“As a guideline, you should look to spend somewhere between £8-£18 a bottle (with maybe 3 to 6 wines to taste). If you consider that with a £5.99 bottle of wine only 37p is actually spent on production of the wine, it’s clear that you really need to be spending a little more. But as most of the costs in a bottle are fixed, you don’t have to step up too far to ensure much more is spent on production of the wine itself.
“If your budget stretches further, then feel free to move into the £20 plus bracket but do bear in mind that as you go above £20, the nuance of taste becomes more and more refined and can sometimes require a much more experienced palate to really tell the difference.
“That said, some people are very lucky and blessed with a great palate, but there is so much choice and nuance available within the £8-£18 price bracket that will keep you interested for years. Once you’ve got a handle on your flavour and aroma combinations why not splash out on something a little more expensive and see if you think it is worth the extra?”
“Good white wines should have the requisite tastes associated with a certain variety. Sauvignon Blanc should have gooseberry notes (Loire Valley) and maybe some exotic fruits (New Zealand). Riesling can carry lime zest initially and as they age, they develop some petrol notes. Good Chardonnay will show white peaches and maybe some dried apricot etc.
“Good reds, again, should have the required flavours for particular varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon will have blackcurrant at its heart, Syrah will have spicy blackberry fruit, Rioja will have a combination of red fruits and some vanilla notes on the nose, if aged in good oak. Fine red wines will have different textures as the wine develops in the glass (called tertiary notes) like leather, tobacco and chocolate. One of the other things a good red will have is acidity, which stops the palate getting jaded and too 'jammy'. This will show up in white wines as freshness and is equally important.”
“Depending on the styles of wine you wish to have at your tasting, average prices can vary tremendously. What I would say is that if you want to show the qualities of wines then try not to go for the cheapest options, and instead look at specialist wine sellers either via the high street merchants or dedicated online wine shops. You are not likely to get a great idea of wine quality by purchasing the cheapest options from the supermarkets. I would say £15 to £30 a bottle will be the ideal price range for most style of wines you should be aiming for.”
“I really enjoy comparing wines made from the same grape across a few territories, such as the often petrol-scents of light-in-alcohol German Riesling, reaped from vines tugging into the vertigo-inducingly steep slopes of the Moselle River Valley, with a Riesling from Australia’s generally warmer Barossa valley; those wines can often be more about lime flavours – sometimes stingingly so. You can do the same with a slightly tart strawberry-like Pinot Noir from Kent, believe-it-or-not, versus a creamy, raspberry ripple-like version from Sonoma in the United States. Or a bone dry, unoaked Chablis versus a really big – almost splintery – oaky Chardonnay from South Africa.”