We’ve all heard, “You may not like wine now, but you’ll appreciate it when you are older!” And now that I’m in my early 30’s, I realize truer words have never been spoken. A nice glass of wine has become my go-to order for almost all social situations. While I enjoy the wonderful world of wines, I couldn’t be more stumped on how to order them. Honestly, I’m shocked at how daunting the process is – from picking a glass on a date, to a bottle at a dinner party, the options are endless, and I really need to stop picking based on which label I like the best.
We’ve consulted the experts to create a concise guide to the world of red and white wines. This is your ultimate defense against the dreaded faux pas of wine selection, designed for both the gastronome and the gourmand, with a healthy splash of sophistication, a pinch of humor, and a twist of unpretentiousness. So, tighten your apron, prepare your palate and let’s raise a glass to our journey through the vineyards!
I. RED WINES
Light-bodied Reds –
1. Pinot Noir: The Prima Donna of light reds, Pinot Noir hails from Burgundy, France, with subtle notes of red fruit, mushroom, and hints of ‘forest floor’. Delicate and smooth like silk pajamas, it is the wine equivalent of Netflix and chill. Best paired with poultry, cured meat, and creamy sauces, because nothing says fancy dinner like forest-floor-scented grape juice and chicken.
2. Gamay: A jester in the royal court of wines, Gamay, the primary grape in Beaujolais, has a juicy, fruit-forward profile of ripe red berries with undertones of banana and bubble gum. Ideal with charcuterie and grilled chicken. It’s the cotton candy of wines – sweet, easy, and perfect for a picnic.
Medium-bodied Reds –
1. Merlot: Known as the ‘little black dress’ of wines, the Merlot is as versatile as they come, with notes of black cherry, plum, and chocolate. Think of it as the mood ring of wines, fitting in perfectly with almost anything on your plate, but particularly with red meats and hearty stews.
2. Malbec: A lush red hailing predominantly from Argentina, Malbec offers a ripe symphony of black cherry, plum, and violet, often with a smoky, earthy undercurrent. This bold, full-bodied vino makes an excellent partner to hearty meat dishes.
Full-bodied Reds –
1. Cabernet Sauvignon: The Vin Diesel of wines, Cabernet Sauvignon packs a punch. It’s bold, intense with a cascade of black currant, green bell pepper, and eucalyptus. Pairs best with red meat. Fire up the grill, and prepare for a Vin-and-steak night!
2. Shiraz/Syrah: This Rhône Valley native is as dark and mysterious as a noir detective, boasting bold flavors of dark fruits and smoky spice. It’s the equivalent of the brooding, bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold in your favorite rom-com. Best with game meat, lamb, and spicy cuisines.
II. WHITE WINES
Light-bodied Whites –
1. Sauvignon Blanc: The Taylor Swift of white wines, Sauvignon Blanc, is wildly popular and wonderfully tart with notes of green apple, passion fruit, and freshly cut grass. Pair it with goat cheese, green vegetables, and fish for an all-star meal.
2. Riesling: A German native, Riesling offers a fruity symphony of green apple, apricot, and often, a hint of ‘petrol’ for that rush-hour-in-Berlin vibe. Great with spicy food, pork, and poultry.
Medium-bodied Whites –
1. Pinot Gris: Alsace’s claim to fame, Pinot Gris, sprints in with stone fruit flavors, and spicy cinnamon-like warmth. It’s an excellent match for creamy pastas, poultry, and seafood. It’s like the comforting woolen blanket on a cold winter’s night.
2. Verdejo: This Spanish sensation is a carnival of citrus, honeydew, and fennel, the flamenco dancer of white wines. Dance along with tapas and seafood paella!
Full-bodied Whites –
1. Chardonnay: The bodybuilder of white wines, Chardonnay is robust with a rich layering of apple, pear, and often, a buttery finish. Pair this superstar with fish, shellfish, or poultry. Remember, Chardonnay is like that old friend who brings life to any dinner party.
2. Viognier: This Rhône Valley native is a tropical extravaganza of peaches, tangerine, and honeysuckle, with a voluptuous body. Perfect for lobster, crab, or spicy dishes.
A word on glassware – ‘cos, darling, size does matter. Larger, rounder glasses are perfect for airing those full-bodied reds and oaky whites, while smaller, tighter glasses preserve the delicate aromas of light-bodied wines. As for sparkling wine or champagne, reach for a slender flute to keep those bubbles from escaping.
To learn more about wines, try Beaumont Etiquette’s online course: Wine Etiquette Basics