You don’t need to be a master sommelier to understand wine varieties. Red wines include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, and the newly popular Pinot noir. On the White side, the most popular are Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, and Rieslings.
The differences can be subtle, obvious and sometimes varying. You can instantly fall in love with some wines. Others you may learn to enjoy over time. It’s subjective and depends on your sense of adventure.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a red high in tannin, resulting in a more heavy, fragrant drinking experience. Not a light wine, usually containing a smoky, peppery flavor. Savor it over a long meal. As this wine does get better with age, select a bottle that is at least 10 years old. Merlot is not as strong compared to Cab. It’s a mellow and fruity variety. Take a sniff to discover touches of plums, raspberries and currants.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying wonderful Malbec’s from Argentina. Affordable and delicious. Dark and mellow, easy to drink. A full-body red wine with touches of blackberries and plums.
The popularity of Pinot noir went through the roof after Sideways, taking the wine industry by surprise. Powerful and aromatic, Pinot noir can be deliciously overwhelming to the senses. Think woody and cherry. As it is a difficult grape to grow, Pinot noir tends to be a bit more expensive.
Zinfandel is the Rodney Dangerfield of wines. Strong in alcohol and spicy, these qualities can be disruptive to a great meal. That being said, wine producers are mellowing those attributes — finally earning Zin some respect.
Chardonnay is an accessible white wine for beginners. A gentle wine, fruity, with smoky touches. You’ll look impressive selecting a random Chardonnay from the menu to compliment your seafood, you can’t go wrong. Pinot blanc is a bit similar to Chard, with a sharper, crisper tone. A bit dry, with hints of spice and apple. Next is Pinot Gris, a subtle, lighter wine with touch of honey and citrus.
Wonderful German Rieslings are strong and sweet. Perhaps too acidic and dry for some. Perfect companion with pork. Sauvignon blanc is also a dry, crisp and refreshing white wine.