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Wine Beginners

Updated on March 5, 2015

If you are a beginner, there are a few things you need to know about wine. Generally, there is white wine, rose wine, and red wine and they run from very dry to very sweet. People usually start off with the sweeter wines and work their way over to the dry wines once they have an acquired taste for wine.

Red wine:
There are several types of red wine, but we will go over the basics. Cabernet Franc is fairly popular in the US and generally earthy and dark in flavor. It is made with black grapes and pairs well with ham, roasts, and barbecue. Next is Cabernet Sauvignon which is dark in flavor and often blended to soften its intensity. When first made, it is more rough but as it ages, it is full bodied. It is best paired with red meats. Malbec is a tart red wine, It can vary greatly in taste, with hints of plum and spices. It is sometimes blended with other wines, and pairs well with most meats including spicy dishes. Merlot is one of the most popular, smoothest of the red wines. It pairs well with most meals and is generally less tannic and sharp than other red wines. Pinot Noir has a weedy flavor, often fruity, earthy, and fresh. It has soft tannins and has strawberry, plum, cherries, and an earthy taste. It pairs well with sushi, salmon, lamb, and chicken. Shiraz takes on many forms, from port to fruity and sparkling. It often consists of dark fruits with spicy overtones, and best paired with different meats from steak to beef. Zinfandel is generally lighter and often fruity although it can vary. It is zesty and has hints of berry and pairs well with barbecues and sauce based meals.

White Wine:
Chardonnay is a popular white wine, with citrusy and apple flavors. It is generally crisp but can also be buttery, with hints of vanilla. It is a velvety wine that pairs with chicken and fish. Pinot Blanc is similar but a bit less intense than chardonnay, and also has a crisp apple undertone. It pairs with foot items from appetizers and eggs to poultry and cheeses. Pinot Grigio is light and crisp, dry yet fruity. It has a bite and pairs well with many food items including chicken, fish, and cheeses. Riestling is generally light with hints of apples. Depending on the wine and region, it can vary greatly from dry to very sweet. It pairs well with pork, seafood, and chicken but its sweeter versions can even be paired with desserts. Moscato is generally sweet and fruity. Non-wine drinkers will like moscato and new wine drinkers will usually start with this wine. Its light, sweet, fruity flavor pairs with desserts. Sauvignon Blanc can vary greatly but often has hints of herb, pineapple, peach, and citrus. In some cases, its unoaked version can be smoky. It pairs well with salads and seafood.

My advice is to start with a moscato or riestling and work your way to drier wines. It generally helps to attend tastings so that you can try a myriad of different kinds of wines. Not only do you learn which wines you like best, but you acquire a taste and learn to appreciate the different kinds of wines.


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