Having a properly stocked wine rack is just as important to me as having a properly stocked pantry. It’s so much more than just being able to have a glass of wine at the end of the day, the right wine sets the foundation for any home gathering, expected or not. There are five key things to consider when embarking on this adventure.
1 Let’s start with the staples, or as I like to refer to them as the four pillars of wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz (Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon.
These are four of the most popular varietals [A varietal wine is a wine that is made with a single grape variety. However, labels don’t always indicate what variety or varieties of grapes (if the wine is blend) you’re purchasing. In Europe most labels use geographic indicators, which require more advanced knowledge of wine regions to know what varietal of wine you’re purchasing. This is where asking for assistance can be invaluable] and yield a range of flavours and tastes, which will cater to varying menus and personal preferences. The four pillars of wine are also some of the most produced varietals, which makes them available in a range of price points. We will get into costing later on. Ensuring you have these four varietals sets the foundation for the rest of your wines and offers a diversity of paring for meals, snacks, etc.
2 When and why of your wine.
Every household is different; when and why you enjoy a glass or wine or two impacts your wine rack. This answer will also often vary depending on the season, as this influences our food purchases too. In the winter we’re drawn to heartier rich dishes such as stews, pasta and roasts. I love to pair these dishes with a full-bodied red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Whereas in the summer lighter fare such as salads with local fruits and vegetables can pair nicely with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a more light to medium-bodied Chardonnay [however my personal preference is a dry Riesling like Cave Springs Riesling]. During holiday seasons having a few extras on the rack for those drop-in guests or as gifts is always handy. I like to keep a few bottles ready with gift bags on hand to bring to dinner parties or get-togethers. Having a well-stocked rack saves you from having to rush out to pick up a bottle for a last-minute invite. As a busy parent, it can be challenging to coral the kids and rush out to the grab a bottle or two. In our house we have what I refer to as our family holiday season, which runs from May – June and includes, birthdays, anniversaries, long weekends and cultural celebrations. Do you also have a family holiday season? Think about how this season impacts your wine rack and who and what you’re celebrating. I try to remember individual favourites (for example my sister likes Meiomi Pinot Noir) and have those on hand or try to find new wines that could become favourites.
3 Who doesn’t like to find a great deal?
Purchasing based on price-point doesn’t always mean you’re getting a lower quality wine. When selecting your wines look at varying your price point based on what varietal or blend of wine you’re looking for. Cost doesn’t always equate value, large production wineries can make some amazingly good to very good quality wines at reasonable prices. These wineries are able to reduce their costs per bottle due to the volume of production, which is a wine-win in my books! If you’re sticking to a budget you will want to refer to tip number two. Focus your budget on what events and occasions you’re stocking up for. If purchasing for a special celebration put a little more into a new or desired selection you usually wouldn’t get and then look for big brand wines (my big brand recommendation – Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon) for your four pillars to offset a that special vintage purchase.
4 There are so many ways to keep track of your favourite wines from simple pen and paper lists to apps.
The LCBO has an app where you can add favourite and even order certain wines to be delivered right to your door, how convenient. There are other apps where you can rate wines you’ve tried and follow other people to see what wines they’ve tried, Vivino is one example of this. If you have a favourite wine this should be added as a staple to your shopping list (one of my favourite everyday wine is Don David Reserve Malbec). You may also have seasonal favourites, which are great to keep track of as some wines are specifically released during certain season. Beaujolais nouveau is one example of this, released the third Thursday of November. French law sets this release, as it is a day to celebrate the end of harvest season in France. If you’re looking for a memorable trip with a focus on wine a journey to France for the festival would be an amazing experience, one that is definitely on my bucket list.
“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass.
5 Don’t be afraid to try new wines, you might be surprised with where this can take you - be adventurous in your choices.
One of the things I hear a lot from people when selecting wines is that they’re a specific kind of wine person and that they don’t like certain wines because of this or that. I find this so limiting as there is more wine in the world that we can possibly ever have the chance to taste and not all varietals or blends are alike. It kind of reminds me of being a child again at the table and being told that as long as I try it I don’t have to finish it, and nine times out of ten I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I was going to and sometimes I even liked it (don’t tell my mother). Our taste buds are ever evolving and so too should our wine selections. I know I will never exhaust this learning experience and am open to learning from everyone, from an inexperienced wine newbie to a very experienced sommelier, we all discover wine in a different way and sharing those discoveries is the best way to enjoy a glass of wine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Ashlee Linton is a wine scholar and owner of Your Everyday Sommelier, a wine event company that plans and hosts wine tasting events from small social gatherings to corporate events and special additions to weddings. She also writes about wine focusing on making it accessible to everyone for everyday occasions. Ashlee is a mother of two pre-school children and confessed book-worm. She has had the opportunity to start her wine education form a young age through her grandparents who import wine and travel to learn more about its history, culture and viticulture; experiences Ashlee and her husband have taken on as well. “One of the greatest aspects of wine is the never-ending learning process as it has so much history and is constantly evolving.”