Choosing Wines - Tips for Beginners

There are thousands of wines, and hundreds of varieties, that present a huge challenge for a beginner who is just starting to learn to appreciate and enjoy wines.

There is a vast amount of information available about wine, but it is mostly relevant for experienced wine lovers.

How can a beginner get started in choosing wines that they are likely to like and appreciate?

This article is designed to provide the answers in two ways for identifying types of wine:

Choosing wines by identifying the key factors that affect the style of wine. This is commonly referred to a ‘terroir’, that is the features of the soil, climate, grape variety and propagation of the grapes in the winery that influence the taste of the final product.

At a very high level there are four fundamental types of wines that influence the way they taste as a group or type.

  • Fruity Wines,
  • Soil Influenced and Regional Variety Wines,
  • Climate Affected Wines and Innovative and
  • Unique Wines.

Choosing wines by grouping wines with similar taste. The wine buffs have developed various ways of describing and classifying the taste of wine. While the language can be hard to follow this system can be used to identify the style of wine you may like.

This system includes terms such as

  • ‘spicy’,
  • ‘fruity’,
  • ‘smooth and rounded’,
  • ‘sweet’, ‘pepper’,
  • ‘dry’,
  • ‘blackberry’,
  • ‘nutty’ and
  • 'smokey’.

The idea is that if you like a particular wine you can use this taste classification system to quickly find wines with similar taste characteristics.

Choosing wines you love is an art rather than a science
Choosing wines you love is an art rather than a science | Source
Know which wines you like and love the experience and aroma of a great wine
Know which wines you like and love the experience and aroma of a great wine | Source
So many great wines to choose from. Where do you start?
So many great wines to choose from. Where do you start? | Source
Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder. Know what you Like!
Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder. Know what you Like! | Source

Classification of Wines by Their Key Creative Element

There are four major types of wine for a beginner to choose:

Fruity Wines

These are wines that showcase the features of the grape. They are often sweet. A good example is Grenache, Garnacha and most of the Rieslings. The fruity taste dominates everything else. These wine are generally ‘young’ wines and don’t need to be aged. They tend to have low acidity and a rich aroma of fruit. Gamay and Zinfandel are other good examples, but these show more soil and regional influence.

Soil Influenced and Regional Wines

People who like a wine from a particular region will often like similar wines from the same area. The characteristics of the soils impart certain features to most wines from the same region.

Most people stick with what they like by choosing wines from the same locality. This also applies to country of origin, particular for small countries like New Zealand. Large countries such as Australia have huge variations in soils and climate. In this case it is better to stick to wine from a particular state such as Tasmania or a region such as Hunter Valley or Margaret River.

Australia's famous Coonawarra Region, south of Adelaide in South Australia has its unique terra rossa soil. This consists of a limestone base covered by a thin layer of iron oxide–rich topsoil, that give it the red color. This soil type is only found in southern Australia. The Coonawarra is famous for its red wines.

Climate Dominated Wines

Sometimes this is a feature imparted by the wine maker or may take advantage of certain climate conditions to impart certain characteristics to the wine. In frost free areas the grapes may be left of the vines well into winter before being harvested to concentrate the sugars and intensify the flavors. Similarly cool-climate wines generally have unique tastes compared to more temperate areas. There are also the so-called ‘ice wines’ and other styles related to temperature and climate. Climate also strongly limits the range of grape varieties are most successfully grown in a particular region or area. The diurnal temperature throughout the day and other features of the climate impart unique features to the region’s wines. Shiraz from Tasmania is different from Shiraz from the Hunter Valley or Queensland in Australia primarily because of temperature and altitude differences.

Innovative and Unique Wines

These wine are unique for various reasons perhaps because they are produced from a rare variety or a rare combination of varieties. Some people like these unique wines. Sometimes it is due to the imagination and hard work of the wine maker to create something that stands out from the crowd.

Sometimes it is due to aunique ingredient, additive or simply the percentage of alcohol in the wine. Sometimes it is due to a unique process in the way the wine is made or matured. Many people enjoy these craft wines.

Organic and preservative free wines are a particular class of unique wines.

Conclusion

Try new things but stick to what you like and learn what features characterise these wines so that you can choose similar brands with the same features.

Choosing Wines by Type and Style

The image below summarises the broad range of wine types. The style of wine, whether it is sweet or dry is normally described on the label.

Broad Types of Wines
Broad Types of Wines | Source

Choosing Wines by Taste Classification

For each broad type of wine, the wine experts have identified a group of taste characteristics. These are identified for various types of wines in the images below. Various terms such as those shown below are used to group wines with similar tastes:

  • Savory Red, Smoke Tobacco Leather
  • Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry
  • Fortified Wine, Nutty, Semi-Sweet
  • Savory Red , Clay, Cured Meats
  • Fruity Red, Strawberry Cherry
  • Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel
  • Savory Red , Truffle Forest
  • Dry White, Light Citrus Lemon


At the next level within these groups is an additional set of descriptors:

  • Sweet
  • Dry
  • Spicy
  • High Tannin
  • Round (meaning smooth)
  • Juicy

These terms further refine the taste for the wine.

Shown below are 100 common wines that have been classified using this taste system. They are shown in alphabetical order. However you can sort the table by taste category by clicking on the 'Taste Class' heading. Doing this will show three or four wines that share the same taste characteristcs and 10 or more wines within a higher level group.

List of Common Wine and Their Taste Category - (Click the Taste Category to Find Wines with Similar Tastes)

(click column header to sort results)
Wine  
Taste Category  
Aglianico
Savory Red , Smoke Tobacco Leather, High Tannin
Amarone
Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry, Round
Amontillado Sherry
Fortified Wine, Nutty, Semi-Sweet
Barbaresco
Savory Red , Clay Cured Meats, High Tannin
Barbera
Fruity Red, Strawberry Cherry, Spicy
Barbera d'Alba
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, Spicy/Juicy
Beaujolais
Savory Red , Truffle Forest, Spicy/juicy
Blaufrankisch
Fruity Red, Tart Cherry Cranberry, Spicy/Juicy
Blush Wine
Rose, Semi-Sweet
Bourgogne
Savory Red , Truffle Forest, Round
Brunelio di Montalcino
Savory Red , Clay Cured Meats, Round
Cabernet Franc
Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry, Spicy
Cabernet Sauvignon
Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry, High Tannin
Cannonau
Savory Red , Smoke Tobacco Leather, Round
Carignan
Savory Red , Clay Cured Meats, Round
Chablis
Dry White, Light Citrus Lemon
Chahors
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, High Tannin
Chardonnay
Dry White, Rich Creamy Nutty
Chenin Blanc
Dry White, Medium Perfume Floral
Chenin Blanc
Sweet White, Apricot Peaches
Chianti
Savory Red , Clay Cured Meats, High Tannin
Chinon
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, Spicy/Juicy
Cote Chalonnaise
Savory Red , Truffle Forest, Round
Cotes du Rhone
Fruity Red, Strawberry Cherry, Round
Cream Sherry
Fortified Wine, Nutty, Sweet
Dolcetto
Savory Red , Truffle Forest, Round
Gamay
Fruity Red, Tart Cherry Cranberry, Spicy/Juicy
Gewurtztraminer
Sweet White, Apricot Peaches
Gigondas
Savory Red , Clay Cured Meats, Round
Granache Blanc
Dry White, Light Citrus Lemon
Granche, Pinot Noir, ++
Rose, Dry
Graves
Savory Red , Smoke Tobacco Leather, Round
Grenache
Fruity Red, Strawberry Cherry, Spicy
Hermitage
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, Round
Madeira
Fortified Wine, Nutty, Semi-Sweet
Malbec
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, Round
Marsala
Fortified Wine, Nutty, Semi-Sweet
Marsanne
Dry White, Medium Perfume Floral
Medoc
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, High Tannin
Merlot
Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry, Round
Monastrelli
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, Spicy
Montefalco Rosso
Savory Red , Clay Cured Meats, High Tannin
Moscato
Sweet White, Rich Tropical Honey
Most Bulk Wines
Sweet Red
Mourvedre
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, High Tannin
Muller-Thorgau
Sweet White, Apricot Peaches
Muscat
Fortified Wine, White
Occhio di Pernice
Sweet Red
Olorosso Sherry
Fortified Wine, Nutty, Semi-Sweet
Oregon Pinot Noir
Fruity Red, Tart Cherry Cranberry, Round
Orvieto
Dry White, Light Grapefruit Floral
Petite Shiraz
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, High Tannin
Petite Verdot
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, High Tannin
Pinot Blanche
Dry White, Light Grapefruit Floral
Pinot Grigio
Dry White, Light Citrus Lemon
Pinot Noir (most)
Fruity Red, Strawberry Cherry, Round
Pinotage
Savory Red , Truffle Forest, Spicy/juicy
Recioto dell Valpolicella
Sweet Red
Reisling (Spatliese
Sweet White, Apricot Peaches
Rhone
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, Round
Ribera del Duero
Savory Red , Smoke Tobacco Leather, Round
Riesling
Sweet White, Rich Tropical Honey
Rioja
Savory Red , Smoke Tobacco Leather, High Tannin
Rosado
Rose, Dry
Roussanne
Dry White, Medium Perfume Floral
Ruby Port
Fortified Wine, Red
Sangiovese
Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry, Spicy
Sauternes
Sweet White, Rich Tropical Honey
Sauvignon Blanc
Dry White, Light Herbal Grassy
Semillon
Dry White, Medium Perfume Floral
Shiraz
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, Spicy
Shiraz, Viognier
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, Round
Soave
Dry White, Rich Creamy Nutty
Spatburgunder
Fruity Red, Tart Cherry Cranberry, Round
St Joseph
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, Round
St. Julien
Savory Red , Black Pepper Gravel, High Tannin
St. Laurent
Fruity Red, Tart Cherry Cranberry, Round
Super Tuscan
Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry, High Tannin
Syrah
Fruity Red, Blueberry Blackberry, Round
Taurasi
Savory Red , Smoke Tobacco Leather, High Tannin
Tavel
Rose, Dry
Tawny Port
Fortified Wine, Nutty, Sweet
Tempranillo
Fruity Red, Black Cherry Raspberry, High Tannin
Touraine
Dry White, Light Herbal Grassy
Unoaked Chardonnay
Dry White, Light Citrus Lemon
Vacqueyras
Savory Red , Clay Cured Meats, Round
Verdejo
Dry White, Light Herbal Grassy
Verdicchio
Dry White, Light Grapefruit Floral
Vinho Verde
Dry White, Light Citrus Lemon
Vintage Port
Fortified Wine, Red
Voignier
Dry White, Rich Creamy Nutty
Voignier
Dry White, Rich Creamy Nutty
White Bordeaux
Dry White, Light Herbal Grassy
White Bordeaux
Dry White, Rich Creamy Nutty
White Merlot
Rose, Semi-Sweet
White Zinfandel
Rose, Semi-Sweet
Zinfandel
Fruity Red, Strawberry Cherry, Spicy
Zweigeit
Fruity Red, Tart Cherry Cranberry, Spicy/Juicy

WHITE WINE TASTE CLASSES

Taste Classes for White Wine
Taste Classes for White Wine | Source

SWEET RED WINE AND ROSE TASTE CLASSES

Taste Classes for Rose and Sweet Red Wines
Taste Classes for Rose and Sweet Red Wines | Source

FORTIFIED WINE TASTE CLASSES

Taste Classes for Fortified Wines
Taste Classes for Fortified Wines | Source

SPARKLING WINE TASTE CLASSES

Taste Classes for Sparkling Wines
Taste Classes for Sparkling Wines | Source

FRUITY RED WINE TASTE CLASSES

Taste Classes for Fruity Red Wines
Taste Classes for Fruity Red Wines | Source

SAVORY RED TASTE CLASSES

Taste Classes fro Savory Red Wines
Taste Classes fro Savory Red Wines | Source

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 3 comments

Akriti Mattu profile image

Akriti Mattu 18 months ago from Shimla, India

'Just wow' is what i said to myself after reading your post. This is such a detailed hub and so useful for first time wine tasters. Voted up.


dghbrh profile image

dghbrh 18 months ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

Awesome post here. A very detailed and nicely presented hub for the first timers. I really loved the clear graphical representation of the many facts about wine above. Thank you for this well researched hub. Shared across and voted up interesting.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 18 months ago from New York

I'm with Akriti, Wow! This is a very comprehensive explanation of wine. I live in the Hudson Valley in New York, known for its wines and yet I know little about wine.

You've covered so many interesting facets I think I need to read this again!

Loved the pictures and the diagrams.

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

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    Dr. John Anderson (janderson99)753 Followers
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    Dr. John uses his scientific skills (PhD) to research & review wine and wineries topics & guides. John has 5 websites on Ausralian wineries



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