The Wine Doctor's Tips

  Edward Finstein offers 7 Golden Tips to Drinking Better for Less

 It's always been my belief that, in life, one gets what one pays for. Be it a car, sweater, suit, vacuum cleaner, etc., quality costs more. The same could easily apply to wine. However, knowing what to look for on labels can increase the odds of picking up some decent wines without breaking the bank. Here are the Wine Doctor's 7 golden tips to drinking better for less.

1) Focus, focus focus. The more focus on a wine label, generally the better the quality. In other words, wine from a specific region will usually be better than one from the entire country (table wine). The table wine category for most wine countries has very loose stipulations about what goes in the bottle. In fact, it may even contain wine from other countries, as long as the minimal percentage of the hosting country's product is in there. If it comes from a specific village, it will usually shadow a regional selection as all the fruit that goes into the wine must come from the stated village. The best wines, regardless of price, come from the fruit of one property or vineyard. Look for the words 'chateau' or 'domain' on the bottle. At any price level and in all wine countries' wines, this applies.

2) Varietal Labelling. Varietally labelled wines usually represent fairly good drinking at reasonable prices. Here, the name of the grape variety is stated on the label. Although wine regions around the world differ with regard to regulations denoting what percentage of the stated grape has to be present in the wine to wear its name on the label, it's usually pretty high. Furthermore, you know basically what you are getting and are guaranteed certain pleasure.

3) Vintage-dating. With focus in mind, try choosing wines that have a vintage date on the bottle. This is the year the grapes were grown, harvested and made into wine. Without a year on the bottle, the wine could be a blend of fruit from several years and probably not as good. With the exception of Non-Vintage Champagne and perhaps one or two other offerings, any wine that has no year on the bottle is usually inferior and made like a recipe to always come up with the same taste. The benefit to vintage-dating in wine is that every year produces different quality of grapes and this is reflected in the vintage wine's flavour and structure.

4) Quality designations. Each wine country has some sort of quality classification system. Although they vary in how many sub-levels they have, most possess a three tier system. At the bottom of quality level is usually 'Table wine'- simple often poor quality. Next up would be some sort of 'Table Wine with a geographical description' - from a specific place and often containing some real gems. Finally, there is a Quality Wine category that is usually regulated by an authority that controls everything from grape growing and wine making to labelling and packaging. France has AOC, Italy has DOC/DOCG and Canada has VQA. It's simply a rating system of quality levels.

5) Producers. Certain wine producers the world over have a great reputation for making decent product, regardless of the vintage year or quality level. Knowing who some of these folks are can aid in ensuring that if you purchase one of their wines, you will not be too disappointed. Pick up any wine magazine and leaf through it. It won't take long to see who the reliable producers are. Alternately, take a walk through your local liquor store and examine labels. The predominant producer names will pop out.

6) Vintage Charts. Make use of vintage charts when purchasing wine. As mentioned earlier, vintage-dated wines reflect the particular growing season of the grapes that went into producing that wine. Some years are better than others. By simply picking wines from a better vintage, the quality is bound to be superior. Vintage charts rate the quality of each year's grape harvest and ultimately the finished wine. These charts, which are broken down into regions, are usually available free from countries' trade commissions and wine societies.

7) Wine knowledge. Finally, nothing can replace basic wine knowledge. A good, basic wine course can provide you with a lifetime of worthwhile information when it comes to purchasing product. For example, there are certain countries and regions within that still represent great value in their wines simply because they are lesser known, unclassified or are produced utilizing less expensive labour. I don't think anyone can argue with the quality/value coming out of South American countries like Chile and Argentina. The Balkan countries of Hungary and Bulgaria deliver some good drinking enjoyment at very honest prices. Portugal has some wonderful, inexpensive, decent quality wines. Even Greece offers some real winners today. By carefully shopping some of the big-named areas of specific countries' wine regions (especially in France), you can find many lesser known, yet tasty selections. In fact, many possess similar characteristics to the big guns, without the notoriety and price. French country wines from the south of France are always a good bet.


Tipping in RestaurantsEdward Finstein

Renown wine writer, award-winning author, TV host, international wine judge, wine educator, lecturer, appraiser and consultant.
The Wine Doctor
71 Fenwood Heights
Toronto, Ontario
Canada, M1M 2W1
Phone/Fax: (416) 261-0855

E-mail:wineknow@globalserve.net



Wine Writer:

* Regular wine columnist for Food.ca ("The Wine Doctor")
* Regular wine columnist for SimonDelivers.com ("The Wine Doctor")
* Regular wine columnist for Life Tastes Good ("The Wine Doctor")
* Regular wine columnist for FoodTV.ca
* Regular Beach Metro News wine columnist ("Bottom's Up")
* Regular Elite Wine, Food & Travel national wine/food/travel columnist ("Fermentations")
* Regular Lodging Canada national wine columnist ("Dr. WineKnow's Cellar Reviews")
* Regular CityFood wine columnist (Restaurant Directory)
* Regular HappyHours.com wine columnist ("Dr.WineKnow's Corner")
* Freelance wine columnist for Sun Country Airlines' In-flight magazine
* Freelance National Post Wine/Travel columnist
* Freelance Toronto Star Wine/Travel columnist Freelance Winetidings national wine columnist ("Dr. WineKnow")
* Wine writer for the LCBO¹s publications (Food & Drink, LCBO Today, advertising etc.)
* Writer/editor/publisher of Wine Notes
* Freelance wine writer for various other publications (Food & Leisure, Condo & Chalet, Wine Access, Wine Xplorer.com, etc.)
* Freelance international wine columnist for BARBECUE & BeverageMagazine

Wine Author:
Author of Ask the Wine Doctor, published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
Author of Travels With the Wine Doctor.

TV Host:
Co-host and writer of TV show "Vine & Dine"
Host of Ask the Wine Doctor.

 

International wine judge:

* Catad'Or Hyatt Wine Awards - Argentina
* Catad'Or Hyatt Wine Awards - Uruguay
* Sydney International Wine Competition - Australia
* Michelangelo International Wine Awards - South Africa
* InterVin International - Canada and U.S.
* VinExpo - France
* VinItaly - Italy
* Ontario Wine Awards - Canada
* California State Fair - California
* London Wine Challenge - England
* Concours Mondiale de Bruxelles - Belgium
* Air New Zealand Awards - New Zealand
* Finger Lakes International - New York State
* Fruit Wines of Canada - Canada
* Catad'Or Hyatt Wine Awards - Chile
* All Canadian Wine Championship - Canada
* Premios Zarcillo - Spain
* Mundus Vini - Germany
* Toronto Wine & Cheese Show - Canada
* Japan Wine Challenge - Japan
* Selection Mondiales - Canada
* Vino Ljubljana - Slovenia
* Mondial Pinot Noir - Switzerland

Lecturer at trade shows such as:

* Toronto Wine and Cheese Show
* Gourmet Wine & Food Expo
* Kitchener/Waterloo Wine and Cheese Show, etc.

Wine Appraiser:

* Official wine appraiser for Iron Gate Cellarage
* One of the few wine appraisers in Canada
* Regular wine appraiser for WhatsItWorthToYou.com

Consultant:

* Wine buyer for the Vin de Garde wine club
* Staff trainer for various hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs
* Create and update wine lists for restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs

Part-time professor of wine at George Brown College, School of Hospitality

Former Vice-President of the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada

Cellar Master Diploma - International Wine Academy (California)

Diploma - Independent Wine Guild (England)

Former wine buyer and Sr. Wine Consultant for the LCBO and Vintages

Affiliations:

* International Federation of Wine and Spirits Journalists and Writers
* International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association
* Wine Writers' Circle of Canada
* MediaKitty
* Association of On-Line Appraisers

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