So now that you are on your way to becoming a wine lover without being a wine “snob,” what are the basics that you need to know before you can start figuring out what you like? Opinions vary on this subject, but here’s my take on it: figure out what type of wine you like versus region or vintage (year). From there you’ll tend to gravitate to certain regions and vintages without even realizing it. For example, if you like Malbecs, you will probably end up enjoying Argentina’s wines. But for now, let’s back up to basic types. Disclaimer: there are thousands of types of wine that can be covered, but for the purposes of this article I’m breaking things down into very basic “what you need to know when ordering wine in front of a date” information that I have gained through my experiences, not from a course or a book.
Red vs. White
Everyone knows that there are the Reds and there are the Whites. While I’ve found many more Red wine lovers out there than die hard White wine fans, to each his own. With some exceptions, Reds are generally rich and spicy while Whites are light and fruity. I’m more of an aficionado of Reds. Many beginners are turned off from drinking wine because they jump into a Red that is rich in tannins and tough on the unprepared palette. If you’re new to wine, I suggest starting with a few sweeter wines and developing a taste for them. A great, inexpensive red wine to start on is Riunite’s Lambrusco.
Sweet vs. Dry
Among both of the Reds and Whites, there are the Sweet and Dry. While most Sweet wines are considered dessert wines, many of the lightly sweet wines are perfect for the beginner who is cultivating their palette. A perfect local example of this is Fredericksburg Winery’s Red Rock. I haven’t been able to find this anywhere but the actual winery, but I’m still looking. We’ll discuss Fredericksburg Wine Trails in future articles. As for the very sweet, I personally can’t drink more than a glass or two. While many dessert wines are VERY good (one of my favorites is the Vino de Mocha from Kiligrin in California which is a Red wine infused with chocolate, coffee, and orange—not local, obviously, but it can be ordered), I think you’ll find most of your guests can only drink these in moderation. I don’t open a bottle unless I have at least four people who will be drinking it. The Dry wines can be greatly enhanced by enjoying them with something fatty like any beef or milk product (like steak, cheese, chocolate, etc.). We’ll go into wine pairings in a later article, but let’s just say that I highly encourage eating a piece of cheese and letting it coat the inside of your mouth before trying a Dry Red wine.
Don’t waste your money! Figuring out what you like before buying (like going “tasting” or taking note of a wine you had a friend’s house) can be a lot of fun and save you a ton of money.