healthier option than beer, but it’s worth doing your research first. Whether you’ve got allergies, or you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, it’s worth giving the bottle a read. But we’ll do our best to answer a few of those big, burning wine questions.

How many units are in a bottle of wine?

A bottle of red, white or rose wine with around a 13.5% alcohol by volume percentage, typically contain about 10 units.

How many units are in a glass of wine?

A small, 125ml glass of red, white or rose wine typically contains around 1.5 units, while a large, 250ml glass of wine typically contains around 3 units. For more information, check out the NHS website for details on alcohol units.

Is red wine good for you?

It’s suggested that the occasional glass of red wine is good for you as it provides antioxidants and can help protect against heart disease and harmful inflammation. It’s important to drink it in moderation though.

Is wine gluten free?

Wine is typically gluten free, however, you do find that some that are aged have come into contact with gluten in the manufacturing process, so it’s best to read the label before you buy yourself a bottle.

Is wine vegan?

Wine can be vegan, however, while it’s made of grapes, some wines go through the process of ‘fining’. This is done to remove unwanted substances in the wine, but the process is sometimes performed with non-vegan ingredients. So, once again, it’s worth giving that label a read before you part with your cash.

How many calories are in a bottle of wine?

A bottle of wine on average has around 635 calories in it. That means your average small glass of wine at 125ml will have around 105 calories, while a large glass at 250ml will have around 210 calories.

Buying Wine Online

Beginners Guide to Wine - Bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon

When it comes to buying wine, it’s all well and good picking out a bottle that you’ll like. But you’ll want something that’s as affordable as it is delicious. So, we’ve got some suggestions on where to buy your bottles from.

Virgin Wines

When it comes to buying wine by the case, Virgin Wines is a wonderful option. You can mix and match, or just go for a straight crate of red, white or rose. They’ve even got non-alcoholic options if you’d like. With services like Virgin Wine Bank and Virgin Wine Clubs, you can get savings on your cases and recommendations on what to buy too.

Cellar by Waitrose

Waitrose are a supermarket that are known for their quality ingredients, and it’s no different when it comes to their wines. With Cellar by Waitrose you get a store-front that’s dedicated to the best Waitrose wine on offer currently. Not to mention, some more expert advice on buying wines.

Marks and Spencer Wine

With bottles from around a fiver, to £12 and up, M&S wines have a bottle for every budget. You can buy it by the case or stick to a bottle, so you really can manage the amount your spending on your wines. Not to mention they’ve got some recommendations if you’re a beginner looking for a few suggestions.

Selfridges Wine

Selfridges have been going for over a hundred years, and as one of the UK’s most well-known department stores, you can bet they’ve got some fully stocked wine shelves. With some of the biggest names in the boozy business in stock, there’s something for everyone.

Asda Wine

For those after value, it’s well worth investigating over at Asda. Just like all their other rollback deals, you can find some wonderful Asda wine offers that’ll take out a lot of the expense usually associated with buying wine.

Laithwaites Wine

For wine that’s tailored to your tastes, Laithwaites have got you covered. Not to mention with the Laithwaites wine club you can get introductory offers as well as get discounts on delivery and other cracking extras.

Know Your Wines and Drink Responsibly

So, whether you just want to know enough to make an informed decision before you buy, or you’re looking to make it a hobby, we hope you’ve found this guide handy. From flavour profiles to dietary restrictions, there’s plenty to consider before you whack a bottle in your basket, so make sure you read the label. And don’t forget to drink responsibly!


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