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The Three Ws of Wine

Robert Parker is one of the most knowledgeable and influential wine critics in the world.  Here’s a piece from his website,, that I find very useful and educational. I would encourage anyone serious about learning more about wine to subscribe to his site and also purchase his wine guides.

The subject of wine is so vast it can easily be intimidating for those of us just beginning to understand and enjoy it. This guide will help you develop a basic perspective on wine and serve as a useful tool for choosing a wine tableside or in your favorite wine store.

I encourage you to broaden your wine horizons. Don’t always play it ‘safe’ with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Chardonnay. While these are very important grape varieties, they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

Also consider trying something other than California wines. Otherwise you’ll miss out on the many exciting and affordable wines being produced in regions like Australia, South America, Spain, Italy, and the South of France.

It’s as easy as remembering the three Ws of wine!

What Type of Grape?

When we’re talking about the ‘What’ of wine, we’re talking about what wine is made from: grapes! Grape varieties largely determine important factors such as color, body, character, flavor, when you should drink it and its tannin level.

Together these factors also influence the foods a wine best complements. I don’t believe in rigid rules in this regard, but I’ll give you some general guidance for food pairings with each variety.

Keep in mind some wine labels tell you what grapes the wine was made from. But this isn’t always the case—particularly with wines from France. For example, many people who love to drink Chardonnay from California are surprised to learn that white wines from Burgundy are made from the same grape.

Where were the Grapes Grown?

Differences in climate and soil have a dramatic impact on the taste of wines made from the same grape. This isn’t quite the whole story since winemaking techniques vary around the world and definitely impact the final result. However, paying attention to where the grapes were grown will definitely help you orient yourself and figure out the flavor profiles you prefer.

When were the Grapes Grown?

A wine’s vintage influences its quality. All other things being equal, the higher the quality of grapes, the better the wine. In general, grapes do best when the climate is hot and relatively dry, particularly in the late summer and fall. Too cool and they may not ripen. Too wet and they may be diluted or rot.

Paying attention to vintage is important when you are faced with a list of unfamiliar wines. Knowing that the Northern Rhône had a great vintage in 2003 or that Bordeaux produced great wines in 2005 can increase your chances of making a good choice. Knowing that the harvest was disastrous in the Southern Rhône in 2002 can help you avoid disappointment.

Cover photograph by Aline Ponce from Pixabay. Used through a Creative Commons licence.

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