DISCLAIMER: This is going to be my attempt at over-simplifying wine. The goal today is to provide you with a working knowledge of how to pick what you like and not feel cray cray at the grocery store. Long story short there are HUNDREDS of wines but there are five major types of wine.
If you haven’t tried one of each you should round up your friends and tell them to bring one type and experiment. That’s what friends are for! Let’s break it down.
Reds– The most popular are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfandel. Obviously they are red in color and in darker bottles.
Whites-Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio. MOST people like white wines and it’s more fun figuring out which wine subgroups work for you.
Rosé– Too many. Rosé is made from red wine grapes. Look for bottles that range in color from soft pinks to salmon color. If it looks orange or brown DONT drink it. That’s not a good sign.
Sparkling– The bubbly! Champagne, and a large variety of blended flavors and fruits.
Dessert– So I’ll leave the complicated science behind and say this- there are late harvest wines, noble rot wines, ice wines, and fortified wine. The rule of thumb is that if its in a skinny bottle it’s sweet. Fortified wine is wine mixed with other alcohols (like sherry and brandy), most popular being port wines (crazy strong.) ALL of these wines are very sweet- like dessert. Ice wines are from grapes picked WAAY after the harvest season (so late there is ice on the vines, hence the name.) Moscato is a dessert wine…..as in DESSERT TIME. Generally, these are more expensive with smaller pours.
I’m sure you’ve seen folks swirling their drinks
and sticking their nose in their glasses. Half of the experience of wine comes from what your nose picks up FIRST…….. so swirl away, sniff sniff and see what flavors you smell, sip, THEN read the bottle and see if you got it right. These smell and flavor combinations are referred to as “notes.” Common notes are apples, peppers, oak from the barrel, cinnamon, peaches, plums, ok basically everything. Eventually, you’ll know what you prefer.
I HAVENT GIVEN details about the wines because your taste buds are way different than mine. So to better understand your own taste preferences, here is a quick guide on understands wine descriptions so you know what to expect when you read the bottle.
Wine flava is broken down into sweetness, acidity, tannin, and body.
So try this:
1) Make a strong cup of plain tea, sniff it, then take a sip of it while its black. That “bitterness” or the leafy taste is like Tannin in wine. It coats your mouth and is the result of grape skin processing with the wine. White wine has less tannin because the grape skin is removed. No skin, no color, less tannin!
2) Add a few drops of lemon juice to your tea, or squeeze some acid-rich fruit. BOOM! This is just like acidity in wine and what makes up those notes.
3) Add sugar. And that’s sweetness. Sweetness is duh. It’s sweet or it’s not. Wines often say “semi-sweet” which is somewhere riiiiight in the middle of sweet but not overwhelming. The opposite of sweet is “dry” in the wine world. So use your terms wisely 🙂
As for body– it’s about viscosity. How it fills and feels in your mouth. For example the difference in how you drink water versus orange juice versus whole milk versus syrup. A “full-bodied” wine feels heavy or thick in your mouth, A “medium-bodied” wine would feel lighter.
Tips for wine pickin’:
1) Go to Trader Joe’s because they have unique (and affordable) wines to choose from. HEB (usually) has wine samples every Sunday afternoon after the church crowd.
Yeah- don’t judge me, I’m in there every Sunday.
2) Think outside of the box- let the box wine of Franzia go. We are past the “slap the bag” frat games.
3) More expensive does not mean better quality all the time. Expect to pay between $10.00-$25.00 on the good stuff. Anything past that- you better know what your coins are catchin’.
4) Don’t go back to California- Although most things from the Golden State are amazing, just because wine is from California doesn’t mean it’s good. Texas has some great local wines! Check out the local wine at Specs. Here are the local wines I have on my counter right now!
5) On the flip side of that statement- there are a few wines that you should just stop drinking. These include Barefoot, Yellowtail, box wine anything, Sutter Home and %$#^*$%# Arbor Mist. Just like craft beer from local breweries, local wine from Texas wineries are a fabulous idea. My recommendation if you are completely lost is just go to Specs and buy a bottle of everything available from Pedernales Cellars. DONE! Just like that!
And above all relax- it’s JUST WINE!