Basic Wine Choices
I’m not here to make you a wine expert in 10 mins. I don’t want to overload your brain with too many facts. Right now I want you to have a quick read and see if you can focus on the key points so that next time you are in the supermarket or have the task of picking up a wine list, your decision making process becomes that little bit easier. Less time deciding, more time drinking! So with more than 10,000 varieties of wine grapes out there, I’ll just mention a few of the most common.
If you like red
Pick a CABERNET SAUVIGNON if you want Full body, Blackcurrant fruit, cedar and big tannins
*FUN FACT: The main grape variety of Bordeaux. Its also the love child of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc – Centuries ago, these two grape varieties got it on and made the most famous grape variety of them all. What a rock star!
If you like white
Pick a CHARDONNAY if you want med to full body, UNOAKED: apples and lemons, OAKED: peach, tropical fruit, caramel, vanilla
*FUN FACT: Chablis IS a Chardonnay. The region of Chablis, France does not age their wines in oak and so you can enjoy a fresh light fruity wine if you preference it without the butter and vanilla richness.
Pick a MERLOT ( pronounced Mer-low ) if you want Med to full body, Plummy fruit and soft tannins
*FUN FACT: In 2011 at a Christie’s sale in New York a bottle of Petrus 1961 (from the right bank of Bordeaux ) sold for £100,800, which is nearly entirely Merlot fruit ( the second main grape in Bordeaux often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon )
Pick a SAUVIGNON BLANC if you want Light body, aromatics, grassy, refreshing
*FUN FACT: If you want to sound very scientific, talk about the methoxypyrazines which are the natural compounds found in the skins of Sauvignon Blanc and this gives it the grassy herbaceous aromas.
Pick a SHIRAZ if you want full body, black fruits, dark chocolate, black pepper and big round tannins
(Same grape variety as Syrah. Typically if you see Shiraz on the label you can expect a bigger more fruity style of wine. Syrah often indicates a fresher leaner, more peppery style )
*FUN FACT: The Langmeil Winery, Barossa Valley, Australia has the oldest known Shiraz vines in the world, planted in 1843 – thats really old!
Pick a PINOT GRIGIO if you want light body, lemon, lime, refreshing & the richer styles a hint of honey ( Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape variety. It is the Italian name versus the French name. In general if you see Pinot gris on a label expect a riper style, whereas Pinot Grigio with be cleaner, greener fruit )
*FUN FACT: Pinot Grigio is actually a red grape! It closely related to Pinot Noir but due to a genetic mutation occurring hundreds of years ago we now have a slightly different grape variety with thiner skins that just tastes better as a white wine!
Pick a PINOT NOIR if you want lighter body, red fruits, soft tannins
*FUN FACT: Pinot Noir Is one of the main grape varieties used in Champagne production. Although the skin is red, the juice inside is in fact clear, and so once picked, if the grape is pressed immediately, the juice is taken away without contact with the skin. Hence why you can have white champagne. Yum!
Pick a RIESLING ( pronounced Rees-ling ) if you want aromatics, sweet fruit flavours, peaches & flowers
*FUN FACT: Riesling is one of the most age-worthy white wines in the world. There are Rieslings over 100 years old still alive & kicking – very much palatable. But don’t expect lots of fruit, they’ll be more mushroomy, nutty & smokey!