Learning the Lingo
The wine industry may seem to have a language of its own but then its origins can be traced back many thousands of years when modern language was in its infancy. Pioneers of various wine making processes gave their names to production methods and the names of towns, villages and grape growing regions were adopted as the names for various types of wine, with the Champagne region of France perhaps being one of the most famous. Learning a little terminology can help you immeasurably when researching your wine offers. Although we are only scratching the surface here, the following terms may be of use:
Appellation – The region of a country where particular wines are produced such as the Languedoc region of southern France or the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy.
Balance – The levels of acidity, fruit flavour/scent, tannin etc. in a particular wine. This tends to be more of an individual perception as everyone’s tastes and sense of smell is slightly different.
Chaptalization – The process of introducing sugar to grapes which are already fermenting with the aim of increasing the alcohol content of a wine.
Herbaceous – An aroma or flavour associated with wine where the grapes are grown in a cool climate, either on higher slopes or further north of the equator.
Kabinett – A German phrase used to describe high quality wine associated with the driest German Rieslings.
Legs – An enthusiasts term used to describe how the liquid adheres to the inside of a glass when it has been swirled inside the glass or tasted.
Nose – Also referred to as bouquet and used to describe a wine’s particular aroma.
Reserve – A term of American origin used to describe a high quality wine.
Steely – A term used to describe wine with high acidity that has not been aged in the barrel. Also described as crisp.
Tannins – Phenolic plant compounds. Grape tannins are found mostly in the skins and grape pits. Tannins are sharp-tasting and give structure to the wine. In more aged liquids, the tannins die off and the liquid becomes less sharp.
Vintage – Often mistakenly used as a term to describe a wine of great age, the term actually refers to a particular year or harvest in the wine business. All bottles have a vintage, be it 1895 or 2014.
There are, of course, many more terms used in the industry but through introduction to a few, you will invariably encounter and learn more. Do a little research and read some reviews written by budget wine connoisseurs with reference to the 5 S’s (see, swirl, sniff, sip and savour).
High street and on-line wine wholesalers and local off licences are always holding regular tasting events to encourage new customers. What better way to discover new wines, taste them and then find out about which of your favourites are currently featured in great wine offers and promotions at your local shop or supermarket, or on-line? All you need to do is ask in a store or do some on-line research to find out about dates and venues. Very often you may discover a new varietal that you particularly like and have never even tried before.
Make a list of your favourite varietals so that you can keep an eye out for them, whether you’re shopping on the high street or on-line.
Research On-line Offers
The internet is a wonderful mine of information and, if you’re working to a fixed budget, there are a myriad of websites with reviews for wine in certain price brackets. This is most useful if you’re buying wine online for an event. Many of these websites have a simple calculator which can help you to work out how many bottles you need to order depending upon the expected number of guests. On-line wholesalers don’t have the overheads of many high street retailers and so may be able to produce a great wine offer for you. It is often well worth getting in touch via the website contact page and speaking to a sales representative for your chosen on-line supplier. They may be able to let you in on a little insider knowledge about future offers and dealing with people on a personal level can often lead to a more favourable business relationship.
Offers In Emerging Wine Regions
You may find that you can locate great wine offers by finding out a little about emerging grape growing regions which are not as well-known as Mendoza in Argentina or Napa Valley in California. South eastern UK vineyards are gaining a good reputation amongst enthusiasts as are the vineyards of Mallorca, Spain. You may find a particular varietal from one of these regions that you enjoy and consequently come across a great wine offer as vineyard owners seek to promote their new range of wines and win over new customers.
You may also discover new varietals that hail from very well-known growing regions around the world where the producer is trying to gain a foothold for their new product in the marketplace by offering great wine deals in an effort to spread the word amongst wine drinkers.
Buying Wine in Bulk
As with any product when bought in bulk, you can benefit even more from great wine offers if you buy more of it. It may be well worth your while to find out if any friends, colleagues or associates have a need for a large quantity of wine in the near future so that you can both benefit from big discounts by approaching the supplier with a much larger order quantity. If you have a reasonably frequent requirement for purchasing wine in bulk, why not try joining a syndicate? These groups will usually have members with a good amount of expertise with regards to finding offers and they can organise large orders at discounted prices and also offer sound advice.
Searching for Offers in Supermarkets and Off Licences
There are always great offers in most supermarkets or high street off licences and wine merchants, but there will be more offers featuring a wider variety of wines in the run up to seasonal celebrations such as Christmas or other special events throughout the year. As a rule of thumb, you are probably going to be better off selecting the wine with the biggest discount rather than the least expensive, as the discounted wine may usually be in a price bracket that would put it outside your selection list if it were full price and you may be missing out on a treat.
Pop into your local supermarket, make some notes about the discounts on offer, then do a little research on-line. You may find that the supermarket’s website has some reviews by experts and customers to assist you in making your final decision. You could even purchase a selection of the discounted wines if you are then intending to buy a larger quantity, so that you can try them and get some opinions from friends and family before deciding which wine offers to go for.
Offers in Cash & Carries
A local cash and carry would be an excellent place to look for wine offers if you need to buy in bulk. They don’t all offer access to the general public, some are purely for business owners looking to supply their shops or restaurants, but many will happily open an account for anyone whether they own or business or not. Many employers will also offer schemes to their employees which grant you access to a cash and carry. It’s worth asking your HR department about this, especially if you work for a large employer.
General Wine Buying Guidance
Finally, the following is some general advice about buying and drinking wine, such as how to store your wine or how to pair wine with food.
A bottle of wine should remain perfectly drinkable for up to 5 days especially if kept in the fridge or in a nice, cool place. You won’t need to discard it if you haven’t finished the bottle on the first day.
Wine should be kept in a cool environment to stop it from degrading, especially if bought in bulk and then stored for a period of time. Keep the temperature as consistent as possible between 4 and 20 degrees centigrade. Experts recommend that corked wine bottles should be stored at an angle so that the wine is always in contact with the cork. You could store boxes on their sides to do this. Bottles with a screw cap can be stored upright.
Screw Caps Versus Corks
Modern wines come with both options and it certainly doesn’t differentiate between higher and lower quality wines. It’s more about manufacturer preference and bottling plant set up. A lot of producers switched from traditional corks to either plastic alternatives or screw caps to prevent the wine from becoming “corked” – where the cork degrades and spoils the liquid.
Don’t Take Risks With Offers
Stay with what you like. Just because you spot a wine offer on a different wine from the varietals that you would normally drink and the bottle has a fantastic label, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will enjoy the wine. A rash, on the spot decision could mean disappointment. Always do your research.
Happy bargain hunting!