NICOLE MACKAY Nicole MacKay is a wine, food and travel writer and the managing editor for US-based SOMM TV Magazine , a James Beard Award-winning platform. She is also a freelance writer for several international publications, including Decanter , Wine Enthusiast and VinePair . She’s a Spanish Wine Scholar through the Wine Scholar Guild and holds her Level 3 certificate from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Follow her work on SocialSips.ca and Instagram @SocialSips.

This comprehensive guide divulges insider tips for wine enthusiasts of all levels, from beginners to connoisseurs.

S hopping for wine can be an overwhelming experience, especially on a budget. The sheer variety of options can make finding the perfect bottle challenging. But fear not! This comprehensive guide divulges insider tips for wine enthusiasts of all levels, from beginners to connoisseurs. Whether you’re seeking an everyday sipper or a bottle for a special occasion, let’s uncork four tips to finding great wines that deliver on taste and value. Decoding Wine Labels: Appellation, Alcohol Content Wine labels can be like cryptic puzzles. Once you know how to decipher them, however, labels hold the key to understanding what’s inside the bottle and making the most of your purchasing decision. First, pay attention to the wine’s appellation. The wine region will give you an overall idea of the type of grapes that are grown and the general climatic conditions. This information can help you zero in on particular regions and types of wine you enjoy. The more specific the appellation listed on the label, the more insight you’ll get into distinct characteristics (terroir) imparted by soil, climate and other environmental factors. Typically, knowing exactly where the grapes were grown—

Navigating Ratings & Reviews: Points & Wine Lingo The 100-point wine rating system is widely used to assess and communicate the quality and characteristics of wines. Popularized by wine critics and publications, it assigns a numerical score to a wine based on its overall quality, complexity, balance and aging potential. Understanding this system can provide valuable insights into a wine’s perceived quality. Knowing the lingo can also help you interpret wine reviews and help you find vintages and varietals that align with your preferences. Words like “layered,” “textured” and “finish” are frequently used to describe the sensory experience of a wine. “Layered” refers to multiple flavours and aromas that unfold in succession, revealing different nuances with each sip. “Textured” describes the mouthfeel of a wine, meaning how it feels on the palate. “Finish” is the length of time the flavours persist on the palate and the overall balance and harmony of the wine’s flavours. VALUE TIP #2 Ask if your local store has a 90-point- plus section so you can peruse the most highly rated wines from numerous wine-growing regions. If your store

whether that’s a Cabernet Franc from the south Okanagan or a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile—helps you know whether you will enjoy the wine, because you can compare it with other wines you already know. A Cabernet Sauvignon sourced entirely from Chile’s Colchagua Valley, for instance, will have experienced warm days and cool nights, resulting in more structural integrity. As well, many specific regions are protected and winemakers must follow strict time- honoured rules about how the wines are made, which can lead to more predictable results. The alcohol content of a wine can also relay some crucial intel about its taste and flavour. It doesn’t correspond to the wine’s quality or value, but it can help you narrow down your buying choice and select a wine that better suits your taste. Generally, higher alcohol content in red wines indicates a fuller- bodied wine with more intensity and warmth. In white wines, lower alcohol usually indicates a wine with some residual sugar, though still light and crisp if properly balanced. VALUE TIP #1 Familiarize yourself with terms such as “reserve,” “estate” and “old vine.” They are typically used by wineries to tier their portfolio, specifying grapes from higher- quality or estate vineyards. These terms are typically not regulated, particularly in New World regions, so a “reserve” wine might be an entry-level wine from one producer, whereas elsewhere it could be a flagship option.



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