Fabulous on a Budget: Wine 101

Having grown up all over California, I’ve been fascinated with wine from a very young age, not just the beverage itself but the beauty of the vineyards and the process of creating a fantastic bottle of wine. Now, I hate the idea of being a wine snob or of publicly sticking my nose in a glass. So, I decided to offer a quick wine 101 for the novice, so you can get a couple tips for your palette.

When you’re not too sure what you like, the selection at a grocery store or even a restaurant can be daunting. So, here are some easy, pretty generalized tips to keep in mind. Don’t be afraid to tell your server or clerk what you like, its their job to navigate you in the right direction.

1. What’s a good party wine?

Stick to White Wine & Rose (pronounced Rose-A) for parties. If you drink red, your teeth will be purple in no time.

2. What is Rose?

Its a chilled wine that is pinkish in color based on the fermentation process. This is HUGE in France and is making a big comeback in the wine world. Rose gets a bad rap here in the states as peeps think of it as comparable to box wine or white Zinfandel. Its a great chilled, summer wine, and you can look for bottles with more or less red varietals for either a dry (opposite of sweet), complex flavor or fruit forward sweetness.

3. What does Fruit Forward mean anyway?

It means it tastes fruity, as opposed to “oaky” or “earthy.”

4. Okay, then what does Oak-y and Earthy mean?

Many times grapes are fermented in oak barrels so the wine takes on some of that flavor. Earthy means it tastes a little like dirt.

5. Alright, if its not made in Oak barrels, then what is it made in?

Stainless Steel is another option that yields much crisper results. Sometimes referred to as “un-oaked.” This is common for chardonnay which traditionally is made in oak, ending in sweet, buttery white wine. When made in steel, it is a much cleaner, crisp result.

6. Why do you let wine breathe?

As it mingles with surrounding air, it mellows out and more of its true flavors come out. This is most common in red wines.

7. How does wine have a nose?

Its the smell you get in your nose when you stick it in your wine glass.

8. What’s a good cheap wine?

Well, there’s lots of over generalized notions! In California, I’ve heard odd years are better than even but I pretty much stick with a Syrah or Pinot Noir for red. Because they both have a light sweetness to them, they are generally pretty accessible & most everyone likes ‘em. Good dinner party wine.

For white, I like Sauvignon Blanc, its not generally too sweet which I most prefer. An easy rule on S.B. is: the greener the color, the more grassy in flavor; the more yellow, the more citrus notes.

9. What does Tannic mean?

Tannins are the dryness factor in red wine. That’s sorta pucker thing on the roof of your mouth – that’s them. Tannins only occur in red varietals as its derived from the skins, seeds, and stems of the plants. White wine uses the pulpy part.

10. Is Wine Good for me?

That’s what they say! One glass a day for women and two glasses for men. Red offers even more health benefits because of the skin but even white helps with good cholesterol. So, drink up!

11. Quick wine pairing tips?

Generally, Think Like with Like:

Light Cuisine; i.e. fish, chicken, sushi, think White. Do you like crisp or sweet? Oaked or Un-oaked? Read the label and/or ask for help.

Heavy Cuisine; i.e. steak, burgers, a big red, like Cabernet. The tannic/oaky dryness is super yummy.

Middle Ground;
i.e. pasta, turkey burgers medium red, like Pinot, Syrah, Zinfandel. Won’t overpower.

Spicy; Thai, Indian, pick a Dessert Wine, Ice Wine, or anything Sweet and Chilled. The flavors complement your fire scorched tongue.

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