The Beginner's Guide to Wine

It's 6:30 p.m. and you're at the grocery store hoping to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner with friends. Staring at rows and rows of bottles, you might be thinking, how do I know which one to pick? How do I know which one tastes good? And how can I pick a bottle that's high quality -- but won't break the bank? 


Wine shopping and tasting can be stressful for anyone, so we went straight to the expert to get her opinion on how to pick the best wines, specifically the best wines from South America. Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is a Master of Wine, and one of only six women in the U.S. to earn the title. She's consulted and made appearances on Top Chef, The Real Housewives of New York, The Today Show, Fox, and Bloomberg TV. She's one of the country's go-to wine experts,  so who better to talk wine than her? With her easy tips, you'll be impressing your guests and friends in no time! And in case you're still a little apprehensive about perusing the wine aisle by yourself, don't be--Simonetti-Bryan provided her favorite affordable options from South America. Try one today! 


1. Understand the region.


"Chile and Argentina are the two largest exporters of wine to the United States," says Simonetti-Bryan. "Both countries produce wine with incredible ripeness and richness and for a great value."  They've both undergone transformations over the years, Chile especially, but with technological advancements in the 80s, the export boom in the 90s, and new viticultural developments during the 2000s, both countries are quickly making a name for themselves in the wine industry. Simonetti-Bryan states that Argentina is now the fifth largest  producer of wine in the world (right behind the U.S.), and Chile is the ninth largest producer.


2. Know your grape!


Argentina and Chile have both spent years developing their identities when it comes to wine. While Chile produces some very good Cabernet Sauvignons and Sauvignon Blancs, the country's best-known and flagship grape is Carménere. "It's a red grape with medium body and richness and it's known for red and black fruit flavors and a savory meatiness," Simonetti-Bryan says. 


On the other hand, Argentina is most well-known for its Malbec, a French grape, says Simonetti-Bryan. "This is one of the hottest and fastest-growing wines in the United States, and it should be." Argentina's flagship white wine is Torrontés. It's not as popular as Sauvignon Blanc, according to Simonetti, but it is softer in its acid and fuller in its fruit. "It's like falling into a pillow," she says. 


3. Know you do have to pay--but not that much!


"There should be some kind of relationship between price and quality," says Simonetti-Bryan. "Generally speaking, wines that are of higher quality (and therefore higher price) should have more finesse, better balance, more complexity, longer length, the ability to improve with age, and show the typical characteristics of its grape and region." So if you're looking for a really high-end bottle of wine for a special occasion, it may be worth it to splurge, but it is possible to pay under $20 for a good bottle of wine that you can enjoy with dinner. Here are Simonetti-Bryan's top four picks: 




Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc: "With citrus  floral notes, fresh grassy tones, crisp acidity, and light body,  it's a lovely, light sipper -- and even better, it’s $11!" says Simonetti-Bryan.


Terra Andina Carménère: "It has cherry and blackberry fruit with notes of grilled meat and something savory," says Simonetti-Bryan. "And for $9, it's one of the best values." 




Torrontés- Crios de Susana Balbo, Torrontes: "It has white peach, floral notes, and is round and soft," Simonetti-Bryan says. "It's also only $13!" 


Malbec- Catena Malbec: "This is the brand that's really started to make a name for Malbec here in the US," she says. "It has rich dark plummy and blueberry fruit with hints of violets and chocolaty tones, and at $19.95, it comes in at just under $20." 


What kind of wine do you like to drink? Share by leaving a comment!