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6 key words to look out for when buying retail wines

Choosing the right red is a big task in itself. But when it comes to wading your way through the myriad of retail wines you’ll find in any given supermarket, it’s nigh-on impossible to know exactly what is likely to be good and what isn’t worth your time when you’re attempting to buy something that you’ve never tried before.

Use this handy guide on what the key wine-terms you should be keeping an eye out for are. It’ll help you decipher what the best shelf-bought wine for you actually is.

 Gran Reserva (Rioja)

Try to avoid labels that just say ‘Reserva’, instead opt for the Gran Reserva. These popular Spanish wines come complete with a signature strong oak flavour, which comes from being aged in oak for over two years, followed by another three years of bottled ageing after that.

 Grand Vin (Bordeaux)

If you’re buying a Bordeaux look out for the Grand Vin’s. This indicates that you’re getting the first and best berries of this particular vintage, making for a better quality and more flavoursome wine. 

Premier Cru (Burgundy)

These are slightly more toward the pricier end of the retail market, and they’re not always easy to find, but Premier Cru, meaning ‘first vineyard’ is an indication of a relatively high quality Burgundy.

Meritage (California Cabernet Sauvignon)

Meritage is actually a combination of the words ‘merit’ and ‘heritage’. It’s a slightly off-brand American version of a Bordeaux. U.S. winemakers aren’t allowed to out-right use the protected ‘Bordeaux’ name, so they came up with Meritage to indicate that they are using the same grape varietals.

Old Vine (Spanish Grenache or California zinfandel)

If you’re a fan of heirloom (tomato) flavours you’ll want to look for ‘Old Vine’ on your wine labels. This means that the berries are from a plant that’s 30 to 100 years of age. These plants produce smaller berries with intense bursts of strength, flora and boldness.

Classico (Chianti)

Skip any labels that only list ‘Chianti’ by itself. What you want to see is ‘Chianti Classico.’ By doing this you’ll ensure that you’re getting a wine from one of the key growing areas with the best sun orientation and terroir.



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