We know firsthand the delicious and classy experience a good bottle of wine can create. It can be the perfect complement to a well-deserved celebration, the finishing touch on a romantic evening, or just an overall good time for everyone involved. On top of that, when consumed in moderation, wine actually has some proven health benefits.
However, not all wines are the same. There are sweet wines and dry wines, fortified wines, lighter-bodied wines, etc. Although you might enjoy them all, learning how to differentiate them and order the best bottle of wine available is a sure way to improve your experience.
How to Choose Wines - Key Factors to Consider
1. Understand the Characteristics of Wine
Before you can identify and order the best wine bottle, you must understand the main characteristics of wine. Tastes and preferences in wine may be subjective, but there are universal characteristics that define wine. They include;
Wine can either be highly acidic (more tart) or have low acidity (richer on your taste buds).
Wine can either be dry (zero sweetness), semi-sweet (slightly sweet), or sweet. This characteristic is usually indicated on the label.
Wine can range from light body to full body. This characteristic describes how the wine will “feel” in your mouth i.e., will the wine feel light or heavy? Generally, white wines are lighter than red wines.
Wines are also differentiable by their alcohol level (denoted as ABV or alcohol by volume), which can range from 5% to 20%.
Wine contains tannins (compounds present in grape skins). They can be present naturally or added as wine is being aged. The composition of tannins determines if the result is a bitter wine and just how bitter it may be. More tannins mean a bitter and dryer finish.
2. Wine Preference According to Experience
Like most things, flavor preferences for wine tend to evolve and depend on your level of experience. Rose wines or sweet white wines are generally preferred by those who are just learning to appreciate wine, while dry red wines are preferred by people with more experience.
3. Wine by Flavor
You can also order wine by flavor. Your choice in this regard can be guided by what you already drink. For instance, the drinks you already love, like coffee, grape juice, grapefruit juice, apple juice, etc., are a great identifier of your preferred wine flavor.
- If you love grapefruit juice, you should probably order dry white wine.
- Apple juice enthusiasts are likely to enjoy any sweet white wines.
- If you enjoy bitter coffee, highly acidic wine is recommendable to you.
- Your love for specific coffee (black or latte) can also offer clues. Black coffee enthusiasts will enjoy old world wine (primarily from Europe, where winemaking began) and with distinct traits like a lighter body, less fruity, highly acidic, and low alcohol. Those who prefer latte will love new world wine characterized by a fuller body, pronounced fruit flavors, low acidity, and high alcohol volume.
4. Wine by Label
When it comes to ordering the best wine bottle, this is where it starts to get interesting. Once you’ve understood wine characteristics, preferences over time, and flavors, you’ll need to understand wine regions, varieties, and wine producers to select the best wine bottle.
a. Wine region & variety
Wine labels usually have critical information to guide your selection. Among this information is the region the wine comes from and the variety/varieties. In fact, wine tasting begins with understanding regions, varieties, and combinations.
Old world wine vs New world wines: Some wines come from regions with an old history of winemaking, hence the word “old world”. These regions have strict rules and regulations on grape cultivation and winemaking for the wines to get specific designations (like Rioja and Chianti) on the label. The result will be wines that get a label from certain regions primarily in Europe (countries like Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal) and parts of the Mediterranean basin, which can sometimes mean they'll be expensive bottles.
New world wines encompass all wines from regions that fall outside traditional wine-making areas, making them an exciting choice for true wine lovers who are seeking new and bold flavors. New world wines tend to have a higher level of alcohol, lower acidity, a fuller body, and pronounced fruit flavors.
Variety: When analyzing a wine based only on its region, focus on smaller regions as those tend to offer high-quality wine since there are fewer vineyards. For example, a cabernet wine (made from the most popular red grape varieties) will be better if the label indicates it comes from a region like Sonoma (with 24,000 hectares of wine grapes) compared to a Cabernet labeled California (where there are 257,000 hectares of wine grapes).
However, beware of the fact that wine from new world regions may have misleading labels i.e., the wine can be labeled as a single variety but fail to contain 100% of the said variety. There are many new world wines that are labeled “single varietal” which are blends that contain 25% of another grape variety. The importance of ordering wine from reputable sellers in LA like Sparrow Italia can’t, therefore, be overlooked.
b. Wine Producer/Winery
The best bottle of wine in Los Angeles or anywhere else will definitely be from a reputable wine producer/winery. Winery information is usually contained on the back label of the wine. You should be looking for “estate bottled” wine (which is a wine that has been grown, produced, and bottled at the same winery). The entire winemaking process must take place at the winery for the back label to read estate bottled. Most importantly, 95% of the wine grapes must originate from the named vineyard.
Wine can also be labeled as produced & bottled by a certain producer/winery. This means only 75% of the wine grapes used to make that wine were fermented in said winery. The other 25% could have been purchased and blended with the rest.
Wines can also bear other labels i.e., labeled “vinted & bottled by” or “cellared & bottled by” meaning they are either made partially or entirely by someone else, respectively. While such wines may still be good, they can’t compete with estate-bottled wines whose entire process is handled by a single winery/producer under very strict conditions.
5. Wine by Age
Wine (especially red wines) tastes better as they age due to the chemical reactions that occur with the components (acids, sugars, and phenolic compounds). Examples of red wines that age perfectly include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo.
Also, while aging and better taste/flavor largely applies to red wines, there are white wines that also get better with age. Notable examples include Chardonnay, Riesling, and White Bordeaux.
6. Wine Pairing
Lastly, if you want to order the best wine bottle to go with your meal, consider pairing it the right way. Wine goes well with food (boosts the flavor) if you understand the basics of wine-food pairing.
As we are wine specialists, you can follow our professional advice and pair wine with food in line with each rule of thumb below;
- White wine pairs perfectly with fish such as tuna or carpaccio, among other white meats
- Red wine pairs perfectly with red meat
- Light dishes i.e., a light salad should be paired with light-bodied wines
- Food from a certain region should be paired with wine from that region, as both come from the same soil and are bound to complement each other. For instance, pasta like Cappelletti (which is from northern Italy) is best paired with wines from the same region i.e., Barbera wine.
Find the Best Wine Bottle in Los Angeles at Sparrow Italia
If you're searching for some of the best wine bottles in Los Angeles, visit Sparrow Italia, a high-end Italian restaurant with one of the best “wine by the bottle” selections in West Hollywood. Enjoy everything from classic Italian wines to French wines, rose wines, new world wines, and more.
In fact, Sparrow Italia has every single wine mentioned above. Order the best wine bottle from our examples or discover and indulge in other great wine bottles at Sparrow Italia.
Book a reservation to enjoy the best wines from picturesque vineyards across the best wine-making regions in Europe and the world. While at it, have a high-end wine & pasta pairing experience, or pair the best wines with other Italian delicacies with a Mediterranean twist. Explore Sparrow Italia’s dinner menu.
Visit the restaurant at 939 S Figueroa St. Suite 200, LA, CA 90015. Sparrow Italia is a member of the Noble 33 chain of high-end restaurants present in Los Angeles, London, and other major cities across the globe.