Have you ever gone to a liquor store searching for a nice bottle of wine, but instead found only a disgusted stare from the clerk when you had no clue what you were looking for?
Some time ago, I did. But after delving into the wonderful world of wine, I found out that simply asking for wine could end with you getting a bottle of just about anything. That is why I would propose that everyone learn some wine basics. This way, the next time you get back to that same liquor store, you can politely let the clerk know you won’t be needing their help anymore. Hint: this drives real wine nerds crazy.
Your common wine novice is often heard ordering their wine merely by the color; red or white. And in some cases they are aware of a Rosé. Contrary to popular belief, not all reds and whites are the same. Now that you are an adult, you should be able to pick your grown-up drink by its proper classification and not the way you picked juice when you were a child. “I want the blue juice,” is what I remember saying when I was young.
When it comes to white wines, you can play it safe with something sporting a low alcohol content and a high level of sweetness. If you are this person, you should hover around Rieslings, particularly German ones. But if you fancy more of an adventure and tend to like something with a sour snap to it, venture into the world of Sauvignon Blancs. There are many that fall in between, but they are so numerous that there is not nearly enough time to touch on all of them.
In the realm of red wines, someone who is just breaking in might want to stick with a fruity and light Pinot Noir; the kind the movie Sidewayshas made so popular. You could even sip on a nice jammy Cabernet Sauvignon. But with red wines, as you move up the ladder, you have to worry about tannins. Tannins come from the skin of the grape and in a higher concentration tend to taste like that strand that comes off of a banana peel and you accidentally eat. Some do not mind this taste, and for you I would recommend something a bit more serious like a Shiraz, which also procures a spicy flavor. Once again, as with whites, there are too many red varietals to explore.
If you are one of those people caught in the middle stage of going from white to red, you may want to consider a Rosé. These wines are made from red grapes, but have had very little contact with the skins, which hold the tannins. This produces a wine with a pinkish color and a sweeter and juicier flavor than your textbook reds. And this is where I would like to mention that you can astound your friends with a little tidbit of trivia: You can make a white wine from a red grape, but can not make a red wine from a white grape. Think about, it makes sense. Now disperse this knowledge and let everyone stare at you like you’ve got a neon green pocket protector and glasses with tape holding the bridge together.
When dealing with wine, it is important to remember that not all regions create their wines the same way. Some varietals that are created to taste one way in a certain country may taste totally different when pieced together in another country.
With white wines, there is a tendency for a milder flavor when they are made in places like the United States and Europe. For instance, in France and in many areas of the United States, chardonnay is fermented or aged in oak barrels. This creates a creamy flavor and texture for the wine. In contrast, places like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa tend to use stainless steel fermentation, which keeps the flavors crisp and more on the acidic side.
So just like with knowing which varietal you will prefer, you should also be familiar with where it is coming from and how that will affect its flavor. I know just popping any old alcoholic beverage in your mouth regardless of taste is something that everyone likes to do from time to time. But if you want to look like you know something, do your research and know your favorite varietals and wine regions of the world.
Often times when you are looking for a nicer wine for a special occasion or for a gift, people will look for the higher labeled prices. This could not be more of a mistake. If you want to start shopping smarter and stop paying more when you don’t need to, find out the quality of the products. Numerous times I have tried pricier wines that have been unimpressive and have then turned to a vastly cheaper bottle that satisfied me to the core. Just because a bottle of wine costs more does not mean that it tastes better. It just means they can fool people.
Yes, one of the best bottles of wine I have ever tasted came in with a $60.00 price tag, but a close second in the same style comes in much cheaper at $10.00. And if you devote some time to tasting around, which, by the way, many liquor stores will allow during wine tastings, you will find some amazing bottles of wine that will woo your taste buds and leave money in your wallet at the same time. This will also save you money when you buy for others. You can say that you went for quality and never even tell what the price was. Those who remain wine novices can be easily fooled into thinking that a beautiful bottle of Two Brothers Big Tattoo Red costs somewhere around $20 or $30, when it actually costs more like $8.00.
Knowing about the varietals, regions and pricing of wine is essential for anyone trying to appear knowledgeable on the subject. But even if you’re not trying to show off, it comes in handy simply for finding yourself a beautiful bottle that you can savor and know you paid a fair price for.
** My wine knowledge comes from extensive training through college and an intense course through a wine distribution company. I have worked as one of those people giving out recommendations in liquor stores. If you have any wine related questions, feel free to contact me at: email@example.com. I love to talk wine, so don’t feel as if you’d be bothering me.
Wow. I'm dizzy.
As I heard Tom Waits once say, "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me then a frontal lobotomy".
I now feel empowered to venture out to my nearest liquor store and try to pick something new to try. I confess to ordering my wine like my kool-aide – white or red. I am fascinated by all the varieties you talked about and can't wait to try a few.
Carl Corse says
Finally an article to which I can comment without jeopardizing the financial security of my employees!
Nice wine primer….I, like many of my friends, came at the wine thing from a different direction. We started only liking the heavies…the great California Cabernets. But after a time of drinking wines that were thicker than our entrees, we began to discover the complexity of the lighter varieties. The Pinots and Roses, the Valpolicellas (Italian wines rock), and dare I say even the Shiraz. So don't be embarrassed when ordering a Reisling, a Pinot Noir or Grigio…Some may think you are a novice, but you may just as well be on your seventh evolution of taste.
There is a great wine store on the edge of Annapolis towards Bay Ridge in the Hillsmere Shopping Center where, on the weekends, you can sample dozens of different wines (I haven't been in the new Cork & Barrel in HdG but hopefully he does the same).
Easy though, it is a long drive home to Harford County.
Finally…Thanks to the wonderful Aberdeen family who hosted a wine tasting party recently…I will not mention names because of the possible waylaying of repressed bloggers…it was a wonderful event and my wife and I had a great time.
I agree. This article was refreshing and very informative. Thank you!
Wine World in Bel Air, near Bel Air has wine tasting most Fridays and during the weekend as well. They have a nice selection. Elizabeth is the owner and she is quite wine savvy.
I was at that wine tasting party given by an Aberdeen family and we had a wonderful time as well. Looking forward to next year!
The AB says
yes that was a great article. and i love Wine World!! i live right down the streeet and they have the best selection around with a very knowledgable staff especially the really tall kid.
I prefer something that's a little raspy and overbearing, like Boone's Farm.
What the heck is a "Jammy" wine?
A jammy wine is one that has a sweet and fruity flavor to it like jam (jelly).
Like Boone's Farm. Fruity!
What do you think of the locals…Boordy and Fiore?
Linganore Mountain White (Mt. Airy, MD) if you want a sweet, dessert wine! One of our favorites!
How about a local white for holiday dinner?
One always gets a little confused when trying to pair the right wine with food: red meat/red wine .. or rose? Seafood is usually white so white wine .. or rose? What about salmon, its pink? My father used to tell me the wine that goes best with any meal is one you like. So, tasting is something one definitely has to do.
I ran across a great little liquor store in Aberdeen (Beard's Hill Liquor). They do a wine tasting on Friday and Saturday. The owner (I think he's the owner) will open three or four varieties and offer samples. It's a good way to find out what kinds of wine one likes and to try different varieties. Following your guidance on the price of wine, all I've tried have been relatively inexpensive, but all have been pretty good.
I think Fiore is a pretty solid winery. Their chambourcin is especially good wine. Boordy has a few good ones, but not many in my opinion. Although if you are looking for a good white for the holidays that is local, I would recommend Boordy's seyval-vidal-chardonnay blend. It has a picture of a rockfish on it. Let me know if you try it and what you think.
Thanks for the tip, Carlin. I grew up a stone's throw from the Fiore's in Pylesville, but never was much on the vino. As I have grown up a bit, (I'd like to think) my palate has matured beyond enjoying a cold Natural Light Ice with dinner. I'll let you know how it goes over at the xmas party.
The Boordy blend you suggested went over well at the party. Thanks again for the tip. As payment in kind, since I don’t want to be accused of accepting gratuities, I have a tip for you:
It’s cold outside, wear a hat!
Glad to hear the wine was a hit. Makes me feel like I can actually do some good in this world, no matter how little the impact. Oh, and thanks for the tip about wearing a hat. I have a tendency to never wear hats. Probably should.