Firstly, I drink wine and other spirits too, I just try to keep it in moderation. I do however avoid gluten, so no beer. I wouldn't want to do anything that inferred with my social life though, i.e not drinking.
Wine can be regarded as a somewhat pretentious matter. I do not pretend to be a connoisseur, by any means. However, I am open to learning. Humans only have receptors for 5 main tastes: Bitter, Salty, Sour, Sweet, Umami.
Selecting Red wine in a Spanish supermarket
First of all this is about Red wine, red wine is made from black grapes rather than Rose wine (the skin of the grape isn't used in the fermentation), White wine (white grapes) or Claret wine (mix of white and black grape).
There are many variables that affect the quality of a wine. For a wine to get the shelf, attain a label, it must adhere to certain quality control standards, the grapes must be of a certain quality, the most typical can be:
Tempranillo (Ribera del Duero, Rioja) the best grape for ageing
Cabernet Sauvignon (France)
Syrah (Jumilla and Argentina)
To start a vineyard in Jumilla, Murcia, for example, only grapes of Monastrell or Syrah variety are allowed if the wine is to be marketed. The soil in Murcia region is rather distinct from the soil in Rioja, which has an influence on the flavor too (subjective). Rioja is a region that sits at the base of the Pyrenees, a mountain range formed by the meeting of Iberian Peninsula and France, this means that many strata lines have been exposed, meaning there is a richness of nutrients in the soil. Murcia is a region also has very fertile soil, following down from the Valencian valley. The best places to make vineyards are supposed to be where there is the greatest variation between daytime high and nighttime low temperatures.
The second choice a winemaker may make that will influence the taste of a wine, is the time at which the grape is picked depending on it's maturity. This is called the venidemia, it may be stated on the label.
Wine is fermented with yeast. In fact when the grapes are still on the vine and you press a finger against a grape, a fingerprint is left, because wild yeast spores form a coating over the grapes, yeast is particularly attracted to grapes. However in wine making the fermentation is a controlled process. What defines the taste of a grape is supposed to be in skin (hollejos).
The grapes are put into stainless steel barrels, the temperature is controlled, to moderate the rate at which the grapes ferment.
Dejar que Repose
Vino Joven, young wine, is the wine that is taken after being let to sit little time only time in a steel barrel
Meterlo en Barril de Roble
The barrels may be made of French or American Oak. They are burnt on the inside for a time, this has some definition on the final taste of the wine.
3-6 months in oak barrel = tinto Roble
12 months = Crianza (1 year in bottle)
18 months = Reserva
Beyond 18 months is Gran Reserva which is also left for perhaps 2 years bottled before reaching the shelf
There are different types of cork, Full Cork, Plastic Cork, Composit, these all have some influence on how the wine ages too. Wine will continue evolving in the bottle but at some point loose quality. The idea is to buy and keep for a while. Some wine sellers even replace the corks after a certain amount of time.
Actually buying a wine
1. Go to the supermarket and look for the label "Ribera del Duero" or Rioja - if not
2. Look for Tinto Roble
3. Find the cheapest bottle... normally around 2€
possibly I will add to this post, so I might make this into a page instead.