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4 tips to help you choose the best wine with your next meal in St. Louis

Choosing a wine can be a daunting task. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.
Sauce Magazine
Choosing a wine can be a daunting task. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.

Sound Bites is produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine, our monthly installment exploring cuisine in the St. Louis area.

If you’ve ever found yourself in the grocery store aisle, out to eat with family or friends or arriving to a BYOB party, you may have experienced that moment of crippling insecurity: do I go for the wine I know I like or the wine that will make me sound like I know what I’m doing? Oh, you haven’t experienced this? Maybe that’s just us here at St. Louis on the Air then…

Anyway, for this month’s Sound Bites segment, produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine, we got to the bottom of our wine insecurities once and for all. In this month’s issue of Sauce Magazine, there’s a column with three fail-safe wine regions to remember. In this segment, we got a few more tips even beyond the regions to buy from.

Listen to the full discussion with Sauce Magazine Managing Editor Heather Hughes and Advanced Sommelier Andrey Ivanov to take your wine-choosing skills to the next level:

1. When buying wine in a retail setting, develop a relationship with a wineseller.

Ivanov said, whether it is a dedicated wine shop or a grocery store, many retail locations that sell wine have a dedicated wine seller. He recommended developing a relationship with that person, to whom you can be honest about your price point and different flavors you like.

“When wine buyers are brought wine to taste, sample to carry it, they always think, not only ‘do I like this wine?’ but ‘do I have someone to sell this wine to?’” Ivanov said. “If something off the beaten path comes along, they’ll buy the wine knowing your preferences.”

2. Remember this region: Washington state.

Washington State attracts a lot of good winemakers from Napa Valley, but land is relatively cheaper than in California, drawing new flocks of winemakers.

Other regions Ivanov recommends? Santa Barbara County in California. Western Australia, southern Australia and Portugal.

3. It is more important for a wine to be balanced, rather than simply ‘sweet’ or ‘dry.’

“A wine is more important to be balanced than sweet or dry,” Ivanov said. “If something is sweet and has a good amount of acidity, is both sweet and tart, it is going to taste less of both things.”

4. Check out these abbreviations and symbols on a wine label.

On Italian wines, if you see a pink band around the top of the bottle, that’s a good sign, said Ivanov. It’s the top classification for red and white wines in Italy. The same thing goes for Spain, if you see something with a “DOC” or “DOCA” label on it, that’s a good sign.  

Ivanov also said if something says “reserve,” or “reserva,” that means grapes were hand-selected and the best of the bunch. In the U.S., that classification does not carry legal weight, but it does in countries abroad.

A label with “Classico” or “Classic,” that means the wine comes from a limited part of the region. The label “Superior,” means the grapes were picked from the ripest, or best, of the bunch.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.