Tips on Buying Wine, Part 2

Continuing our 2 part guide on choosing wine – James offers more insights into separating the wheat from the chaff.

4.) Pick a region

In some ways, different wine regions are more bewildering than grape varieties. Different regions have different climates and growing conditions. This can significantly affect the taste of grapes, a wine’s country of origin is critical to its flavour. That means that a French white can be radically different from a South African, for example.

When it comes to picking a wine region, no one’s expecting you to know the finer details that set apart French and German whites, for example, but a brief geography lesson goes a long way.

Some countries and regions are renowned for producing world class wines from a particular grape variety or a blend of grape varieties. South Africa, for example, is known for making excellent Chenin Blanc, Clare Valley is a region in South Australia famous for wines made from the Riesling grape variety.

A few pointers for your travels:

Look for American wines from Oregon and California’s Napa and Sonoma counties;

New Zealand wine is universally excellent; if you want Sauvignon Blanc then go for a New Zealand one;

France’s Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne regions produce some of the best wines (and expensive!) in the world;

Your best bet for a good Australian wine is a Shiraz.

South Africa makes some excellent Chenin Blanc

5.) Pick a year

Contrary to popular belief, age isn’t everything when it comes to choosing a wine. While some bottles will approve with age, not all do. In fact, most of the wines available in supermarkets you buy may even worsen.

When someone talks about a wine’s vintage, they mean only the year in which the grapes were harvested and the wine was produced. Each year can be different; weather conditions affect grape quality and output. As a result some vintages may be considered better than others.

Most red wines improve with a bit of ageing. However, that doesn’t mean you should buy today for a big party in 2011. Usually, wineries don’t release their reds until the bottles have aged for two years. So what’s for sale on the shelf is very drinkable.

On the other hand, most whites and sparkling wines don’t need ageing. They’re ready to drink right away and can worsen if they’re cellared.

I hope that helps peeps. If you have any questions about wine – please give me a yell at



James Lawrence

James Lawrence is a self confessed wine obsessive, passionate about discovering and promoting the lesser known wines and wine regions of the world. He is a frequent contributor to and runs an interactive, community led wine forum, In 2004, he went to study in Bilbao, Northern Spain. Luckily for him, the famous wine region of Rioja was just over an hour away by car. He began to spend a great deal of time there, visiting the wineries in Rioja and speaking to local wine makers. Their passion for the subject and their pride in the wines was infectious. He began to realise what an amazing subject wine is and how wide and complex the world of wine could be. Subsequently James moved into wine retail while finishing his degree, and was hooked. James also enjoys food and travel writing - he lives for Italian and Thai cuisine!

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