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Wine-Learnin’

January 20, 2012

“White Wine” and “Red Wine” poster by I LOVE DESIGN

It has only been in recent years, perhaps since we moved back to Nashville in 2007, that I’ve really explored and enjoyed wine. Up until then, I thought white wine was the way to go. I had tried Riesling with certain fish at our favorite Athens restaurant — Farm 255 — when we lived there, but otherwise, I hadn’t tried anything else. I generally thought wine was kind of bitter (red) or wussy (rose).

Then we moved back to Nashville, and thanks to a bunch of girlfriends and other fun people in our life, I have explored a lot more wine that I would not have otherwise been brave enough to try on my own. I by no means know much at all about wine, but I’d like to share what I have learned. It is not at all refined or sophisticated but rather a basic guide for me to keep in mind.

I also had hoped to invest more time and money into trying different wines, but then, pregnancy actually happened and I’m too thrilled to care that I can’t explore as much as I wanted.

I have learned over the years of reading the Wall Street Journal’s wine features plus other articles and magazines… wine tastes differently to everyone. Therefore, there’s no reason to be a snob about things, and if you can’t describe the wine accurately (“oaky,” “full-bodied,” “balanced”)… who cares? What is it that you like? Which types and brands do you prefer? That’s really the only thing that matters.

While keeping that in mind, here are some of the highlights while learning more about wine:

  • White meats, white sauces and seafood go best with white wines, and the red wine pairs better with red meats and sauces. But, if you’re making chicken with a heavy red sauce, red wine is a better choice since the red sauce is more dominant in the meal. Source
  • Red wine is best when eating from a plate of cheese or pate (ick). Source
  • White wine is great for appetizers, specifically Chardonnay with salads. Source
  • Spicy foods are best with sweet white wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminer. But if the food is so spicy that it makes you sweat, serving wine may just be a terrible choice anyway… try having beer instead. Source
  • Red wine and fish are a pretty bad combo because of the high iodine in the fish, which interacts with the tannins in the red wine, making everything taste metallic. Source
  • Asparagus, artichoke and egg whites actually don’t taste great with any wine. Source
  • Zinfandel gets a bad rap for their popularity among the cheap white and rose varieties, but we actually really enjoy red zin. A trusted friend’s parent first served us some very good red zin, and JD and I have been hooked ever since.
  • Malbecs, one of my favorites, are best in the winter and great for cooking. Source
  • Pinot noir tastes better chilled a little bit. Good to know. Source
  • Merlot is very popular and versatile, which I think is helpful when you’re just not sure what to grab next. Source
  • When choosing a Riesling, try the “dry” varieties for a better taste. Source
  • Chianti is a good starter when exploring whites. Source
  • If you have a very fun vintage wine that you want to show off, don’t make a wild flavorful meal. Make the wine the highlight rather than the food. Source

When we’re not exploring different brands and styles, JD and I tend to choose Gnarly Head, Smoking Loon, or Rex Goliath, usually red Zinfandel or Merlot.

Another question that kept coming up in my exploration of wines: if I like red Zinfandel so much, what is “Old Vine Zin”? Apparently, there’s not much consistency on countries saying that a wine is “Old Vine,” so generally, it just means a change of character, rather than quality. Usually it has the same meaning as “reserve” wine or older grapes. Yeah, I don’t know what that means, but ok great!

Also, this is a great guide on beginning your learning of wine and what to do when exploring.

Here is another fun guide from favorite blog Cup of Jo on How to Drink Wine, complete with humorous illustrations.

Despite not being able to physically experiment with wine, I’m so glad I spent some time researching wine pairings and varieties, just so I don’t feel so overwhelmed when heading to the liquor store or a restaurant. I can’t wait to start drinking wine again, and now I have all this new-found knowledge… plus an item checked off the list!

So, I need your help! What do you like? What are your favorite wines? What are your favorite pairings? I would love to know what you kind folks enjoy most! We tend to stick to a cheaper price range, but we’re always up for a splurge. Help me expand my knowledge base (which is quite limited!!).

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 20, 2012 2:30 pm

    My favorite favorite favorite wine on the planet is a red super Tuscan, like Montepulciano or Sangiovese. The Italians are masters of wine (at least to me)! Chianti is good with a meal, but a super Tuscan is heaven all on its own – you don’t need anything else. Mmmmmmmm….

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