Wine is special. It’s not merely alcohol in a glass, it’s a mood. A glass of vino can be a respite after a long day, a way to celebration after a big win, a way to elevate the flavors of your Amatriciana pasta. But, there is nothing worse than spending your hard-earned cash on a glass or bottle of wine that you find is just meh after stewing over a wine list for the. perfect. one.
I’ve done this too many times, either blindly choosing the one label I’ve heard of at some point in my 10-year-drinking-span, or by errantly thinking that I knew the fancy buzz words to describe the flavors I wanted in my glass only to find out I was way off on my pallet perception. So, I set out to see if there was a secret formula to choosing the right wine every time.
Who better to ask than Chelsea Coleman and Katie Fawkes Moore of the natural wine shop and bar, The Rose Wine Bar, in South Park. This duo knows wine profiles, consistently nailing their recommendations based on a customer's mood or the desired flavors. How do they do it? Is it magic?
They agreed to sit down with me and demystified all the confusing wine notes from bouquet to tannin to texture. They broke it down into five simple questions that will ensure you get the perfect glass every time.
First Some Notes About Natural Wine
The Rose Wine Bar specializes in natural wines, or wines with low intervention and no added sulfites. They tend to be fantastic choices for those who like some tangy acid flavor. Though natural wines are not all acid-forward, the winemakers behind the poppy bottles appreciate acid and are often "Acid Hounds” due to its great food pairing potential. A good example is the Hobo Folk Machine Valdiguié, which pairs beautifully with acidic red sauce pastas.
For those prone to dreadful hangovers, natural wines are a smart choice. The lack of sulfites can help some who are sensitive, and the grapes are picked less ripe with no extra sugar added during the fermentation process, which results in an alcohol content that is usually lower (10-13%). We love natural wines, but these tasting tips are applicable to all wines.
Do you like your wine sweeter or not so sweet?
If you prefer sweeter flavors, look for descriptors like juicy or jammy which will often times lead you to a Grenache or Zinfandel in the red category and Riesling or Muscat in the white.
Hankering for semi-sweet or as far from sweet as possible? Dry or bone dry are your adjectives. Reds like a Bordeaux or Merlot, or white wines like Chenin Blanc are what you’re craving.
Want the ultimate dry white wine? It's called orange wine and its flavor is as irresistible as its amber hues.
Do you like Acid?
In other words, do you enjoy a bit of that salivation in your mouth that tart fruit or sour candy conjure? Then you’re looking for crisp, cranberry or citrus notes.
In the red realm, Gamays, Syrahs or Carignanes are right up your alley and a great go-to white is chilled Sauvignon Blanc.
Do you like that buttery, barrel flavor?
You probably can guess this one. Anything described as oaky, vanilla or spice will lead you to the classic Chardonnay your parents probably love.
It’s worth noting that not all Chardonnays take on that rich buttery taste. Some winemaking choices, like less stirring during fermentation, fermentation in stainless steel as opposed to oak, or preventing malolactic fermentation (which causes the buttery taste in wine) through temperature control can yield chardonnays that are neutral, crisp or tropical. Ask your server or wine shop owner about buttery factor when ordering a Chard.
Do you want an easy-to-drink wine that you can sip on its own?
Words like clean, bright, juicy, fresh indicate wines that are mild, soft, and approachable. Try a Gamay or the Rose Bar favorite, Populis Wabi Sabi (a Carignane, Zinfandel and Syrah blend).Pinot Grigio or Grüner Veltliner are great white options.
Chalky or Smooth?
These are descriptors to express the texture you want to feel in your mouth when you are drinking wine. Typically dry (not sweet) in profile, high tannin wines will provide a chalky, chewy texture. Great options are Sangiovese or Nebbiolo.
Smooth wines, like Pinot Noirs, are typically light-bodied, versatile wines that go with just about everything.
There’s No Substitute for Tasting
With the vocabulary above, pros at wine bars like The Rose can guide you to more adventurous choices, and the more you taste, the better you will understand what you do and don’t like.
A great way to start learning more about why you like the wine you like, is to join The Rose Wine Club. For $45 per month you’ll get two bottles of west coast wines made from organically grown grapes, made with native grapes, made with minimal additives, and those that take advantage of ambient "native" yeasts. You’ll also score discounted $5 tickets to monthly tastings where you can learn about the grapes in your class and talk with other passionate winos.
Visit The Rose Wine Bar
2219 30th Street, South Park