The Life of an MW Student – Seventeen

Since not a lot has happened in my study life this month, I thought I’d take a slightly different approach for this column, and offer some tips on how to buy better wine.

  1. Go to an independent wine merchant. Ok, since I work for an independent wine merchant, it’s not really a surprise that I’m saying this. But go to an independent wine merchant and the likelihood is that the member of staff in the shop really knows their stuff. They’ll be able to listen to your likes and dislikes and make recommendations for wines that will suit you. They can also help you to find the hidden gems on the shelf which you may not otherwise have picked up.  
  2. If you’re in a supermarket, look for own labels. I don’t moan about supermarkets. They have some excellent wines – particularly in their ‘own label’ ranges. Think Tesco’s Finest, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, and so on. The amount of tasting rigour that goes in to selecting the best wine for these labels is incredible, and they often represent great value for money.  
  3. Start keeping notes. Find a system to keep records of which wines you’ve liked or disliked. After a while, you should be able to identify which grape varieties, countries or regions you most enjoy. You could use a notebook, a spreadsheet – or there are even specific apps for this, such as Vivino.  
  4. Do a course. The WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) offers wine courses for all levels, from beginner up to expert. One of these courses will teach you about viticulture, winemaking, and also how to taste in a systematic way. Understanding the theory behind why a wine tastes as it does will deepen your knowledge and help you to make more reasoned choices with your wine purchases.
  5. Enjoy yourself! There is, unfortunately, an awful lot of snobbery around wine and many people who try to make out that they know a lot more than they do. This is a shame as wine, ultimately, should be good fun. Enjoy exploring new wine regions and new grape varieties. Perhaps start a monthly wine tasting night with a group of friends where you all bring an unusual bottle to try together. In my experience sharing with friends makes the most delicious wines taste even better, and those less enjoyable wines are often a hilarious learning experience
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