Unfortunately, there are quite literally thousands of varieties, and while perusing the different types of wine at your local store or at any wine bar in Singapore, you might find yourself grasping at straws… which in this case means random bottles you picked out because you liked the label style.
Don’t be ashamed. Some people dedicate their entire lives to studying the difference between wine varietals and figuring out the ideal wine to pair for any situation.
Knowing which wine is the right wine is undoubtedly something that takes practice. Pick the wrong bottle on a date, and you’re doomed. Take the wrong one to her father, and you’ll never be invited back again. So, after a copious amount of wine tasting at our wine bar in Ann Siang, Singapore, we have decided to pen down our take on the subject:
Is there such a thing as good wine that won’t break the bank?
“Yes, it does exist, but it’s hard to find. The reason for this is that in Singapore, SGD 9.00 tax is charged to every bottle of wine sold, regardless of price, meaning it’s even harder to distinguish what’s a genuinely good wine from wine that’s simply on offer.”
Do you have any tips for choosing wine in a bar or restaurant? There’s no shame in a gentleman asking for help. Speak to the waiter or sommelier and get their advice – let them know your budget, taste preferences and if there’s anything you’ve had before that you particularly liked. This can easily be done before your date arrives but if they’re early, try to sneak off so you can grab two minutes with someone who knows more about wine than you do, leaving you to claim all the glory afterwards.
What should I be looking for when I’m asked to taste wine? The first thing you need to think about is, do you like it? If not, it’s perfectly okay to send the wine back. The second step is to really stick your nose in it, literally. Does it smell off or a bit funky? If so, then it’s corked and should definitely be sent back. Just trust yourself; if you don’t want to look awkward or you just aren’t 100% sure, ask the waiter for their opinion. Chances are they’ll agree with you.
Most important rules to follow in wine choice. Never choose the second cheapest wine on the menu. It’s usually the same quality as the cheapest one but with a higher mark up. Bars and restaurants know that you don’t want to look cheap so watch out for that trick.
Three good wines to take to your partner’s parents? Take a wine with a story to tell, it’s always a good conversation starter. My top three go-tos:
1: Rhône wines: very good value for money and a crowd pleaser
2: Champagne – because your mother-in-law will love you even more than she already does
3: A white wine from Burgundy
Best reds to have with steak? A bold red with just the right amount of tannins (that astringent feeling in your mouth) will seriously compliment your steak. Chianti, Bordeaux, Rhône and Rioja are all incredible.
If you know steak or other red meat is going to be the star of your meal, you need to choose your wine accordingly – there’s a thin line between pairing and clashing tastes.
Just for value, I’d go for a general red Bordeaux. The entry versions are going to be generally merlot-based with some cab blended in. You’ll get the savouriness and earthiness of a cab, with some of the merlot’s softness blended in.
This will not only make the bottle less expensive than a straight-up cab, but it’s also more versatile — and crowd-pleasing for people with different preferences.
And for an oddball choice that still works, I love sparkling rosé with red meat. Quite frankly, it can drink like a red and a white at the same time. And the bubbles cut through the fat in the same way tannins do. If you can’t do reds for allergy reasons, or if you prefer something chilled, sparkling cava rosé is awesome with red meat.
Going to a barbecue? I would veer specifically towards a Malbec, or a Syrah. This means you are going to be looking for wines from Argentina, Australia, sometimes South Africa.
You want fruity, well-structured dry wines that aren’t overly complex. They aren’t going to fight heavily spiced or seasoned items, making them perfect for your next BBQ-sauce soaked cookout. Or if you just want to drink BBQ sauce with a wine chaser. No judgment.
For the vegan dinner party? Pairing wine might seem like a daunting task. That’s because it kind of is. For this one, you’re going to have to get a little niche.
A grenache Syrah blend, like Côtes du Rhône from the south of France is a good fit. It’s a bistro wine, super-accessible, light and easy, and highly drinkable.
For a white, go for a white Bordeaux, something sauvignon blanc-based. This is a softer, more refined style than whites that hail from outside of France, and pairs very well with grain-based dishes.
Eating pasta? As far as reds go, we recommend a Barbera (a slightly lesser-known Italian varietal), especially with tomato-based dishes. Like a pinot noir, it’s light and versatile — but since it’s Italian, it’s an even more natural match for pasta. It was basically made to complement the dish.
For white, any dry, basic pinot grigio would totally work.
What if you’re going to a pot luck dinner party and you have no idea what’s going to be on the menu?
The most popular red grape in Spain is the Tempranillo, and you can get bottles from all over the country. But historically, the best spot for it is Rioja. It goes with everything. It’s always available. It’s never expensive.
It can pair well with everything from charcuterie and cheese, to hearty stews, to vegetarian dishes. It works with everything. A true utility player.
If you want to bring something to a housewarming party? Buying a bottle of wine as a present — and not necessarily to pair with food — can be an arduous decision, too. You need a crowd-pleaser. A safe bet.
Pinot noir is comfortable. People know it. Most casual wine drinkers will have experience with the grape. They see it everywhere. But it still has some clout.
If you’re on an afternoon picnic? Bubbles are your friend. In general, and specifically here. Any sparkling is great and refreshing when you are drinking outside in the summer.
For date night? You can’t just set the mood with a six-pack of Bud heavies.
Go for white, especially if you aren’t eating, or just having a snack. I’d recommend a chenin blanc. It is a traditional French variety, but not one the public sees or acknowledges that often. Anyone who even kind of likes white wine will like this wine. It’s inexpensive, and much more interesting than a pinot grigio, but also much lighter than a chardonnay. It’s a nice middle ground.
And relationships are all about compromise.
If you’re having seafood? We’ve got two options for you here:
One would be the super-inexpensive choice, that pairs great with all shellfish, called Muscat. It’s only grown on the southern coast of France, and it just goes so well with oysters, anything with brininess.
A Chablis chardonnay might make some people balk, they could be afraid of that buttery, oak flavour that’s inherent in chardonnay. But this one is clean, it’s minimal, it’s citrusy, and it just tastes exquisite with any type of seafood.
To cure your hangover? Sometimes after a night of heavy drinking… you kind of just want another drink with breakfast to cleanse your palate, so to speak.
Try the Provence rosé for this one. Or a good Moscato d’Asti will be good too. It will really help set your head back on straight, without putting you down for the count.
Drinking alone? Sometimes, you are your own best company. And you should toast to that.
Try sparkling, or white. Perhaps an unoaked chardonnay. It’s just clean and easy to drink. Or a sauvignon blanc.
But this one is highly subjective. So be the master of your own destiny, and pick whatever you want.
For pairing with a dessert? Dessert wines, in general, are kind of misrepresented. A lot of people associate dessert wines with being overly sweet, and in turn poorly made, but try the Madeira. For the most part, it’s very versatile. It’s nutty and a little salty, and not quite as overtly sweet as a port would be.
This can go with chocolate, cheese, fruit, savoury desserts or on its own. Liquid dessert, right?
If you are knocking back a few glasses with Mom? Sharing a bottle with Mom can be the only way to really get some of the family secrets out in the open. It can also be fun, too – I guess. Try some champagne. Real champagne is fun and sweet!
A good ‘go-to’ when she wants something dry would be Loire white wines like Pouilly Fume while a good light one would be a red wine called Fleurie from Beaujolais, which is a light fruity red; or anything 100% merlot from France really.
How do you decipher a wine’s label? It depends on the country, as each region and country have different rules and deciphering them can become very complicated, especially when you’re standing in a supermarket aisle with hundreds of bottles to choose from. A good trick is to check the back label which will have some additional information to help you crack what you’re actually looking at: the wine profile, origin, tasting notes, food pairings etc. Otherwise try out some wine apps which can be used as a pocket guide.
If you want to try a new wine, how do you tackle the endless list of choice? Try the Vivino application or ask friends for recommendations, read a blog or just simply be adventurous. Go for wine tastings in Singapore, definitely cheaper than buying bottles on bottles of wine. It just so happens that Tipple and Dram has a whole wine bar at Ann Siang, and not just any old wine but wine that has been specially selected by our panel of wine experts imported in from foreign lands. Ask our sommeliers too, they’ll be more than happy to provide recommendations that’ll amuse your palette.
The fail-safe wine for a gentleman to pick on a first date? First, it’s always better to go with the wine origin of the restaurant, so if you’re dining in a Spanish restaurant, go for a wine from a Spanish region. Chianti Classico or Rioja for meat, French whites from Macon or Burgundy for fish and anything vegetarian and for sweet wines, Riesling is a safe bet to compliment spicy food.
Our best piece of advice for the wine novice would be to trust your taste. You know a bad coffee from your good one; it’s the same with wine. If you don’t want to be adventurous, find something you like and stick to it. And if you want to step out of your comfort zone, use your personal preferences and previous experiences to determine what you like and don’t like simply by assessing if it’s too heavy, too bold, too light, too acidic etc.
As a parting gift, one bottle every gentleman should try in his lifetime would definitely be First Growth Bordeaux.