How to Choose a Delicious Wine
While choosing the best wine is a subjective experience, knowing its essential characteristics is key to helping you pick the right wine bottle for any occasion. When it comes to sweetness, a wine labeled sweet has residual sugar and will taste relatively sweet, while dry wine means it has no residual sugar. Wines with higher acidity usually taste crisp, while low-acidity wine tastes rich. Red wines typically contain more tannins, giving them a drying sensation on the finish. When you see a wine labeled as a light body or full body, it refers to how light or heavy it feels when you drink the wine, respectively. The alcohol content is, of course, the percentage of alcohol in each bottle.
When picking a bottle of wine, keep in mind a higher price doesn’t always mean the wine is better. Consider the occasion and the food you plan to pair it with in choosing the right wine. Not all wines taste better with age, but consider picking the older bottle for red wines. There are many things to keep in mind to find the right bottle, but we at AJA Vineyards are here to help you choose!
Most Well-Known Wines in America
Let’s start with the basics. You walk into a grocery store or wine shop depending on your state, and you will see a wall of wines. Among those will be popular wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Moscato, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc to name a few. Cabernet Sauvignon currently is the most consumed variety making red wines the most popular among styles like red, white and rosé.
It may be organized by variety or it may be organized by region. There are also several popular regions in the U.S. that are dedicated to making wines, called American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs. Some of the most popular regions in the US are areas such as Napa Valley, Sonoma, Columbia Valley, Willamette Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, and The Fingerlakes to name a few. The Malibu Coast is the AVA that serves as the home for AJA Vineyards, where we focus on several types of red, white, and rosé wines and blends. But don’t shop by name alone–keep reading to find the wine that will best suit your tastes.
Common White, Red, and Rosé Wine Characteristics
White wines can be white, pale, colorless, or yellow. They’re made from green, black, gray or (not as often) red colored grapes. Often, it’s recommended to drink white wines young. Most of these wines are bottled just 6 months after harvest. Young white wines are often aromatic, while barrel-aged white wines bring about more baked fruit and baking spice flavors. Barrel-fermented and aged white wines can mature, so you can buy a bottle now and enjoy it later. You can drink them early on, but these white wines also have ageability.
Red wines are red because the grape’s skin isn’t removed during fermentation. They should be served at a slightly higher temperature. At AJA, we prefer our wines at 55º F. Red wines also make for an excellent alcoholic beverage for your meat dishes.
Rosé is usually a hue of pink and is made from a multitude of grapes. Like white wines, rosé is fruity and best served when cold. This style of wine holds up to a great variety of dishes from charcuterie to salad or even a hamburger at times.
How is Wine Made at AJA?
Our white wines go through barrel and tank fermentation depending on the wine. Most of our wines begin their fermentation in steel tanks to preserve the fruit flavor. However, sometimes we utilize oak barrel fermentation to give our white wines body and texture. The entire process takes careful attention to detail to ensure perfect balance and taste. White wines are also released more than a month after bottling to enhance their flavors.
For red wines, the grapes are crushed and fermented with their skins to ensure a rich texture and flavor. Before fermentation, our team soaks the fruit first (at least 48 hours) for the best results. After fermentation, we let the wine mature for about 18 months in oak barrels. We wait for up to 30 months after bottling the wines for a more refined taste.
How to Choose a White Wine
Now that you know how the wines are made, and the flavors produced by the varieties and by the aging process, let’s choose a white wine.
The acidity and sweetness of the white wine matter. Dry white wine isn’t sweet, while a crisp wine is more acidic and feels fresh. However, these wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Muscat and Gewurztraminer can be perceived as sweet because of the bright fruit flavors. Don’t be fooled. Unless there is sugar still in the wine, the wine is dry! Choose Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling if you prefer a more bright white wine.
Go for round white wines if you prefer them with a smooth texture or oaked if you prefer a mature white wine. White wines that are aged in oak barrels often have vanilla or baking spice notes. The body of the wine determines whether it would have a light or heavy feel in your mouth. White wines produced in warmer climates usually have a full body than those in colder climates. If you want a white wine that gets better over time, look for those with residual sugar or are aged in oak. Great examples of these wines are Oak Aged Sauvignon Blancs like our Eds’ Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, or our delicious Central Coast Chardonnay.
How to Choose a Red Wine
The perfect red wine depends on your preference. Some are fuller bodied and some are lighter bodied. Some are more earth driven while others are more fruit driven. And some wines just set the mood. Syrah would be a good option for a romantic date as it’s rich in flavor and smooth. Another factor to consider is the style — light-bodied red wines contain fewer tannins, and medium-bodied will have more alcohol content. You want a higher alcohol content when you have a fattier dish. So pick wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux-styled blends or zinfandel–wines that are known to have a higher alcohol content– when you’re eating a big meal. If you have a lighter meal, or if you’re sharing a bottle and having different meals, rosé, sparkling wine, or Pinot Noir are great options.
How to Choose a Rosé Wine
Are you aware there are about 140 different shades of rosé? Pretty cool you get your pick! But I hate to be the bearer of bad news…color doesn’t usually matter. Unless we’re talking about a deep magenta wine versus a super light pink, you’re more than likely not going to notice the difference. The wine changes color based upon the varieties used in the rosé and the press time. So don’t choose based on color. We recommend you can also choose a rosé according to the region or the tasting notes. For example, lighter style rosé wines usually would come from Provence or would be in Provencal style, while heftier rosés will come from warmer climates or notoriously deeper rosé style areas like Tavel in the Rhone Valley. If you don’t usually enjoy rosé but you love white wine, stick to the lighter side of the spectrum. If you usually enjoy red wines, stick to the darker side.
AJA Wines for Your Taste
At AJA Vineyards, our top priority is to produce the best and the finest wines in California.
We share our recommended pairings weekly on our Instagram. Or if you want more details, you can join our Wine Club and you’ll be able to try our delicious Malibu Coast wines from the comfort of your home! We ship to most states in the U.S., and we also offer 20% off all wines to our members year-round. From our Sauvignon Blancs to our Rosés, our Chardonnays and Syrahs, or even our Cabernet Sauvignon, we know you’ll find something you’ll love! Feel free to visit our shop or let us know if you have questions.