Returning from a trip to the UK where I was lucky enough to try some interesting wines, I realised that with less wine-related travel, shows and tastings over the last two years, I’ve missed the excitement of tasting new and unfamiliar wines. For the average wine drinker there might, however, be a different reason for not being so adventurous with their palate – their purse!
In the current tough economic times, when you buy wine, it does make sense to go with something you know and trust. Even though it might not be the most affordable bottle on the shelf, making a reliable choice is a wise economic decision. Not taking a chance is safer money-wise, even if it can become a bit boring.
Personality-wise some of us are more adventurous than others. Some prefer to play it safe, to know what they’re in for. Others enjoy exploring and the excitement of trying something new. Sometimes, however, something comes along that interferes with our natural tendencies. Covid might have made even the most adventurous among us a little bit more cautious and financial worries might do the same.
Does that mean we will be drinking our familiar favourites for the foreseeable future and just blame an aggressive Putin for our lack of palate adventure? Even though I am blessed to always have access to great wines from our own cellars, I love experimenting and I thought about a few ways in which we can explore without excessive spending.
Think about travelling. Not yet been to the Amalfi coast? Chances are you have a good idea of what it looks like and whether it is your kind of holiday or not. You might never have been to Iceland, but because of travel shows, magazines and travelling friends’ social media, you can decide whether the Northern lights are enough reason for you to brave the cold. While buying a bottle of wine does not compare with the expense of travelling, the same principle applies. There are many ways to explore your palate without breaking the bank.
- Apps – Can you imagine life without apps? How did we pay our bills, shopped for gifts, or booked a session in the gym without apps? While some consider the Nokia 6110’s “Snake” game (released in 1997), to be the first mobile app, Apple’s App store was launched in 2008, a year after the introduction of the first iPhone. (Read more) If you’re my age, this might sound recent, but it is years ago! Today, there are wonderful wine apps that can help you decide whether a wine would be to your liking or not. The more you use them and rate wines according to your own liking, the better they will understand your preferences and recommend wines to try. Vivino might be the best known. Although it also sells wine (not yet in South Africa), you don’t have to use the platform to buy. You can scan the label of the bottle you are interested in – or even a wine on a restaurant list! – and find reviews and ratings to guide you. There is of course a host of local online wine shops, but if your focus is to explore and learn more – especially about SA wines – also try the Platter’s Wine Guide app.
- Literature – There used to be a beautiful selection of wine magazines available, but as with most other printed media, they’re now mainly online publications. Even if you would never have bought a dedicated wine magazine, you can follow the likes of Decanter, The Drinks Business or Wine Magazine on Twitter, click on news you’re interested in and read it online.
- Food – Wine’s food pairing ability does differentiate it from other types of alcohol. Many leading food magazines or recipe sites give their preferred wine partner to try with a recipe. Woolworths Taste has a wonderful repertoire of recipes with wine pairings. Trying their recipe for an Oxtail Osso Bucco? They suggest the Bosman Adama Red to go with it. And this is but one example. The magnitude of foodie TV shows might also be a good reference although broadcast media can be very sensitive when it comes to promoting alcohol.
- Social Media – There is more to social media than staying connected with friends and family. If your interests are cars and fashion, this is the type of posts you’ll see, but there is some exceptional content on food and wine. As with all other things, not all the “influencers” are equal, but chances are you’ll find some that you relate to – whether you are looking for more serious food and wine combinations, expert opinions or perhaps fun, easy drinks. Have a look at this comprehensive list.
- Restaurants – When the restaurant wine list offers more options per glass than the House White and Red, it is the ideal opportunity to try something new without buying a bottle. If there is a dedicated wine waiter or even better, a sommelier, do tap into the wealth of knowledge, ask for a recommendation rather than opting for the wine you know.
- Taste! The best way to entice your palate is to try more wines. There really is more to wine than the brand you came to love during your varsity days. If you’re lucky enough to live in wine country, go out to wineries and taste. If you are far from any vineyards, keep an eye out for wine tasting events close to you. Winemakers and ambassadors fly all over the world to present their wines and it is the ideal opportunity to explore on a budget. Remember to track your experience on Vivino, it will help the app to guide your future wine selections.
I am all for reliable choices. From a brand perspective, I believe in establishing a style and something you are renowned for. When it comes to what bottle I open, there are wines that I’ll always go back to – some for their quality, some because of what I’m having for dinner and others just because of nostalgic reasons. But the world of wine is so exciting. There are wines from different countries and regions and a wide selection of varieties, blends and styles. Explore, determine your palate, find what it is that you appreciate.
Wine is more than a glass of relaxation at the end of the day, it can be an adventure. And yes, you can please both palate and purse!