To save you from the terror that barmen strike into the hearts of many with their endless questions (Dry, medium? Fruity, fizzy, sassy? French, Italian, Chilean, Australian..? The list goes on), JournoBarbie has put together the basic need-to-know guide to wine, ‘Getting to know your grapes’ just in time for the office Christmas party.
The easiest way to get to know your grapes and find the wines that are for you or not is to go out there and try them. Restaurants are a good place to begin because they usually have a larger wine list than most traditional pubs.
The most popular and widely recognised white wine is Chardonnay. Chardonnay is the cheerleader of the wine-grape world, easy and popular. Young Chardonnay grapes are drunk in Chablis for a crisp dry and apple-like quality. When aged in oak-barrels, Chardonnay acquires a more sophisticated rich, buttery taste that is perfect for coffee and cream drinkers.
Sauvignon Blanc (pronounced ‘so-vin-yon blonk’) is the forest hippy of the grapes providing natural tasting wines from un-aged grapes. Sauvignon Blanc wines have a wide range of flavours from fresh and crisp bright green fruits to smoky coffee. Overall it is a crisp and refreshing grape, nice for the summer time. Steer clear of the stereotype that French wine is better than any other because when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, the New Zealand wines rival the French.
Pinot Grigio is the Italian stallion of wines. An increasingly trendy wine, rivalling chardonnay in popularity. Italian Pinot Grigio is not to be confused with the less popular French Pinot Gris. A light bodied, light in colour and quite sweet wine. A bottle of Pinot Grigio is a nice first wine to try with your friends.
Merlot is the Jack the Lad of the red wines. Perfect red for newcomers because it is such an easy everyday red. This is a fleshy blue grape that on its own has less tannin than most reds (tannin is the stuff that makes the roof of your mouth feel like Ghandi’s flip flop). Merlot reds have flavours of blackberries and black plums, and can often acquire chocolatey hints for the chocoholics out there. Merlot grapes are often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon for a richer, smoother red wine blend.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the King of the reds. This blue grape has gives nobel, complex flavours to a velvety textured wine. Rich flavours that could be too much for a first time red wine drinker. The high level of tannins in this wine make it a favourite of tea drinkers, but it is not for the light-hearted, be prepared for serious dry-mouth.
The deeper reds are made by the Gandalf of the grapes, the wizened old Shiraz. Bright blue Syrah or Shiraz grapes provide peppery berry flavours that can be aged in wine cellars for decades. Hearty and surprisingly powerful.
White Zinfandel is not a white wine as the name suggests; it is known as a blush wine in America or rosé in most other countries. This is one of the easiest rosé wines for beginners. White Zinfandel is made from Zinfandel, a red wine grape that is kept pale by removing the skins immediately after pressing. White Zinfandel wines can range in colour from pale pink to apricot to salmon pink and have a typically sweet and often dry flavour. Most basic rosés served in pubs are White Zinfandel
Now let’s get tasting!!