Judging a bottle by its label

How to pick the best wine from the shelf

RESPONDING to such a basic instinct as love at first sight is, of course, not confined to an attraction between human beings only.

In the world of shopping, too, it can so happen that one develops an instant liking for a certain product, say, a wine that stands out on the crowded shelf in the liquor shop.

This can sometimes be the result of the exquisite label catching your fancy or something about it that nudges your sixth sense, forcing you "to go for it" immediately.

One wine guru has come, after surveying consumer behaviour at shops for a long time, to the conclusion that it can take as little as 60 seconds to select one's choice of wine from the shelves. This in spite of the shopper seeing the wine for the first time.

If the first-time choice turns out to be the best choice, good for you. But for others the blind date can be a real turn-off after the first swig.

Fortunately, there are a few thumb to allay one's trepidation after a bad experience.

Five tips (sourced from Spit or Swallow/AskMen websites) should make shopping for good wine something of an illuminating adventure. The tips are:

Take a look at the back label:

Front labels can be enticing, but check out the full package before you purchase. Back labels provide you with more details about a wine.

Scent of attraction:

Swirl and sniff. Here's where two rules of tasting 101 come into play. Chances are, the more you smell, the better the wine may taste. The taste is confirming what you sense.

Play with your tongue:

Sound sexy? Well it is, but focus. Once you've swirled and sniffed your way around the glass, go in for the sip. Let the liquid move around your tongue. Use your taste buds to figure out how many different flavours you can recognise.

Check out the year:

If you do some homework and know your years and some favourite regions, you'll know if climate and weather conditions produced a perfectly ripe harvest - and good wines. Extreme heat or cold or too much rain can take a toll on the quality of some grapes.

Embrace what you really like:

If you purchase the wine again, chances are you like it. Explore the world of wine. Taste is subjective, which means the best wine is the one you like.

A new practice by wine cellars, that is to include in the back label possible food matches to go with the wine, is very useful.

But the best teacher when it comes to food-and-wine pairings is always to experiment, and be the judge in the end.

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