Welcome to Mark O’Neill’s Wine Blog

Buying wine is not easy, in fact for many it can be somewhat overwhelming. Whether it be a restaurant or a wine shop the way wines are displayed or described assumes the customer has previous knowledge and often makes the experience intimidating. Yet it does not have to be this way. Here are four practical questions that I ask people when they visit our store, to make it easier to choose the right bottle.

Firstly, What is the Occasion? The best wine is the wine that is most suitable for a particular event. It could be a lunch with friends on the same day or it could be to bring to a formal dinner or it could be for a gift. A top Rioja Gran Reserva or a fully bodied Ribera del Duero may be great wines, but they are not the best wines if you are have a lunchtime plate of pasta with friends. Choosing the right wine for the occasion one of the most important jobs of a wine professional.

If it is a lunch or dinner , then the next question is What is on the Menu? If everyone is sharing the same dish, for example a paella or a barbecue, it is important not to choose a wine that is too heavy or oaky or too alcoholic. Keep it simple, there are many easy drink styles of wines that are very versatile, reds and whites, that can accompany a wide range of dishes. A well chosen wine is an added ingredient to any plate of food.

Is the wine a gift? If so then it is good to know if the person who is going to receive the gift knows about wine, this will allow the person giving you advise to be more adventurous in choosing a wine that will be a bit different. Remember a gift is personal so you want the wine to say, ‘I thought of you when I chose this wine’ therefore it is advisable to ask for help in order to make the right decision.

Once we know what the wine is for then the next question is, How much do you want to spend? For anyone who reads this column regularly you will know that spending more does not mean that you will enjoy the wine more than a cheaper bottle. Therefore it is important to have a price range in mind. This is normally in direct relation to the previous question. A comfortable range to find a good quality wine is between €8 and €16. However, for a special occasion or a gift be prepared to spend more but ask first because sometimes the best value for money can be found among the more expensive more specialised wines but ask for advice. These prices I have mentioned are for wine stores. Restaurants are different because the prices vary more and you will have to spend at least double if not triple the retail price for the same wine.

With this information a good wine professional will be delighted to provide you with some suggestions for you to choose. Remember we dont drink wine because we are thirsty so take the time to choose the best wine for each occasion.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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