Tips for buying wine at a supermarket

Image with food and wine taken at Thorn tree river lodge in Livingstone, Zambia. PHOTO | WENDY WATTA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Do you prefer white, rose or red? Sweet or dry? Full or light-bodied?
  • The tasting notes on the back label should help you make the right choice within these various styles.

As Nairobi’s wine drinkers expand their tastes for all things wine, good wine shops are slowly responding to the increasingly sophisticated customer demands. From Carrefour and Quickmart to Chandarana and Cleanshelf, supermarkets across the city are upping their game. But with so many different wines to choose from, how should you pick the right bottle for the right occasion?

Preference

Do you prefer white, rose or red? Sweet or dry? Full or light-bodied? The tasting notes on the back label should help you make the right choice within these various styles. When buying from a supermarket, I always go for wines within the Sh800 to 2,000 range. If it’s white, I like a chenin blanc, chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, and if it’s red, I either get a merlot, malbec or cabernet sauvignon. Then there are times when I’m in the mood for a rose...never sweet, but those are personal preferences.

Food pairing

Red meat generally goes well with red wine, and white meat with white wine. Spicy food goes well with semi sweet styles of wine. But rules are meant to be broken.

Feel the label

Run the back of your hand over the label. If the paper feels cheap, you can bet that the producers cut corners in other areas too and what you’re getting is probably a low-grade bottle of wine.

Pick a deep punt

Look at the indent at the base of the bottle, otherwise known as the punt. Generally, the deeper the punt, the better the quality of the wine and the longer it can be stored. Most wines at a supermarket have a flatter base and should be enjoyed sooner.

Go digital

There are some great apps with online wine communities that can help you out should you ever need it. Vivino, for instance, allows you to scan the label of a bottle and ranks it based on user reviews.

Age is a number

Try to get bottles that don’t look like they’ve been sitting around on the shelves for the last three years. Supermarkets will try to put the older ones in the front, so make sure you check if there’s a more recent vintage at the back.

Price

Price doesn’t always equal quality, as you may know if you’ve ever done blind tastings. A bottle may just be expensive due to the startup cost for the winery. Wines from traditional regions such as France, Italy, Spain, Australia are often also pricier than equally good ones from lesser known areas. Have a budget in mind and stick to it.

Occasion

Is it for cooking? A party? Romantic dinner for two? For cooking, boxed wine like Penasol can do the trick. For parties, crowd pleasers are Merlot, Shiraz and Malbec for reds, and Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc for whites. These make a great selection for weddings too. If you are expecting a big crowd, a cask wine made in an easy-to-drink style makes sense as it can please a wide range of palates.

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