# How to select a good dinner wine

1. Jan 24, 2013

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Are there any guidelines to buying a decent diner wine? Is buying in the higher price range a guarantee for success? How about grapes, sticking to Merlot and Chardonnay for the staples?

I'm always lost when it comes to selecting a bottle..

2. Jan 24, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Re: How to select a good diner wine

I'm much more of a consumer than connoisseur of wine but in my experience there isn't always a need to splash out for good wine. For some wines the middle or even low-middle brackets are a good choice (I reserve the very cheap £5-£10 for parties which demand quantity over quality :tongue2:). Other than that the only other advice I known is that red goes with meat and white with fish...but IIRC you're a vegetarian?

At the end of the day I think whilst there's a lot of emphasis on matching wine to meals to complement them its best to go with something you know you and your guests will enjoy. If you want to get really into it though you could probably get good advice from a dedicated wine shop. I have a friend who works in one in London where they have to go through training to advise this sort of thing. I'm skeptical that it makes much of a difference but then people keep going back for it.

3. Jan 24, 2013

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Re: How to select a good diner wine

I think so as well, usually I buy in the 5-8 euro range and take the ones with a connoisseur approval (called bicycle detour wines, the ones you'd take that extra little effort for). I know one person who is annoying who thinks everything I serve is "slobber wine", a dentist who wants to be elite. He also believes that a bottle of wine without a cork is not worth drinking.

Right now I opened a bottle that I thought wasn't going to be good (a Sangiovese) and indeed it's quite harsh. It sparked a thought of trying some >10 euro wines.

Yeah, I always cook vegetarian but guests always prefer to drink red wine.

4. Jan 24, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Re: How to select a good diner wine

I've heard and somewhat experienced good wine being cheaper on the continent than in the UK. Wine £5 and less isn't that nice and normally is the favourite of studenty types.
Ergh I hate that. There's a game show in England called come dine with me where 5 contestants take in turn to host a dinner party that others vote on. There's a well known episode where one contestant is annoyed that all week another has gone on and on about how well they know wine. So the host got rid of the wine from an expensive bottle and swapped it with cheap before re-corking it. Suffice to say the annoying contestant couldn't tell the difference :tongue2:

5. Jan 24, 2013

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Re: How to select a good diner wine

Yeah, I stay away of the 2 euro bottles unless it's for myself. But even those get star ratings from the connoisseurs that rate the price/taste ratio.

Haha, classic. The dentist can have a glass of water, better for his teeth anyway

6. Jan 24, 2013

### dcasplen

The best bottle of wine is the one you like. Don't worry about the uppity people,

7. Jan 24, 2013

### n10Newton

If wine is for personal use then try little amount all recommended by Local wine taster and after that use that one like most.

8. Jan 24, 2013

### turbo

Years ago, there was a wine and cheese shop in a nearby city. That was a good place to compare wines and get good deals on cheese, too. Tasting nights were well-attended.

9. Jan 25, 2013

### Jobrag

When buying wine remember that the cost of, taxes, production, bottling, shipping etc etc is the same for a cheap wine as for an expensive one, if you spend 1 dollar, pound, euro more than the cheapest on the shelf most of the extra money will be on better quality, the same goes for olives.

10. Jan 25, 2013

### Jimmy Snyder

Red for McDonald's, White for KFC.

11. Jan 25, 2013

### ZapperZ

Staff Emeritus
As with Ryan, I'm more of a consumer than connoisseur. However, there are definitely some loose guidelines that have always worked with me.

1. Choose the wines that you like. This is a no brainer, but a lot of people often are worried if such-and-such wines will go with such-and-such food. While this is true to some extent, there's a good chances that for many of us, pairing most food with the wines that we know and like often works!

2. For dinner, you probably do not want wines that tend to be sweet. So pick something that you like that is closer to the dry end of the scale.

3. What also tend to work for some people, especially wine connoisseur, is that the robustness of the food should correspond to the robustness of wine. So if you have strong, hearty meal (steaks, stews, etc.), then the wine should be equally be bold or else it will get overpowered by the meal. While this may be true, my untrained taste buds usually do not care that much. I find that a fair red wine can still cut through the richness of such food.

4. I don't know how widely available this is, about a year ago, I found this amazing Italian red wine that seem to pair up quite well with almost anything. It is very smooth (if you let it breath for a while) with just the right amount of acidity to cut through rich foods.

But here's the kicker. Here in the US, you can find this wine at Trader Joe's for barely $6 per bottle! I remember one of my trips to TJ where we bought a dozen of this wine. We have served it many times at various dinner parties, and it has gotten rave reviews so far. It is cheap, and it is very good - my favorite combination. Zz. 12. Jan 27, 2013 ### Johninch Re: How to select a good diner wine Even for yourself (or especially for yourself!), you have to be careful with that two-buck chuck. My experience of the cheaper wines is that there are certain exporters in certain countries who specialize in offloading large quantities of good stuff on a regular basis to certain supermarket or wholesaler chains overseas (I live in Switzerland). I have no idea if they are selling under the same label at the same price in their home country. I wouldn’t know because wine below$10 is not normally reviewed, especially when it’s mass marketed.

I have noticed that there are a lot of customers like me who snap up the deliveries of these imported brands. After the supermarket announces its arrival, the product is sold out within days. There’s often no discount but it moves fast, because the experienced customer knows the brand and/or producer and he buys one or two cases. Typical example would be a Cabernet-Sauvignon from the Bronco Wine Company. Cheap brands from other producers are often sold at 50% discount, which I assume is a lie.

Anyway I am talking about the $5-6 range, so how do you avoid the rubbish? There are very few good European wines in this range. European winemakers a) have climate and weather problems b) often have poor production techniques c) in the case of France produce mainly for long term cellaring d) produce in small quantities e) blend like crazy in an attempt to achieve a reliable product. There are some exceptions, for example I would recommend Italian Primativo (=Zinfadel) but not all Primativo brands are good. German red wines are drinkable but often have a peculiar taste, which I guess may indicate added sugar, so I would never serve a German red wine to guests. Mainly I buy red wines and I concentrate on the wines from California, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa, which have big wine export businesses and base their reputation on consistent reliable quality. My standard red favourites are Cabernet-Sauvignon and Zinfandel from California, Shiraz from Australia, Malbec from Argentina, and Carmenére from Chile. Of the whites I like Australian and Californian Chardonney. On a hot summer’s day I like to drink a cool rosé from Argentina or Chile. California produces a white Zinfandel, which is actually a rosé and is designed for the ladies, but it’s too sweet for my taste. My final point is, never buy a cheap wine with a cheap label, because you can’t put that on the dinner table. I have seen discounted cheap stuff with a correspondingly cheap label, which is apparently an attempt to offload additional volume without cannibalizing the main brand. Most labels are presentable and nobody is expecting to see the name of a château on a new world wine anyway. Just make sure that the guest has no idea of the price and you should be ok, even with experienced wine drinkers. Usually I give a spiel about the origin of the wine and this adds to the flavor too. . 13. Jan 27, 2013 ### dlgoff 14. Jan 28, 2013 ### Dr Transport three buck chuck at trader joes is a fine line of wine varieties.... 15. Jan 28, 2013 ### Evo ### Staff: Mentor When I have a particularly nice wine at a restaurant, I make sure to disucuss it with the waiter or sommelier, and write it down. I've always loved DeLoach chardonnay, cheap, price varies by year, back when I was into wine, it was$25 a bottle at the liquor store. It was a restaurant suggestion. I haven't had it in a number of years, but it seems it's still rated highly. But, I agree with what has been said, buy what *you* like.

If you don't eat out much, just go to a reputable liquor store known for its wine selection and ask to speak the their wine specialist. They will be more than happy to tell you more than you ever wanted to know and possibly be able to sample some.

16. Jan 29, 2013

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
And I was always thinking people were being fooled into buying expensive wines.. I mean, in the countries where wine is a staple at meals (France, Italy) the families don't buy expensive wines but have "house wines" right? Exclusive wines are more for special occasions?

I do appreciate all the comments and will try some of the suggestions. I had some guests over for diner last Sunday and bought a nice Merlot that received a good review the week before, but they only asked for water so I saved the bottle for another time. Sometimes I feel like a kitchen maid with all the cooking that I do for people..

17. Jan 29, 2013

### Johninch

I don’t think many people are feel fooled into buying expensive wines, provided they are perceived as good, or at least interesting. Research has been done on this question, maybe someone here can give a link. Kahnemann quotes a survey carried out with the members of a wine club, where the participants were not told the prices of the wines and were also lied to about the prices. The result was a high correlation between the stated price and the perceived quality of the wine. Enjoyment of wine is subjective and price is evidently a driver, at least to members of wine clubs. The take-away is that you should always try to imply to your guests that the wine you are serving is good quality at a correspondingly upmarket price. The worst you can do is to say it was a bargain at Joe’s. And as I said before, also make sure the label itself looks serious.

I was at a barbecue party in the summer held by a well-off relative, who knew that I was interested in wines. Some people I dine with have noticed that I always study the label and they put the bottle where I can’t reach it. Anyway this relative, who is a wine drinker himself, said that he had consulted his wine merchant, who had recommended this Italian Sangiovese. I assume this means that my relative paid a good price for it. Good try, but the wine was mediocre and I would not have served it. He should not have served an unknown wine to guests, when he has a wine cellar. I don’t know why people do things like that.

By the way, one purpose of a wine cellar (or other suitable storage) is to be able to store those wines which need long cellaring, for example Bordeaux. A lot of French wines need to be kept for 10 years or more, and if you let the supply chain do it, it may cost a fortune. A wine may be expensive because it is good - because it has been well stored for many years.

From personal and anecdotal experience, I think you are right that families drink cheaper wines at home when they are not entertaining. In countries with a wine drinking tradition such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, families out in the country tend to drink cheap local wines of low quality from the local store. I have been given stuff which is undrinkable. The problem is, there is often no tradition of branding and marketing, partly because the volumes don’t justify it. Cartels and duties hinder the import of foreign wines which would undermine the local wine industry. Patriotism is also a factor.

Regarding cooking for other people, my wife only does it when we get a corresponding invite from them. I know that there are problems of who does the cooking and the location of the kitchen, which are not always easy to be solved.

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