This may seem a silly question but when looking for wine it is often a good idea to know why you are buying it. Is it for a special occasion, a present, to go with food or just to enjoy. Is it for drinking now or maybe you want to rebuild your 'cellar', or in our case you just see something that is interesting and pick up a couple for some future occasion.
The style of wine does depend on its use, we encourage people to buy by the case, this makes delivery cheaper and a mixed case definitely makes sense as when buying in this way you can have a variety including something a bit special or something that you may not know.
I am often asked for advice and people tell me that they don't know anything about wine. The reality is that you have one great advantage over any so called expert because you know what you like and that is a great starting place for choosing wine.
For everyday drinking try something not too heavy, but think of the season, a nice chilled light white wine, say a Malvasia would be great on a sunny summer afternoon whereas for mid winter in front of that lovely fire a bigger comforting red would be perfect, how about a Chianti?
When buying wine to go with food there has been much written and there is a whole lot of prissiness about little nuances in the wine complementing the food. We still maintain that you stick to the wines that you like with the foods that you enjoy them with. However the following may help but do not forget to think of the whole dish:-
Weight - try and match the weight of the wine with the weight or richness of the food,
Acidity - balance acidity between wine and food, high acid wines go great with high acid foods,
Flavour Intensity - Match intensity go the flavours between the food and wine.
Sweetness - Sweet or dessert wines with sweet foods.
AVOID - The only real avoidance part is salty or fatty foods with high tanning red wines, this can result in an unpleasant metallic taste.
So they are the basics but some good tips to help:-
Consider geography in your selection, there is no surprise that a lot of Italian wines are high acid and go very well with tomato or olive based foods or that Sancerre is such a perfect match for goats cheese, it is right next to Chevignol, famous for this style of cheese.
Tannins react very nicely with the proteins in red meat and help break them down. High tannin wines like Malbec are fantastic with beef or try Cabernet Sauvignon with a big stew.
White meats are low in proteins so go well with white wines or low tannin red wines, chicken is great with Chablis but can be very good with a Valpolicella or Pinot Noir which are both low tannin red wines.
Fish is often quite oily and salty in flavour so the white wines are normally considered the best choice but do consider any sauces being used. Again a 'meaty' style of fish can be great with a light red.
Spicy flavours go well with very fruity wines, Riesling and curry are a modern day classic, Carmenere or Syrah / Shiraz work really well with spicy dishes.
Smoked foods need wine with enough character to stand up to them, Smoked Salmon and Champagne is a classic combination but for the smokiness given by the barbecue in its cooking think of a big Shiraz.
The best advice is to start practicing and expect to make some mistakes on the way. Good and bad matches will help you develop your skills in this area. However, you are entering into one of those great areas of debate around the wine world for at the end of the day it is all about what you like!
And finally a note about quantities, traditionally wine is served in 125ml glasses which means 6 glasses to the bottle, perfect for the dinner party as you can change wines to suit each course. However we are getting more generous and the 175ml serving is very common, you get 4 servings to a bottle and finally a large pub or wine bar measure is 250ml or 3 servings to a bottle.