When you see everyone on Instagram and TikTok enjoying their day at the vineyard looking like they are a seasoned sommelier – you may wonder, will I look that chic when I’m there? Not even worried about going to the vineyards but have a work dinner, or a first date and looking to impress? We’ve done the hard lifting for you and have a break down of everything you need to know about wine!
Let’s get started!
Red wines are made from black grapes fermented with the grape skins (which is where the red color of the wine comes from), seeds, and stems. Red wine is high in tannins, which causes that bitter, dry taste in your mouth after you take a sip.
What are tannins you might ask? Tannins is a description of how a wine tastes such as, dryness, bitterness, and the astringency of a wine.
Good to know: the darker or newer a wine is, the more tannins it has. The older a wine is it will taste less dry and bitter.
Most wine drinkers start out drinking Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Chianti. Let’s break down the top three most popular.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely recognized red wines and is grown in nearly every major wine producing country like Australia, British Columbia, Canada to Lebanon due to it’s ability to survive in diverse climates. It’s a cross between a Cabernet Franc and a Sauvignon Blanc.
The primary flavors of a Cabernet Sauvignon are black cherry, black currant, cedar, baking spices and graphite. The taste profile is dry, with a full body, medium to high tannins (which as we already discussed is how dry, bitter and astringent a wine is), and has a medium acidity. BUT, and there is a big BUT, the flavor profile of a Cabernet Sauvignon will vary depending on where it was grown. Confused yet?
If you are looking to pair this wine with food you are going to want to pair it with rich foods like grilled meats like, steak and lamb, burgers, portabella mushrooms and cheeses as well as peppery sauces. Since there is a high tannin count and therefore an intense flavor, pairing the wine with these types of food helps cut through the wine.
While playing second fiddle to Cabernet Sauvignon in a popularity contest, Merlot is extremely popular.
Merlot is popular due to its soft and sensual texture and approachable style which makes it approachable. Like the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is grown all over due to it’s ability to adapt and survive in different climates.
The primary tastes of a Merlot is a dry, medium to full bodied wine with moderate acidity and soft to moderate tannins. Merlots can be very velvety and plummy or rich and oaky. The flavors can vary, but they mostly range from graphite, herbs and blackberries to black cherries, plums, and cocoa, often with layers of clove, vanilla and cedar when the wine is aged in oak.
Foods to pair this wine with will vary depending on the type of merlot that you have. If you have a fruitier Merlot, that will pair well with white and dark meats, like chicken, turkey and pork as well as pasta, burgers and pizza. If you have a fuller-bodied Merlot, the foods to pair will mimic the Cabernet Sauvignon pairings – like beef, lamb, hearty bean dishes, and gamey meats like venison or bison.
While Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are extremely popular, Pinto Noir comes in as the world’s most popular red wine!
The aromas that Pinot Noir boasts are red fruit, flower, and spices along with its long, smooth finish. The tastes are cherry, raspberry, mushroom, clove and hibiscus. The taste profile is fruiter, medium bodied, low tannins, and high acidity which makes it a lighter wine than other red wines.
For food pairings with Merlot, you are looking at salmon, duck, roasted chicken, pork and mushrooms. The high acidity levels and low tannins make this wine very versatile to pair with food.
White wines are made from both white grapes and black grapes. But while red wines are fermented with grape skins, white wines are not. Instead, the skins are separated so only the clear grape juice is used. Skinny dipping grapes! White wine has few tannins; its acidic nature is what outlines its fresh, crisp and tart flavors.
Good to know: Chill white wine before drinking – it brings out the flavors!
Most wine beginners start out with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Riesling. Let’s dive in!
Chardonnay comes in as the world’s most popular white wine! Chardonnay is extremely easy to grow, which makes it so popular. And it’s flavors are not as distinctive as other white wines like Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay almost has a blank canvas which allows wine makers to really put their own mark on it.
The primary flavors that you are going to find with a Chardonnay are yellow apple, starfruit, pineapple, vanilla and butter. With a taste profile of soft to medium dryness, medium body, almost no tannins and a medium acidity.
You are going to want to pair Chardonnay with mild, buttery or creamy dishes, meaty fish like halibut or cod, shellfish like lobster, shrimp, crab or scallops, subtly flavored poultry and pork dishes, toasted nuts, pastry crust, corn, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and other foods that are caramelized from roasting or grilling, like roasted chicken with crispy skin or risottos, cream soups, sauces and pasta. Basically…. any food not overly seasoned!
Loved for its “green” herbal flavors and acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is a very popular white wine. With the ability to be grown almost anywhere, Sauvignon Blanc offers a variety of styles.
With Sauvignon Blanc the flavors that you are going to find are gooseberry, honeydew, grapefruit, white peach and passion fruit. The taste profile on a Sauvignon Blanc is going to be a medium dryness, medium-light body, almost no tannins, and very high acidity.
This light, crisp and acidic wine pairs well with cheeses, especially goat cheese, green vegetables such as asparagus, zucchini, fresh peas, artichokes, oysters, delicate fish (Sole), fresh herbs, mild vinaigrettes, dishes with tangy diary ingredients, and herbal, briny sauces. A perfect Spring and Summer wine!
Pinot Grigio comes in at number two in the popularity contest is a cousin of Pinot Noir due to its pinkish grape mutation of Pinot Noir. It’s famously known for being zesty, due to it’s punch of acidity. It’s perfect on a hot summer day served cold.
Pinot Grigio comes with flavors of white peach, lemon zest, cantaloupe, raw almond and crushed gravel. The taste profile gives a dry, medium-light body, with almost no tannins and a high acidty level.
Pinot Grigio really goes with any food but does lend itself nicely to lighter dishes, such as poultry, salads, seafood, light pasta dishes and risottos. Try and stay away from heavy creams and vinaigrettes.
Rosé all day! Like white wine, it is also low in tannins, though some Rosés are dry. Rosé is a popular crowd-pleaser, especially for summertime parties, and a great choice as a starter wine because of its light, sweet flavor.
Did you know? A common misconception about Rosé is that it is made by mixing red and white wines, but this practice is actually a big no-no in the wine world!
The flavor profile that you are likely to come across is strawberry, honeydew melon, rose petals, celery and watermelon. The taste profile for the most part is on the dryer side, light bodied, almost no tannins, and medium acidity.
Food pairings for Rosé are light salads, light pasta and rice dishes, seafood, raw and cooked shellfish, grilled fish, and goat cheese.
*Information gathered from Cork Bread Wine Co., and Wine Folly.