Almost every wine I buy is something I have already tasted, usually in a tasting room or maybe at a wine tasting event. So I choose wine based on what I've tasted in that setting -- meaning less than an ounce of the wine, during the day, with maybe one other person, and without food. This is why I'm still not 100% accurate on buying the right wines. I still buy wines that I don't care as much when I open them on an evening later. Occasionally, the wine is surprisingly good and, of course, I wish I'd bought more. Why is never quite the same?
The setting and the situation are the key determining factors in whether or not you love a wine. Also, wines that often taste pleasing on that first sip don't hold up by the second glass. Other wines (the best ones IMO) are just hitting their stride as you finish up your dinner and you can't wait to sit back and enjoy another glass and savor the moment.
It comes down to the environment you are in.
- The meal is key, if you're eating with the wine. Some wines require food to show well. All wines will change with food -- some for the better, some not.
- Certain wines will be better in hot or cold weather. Cabernet Sauvignon with a winter stew. Yum. A glass of Cab on an afternoon on the patio when it's 90 degrees? Yuck.
- The company you're with. Great company makes everything better.
- The mood you're in. Ever notice how sparkling wine is a great pick-me-up after a tough day?
- Your health matters. Sometimes medication or if you feel you're coming down with something or just getting over a bug of some kind will drastically change how much you enjoy a wine. Wine (and food) is perceived mostly through the nose so if you're stuffed up your enjoyment drops drastically.
- Where you are. A fancy restaurant with your Significant Other, or better yet on vacation at a beach-side restaurant eating the catch-of-the-day with your SO. The whole event is so memorable that the wine will be, too. You might actually have the same wine at home sometime later and wonder why you had liked it so much. It was the setting.