This post is intended for audience members over the age of 21. Please drink responsibly.
Oh, adulting. The term usually refers to the things you don’t want to and don’t like doing, but have to. Or it’s the lamer option out of two choices, because you just don’t get down with spontaneity or adventures like in the past.
But there are still some things about adulting that are fun. There’s things that you don’t get to do when you’re too young and/or too broke. Like drinking wine. Wine is fun. Figuring out which kinds you like, trying different wineries, pairing it with different foods for different flavors.
I’m no wine expert. But it helps to know the basics – to know what I like, to pair with food, or to find a certain flavor. And it’s always nice to impress your friends at fancy adult dinner parties. Here’s a guide to get you started:
There are a few basic types of wine: white, red, rosé, sparkling, and dessert, and fortified. There are many types of each kind of wine, and since they are produced by different vineyards in different years, make for many different flavors.
- White wines usually include light or citrusy fruits like lime, grapefruit, and pineapple; flowers or herbs like ginger, honeysuckle, and vanilla; and flavors like caramel, almond, and coconut. (These are just examples – flavors vary.)
- Red wines usually include berries like black currants, cherry, and raspberry; flowers or herbs like rose, cinnamon, or pepper; and rich flavors like clove, nutmeg, and chocolate. (Again, just examples.)
- Sparkling wines are bubbly, and include champagne and prosecco.
- Rosé is technically a red wine. They’re made with the same grapes, but the skins are removed from the juice. Sometimes rosés are blends of red and white wine.
- Dessert wines are higher in sugar.
- Fortified means liquor is added to the wine, and include port and sherry.
Wines range from sweet to dry, and from light to full.
Wines are sweetened with grape sugar (generally not actual sugar), and the amount included varies to create different flavors.
A full body wine usually means a texture that is more complex, rich, and bold, while a light wine is more delicate.
Some of the most common types of white and red are as follows, usually (but not always) in this range:
Sweet & Light Dry & Full
Moscato Riesling Chardonnay Pinot Gris Sauvignon Blanc (White)
Zinfandel Merlot Syrah Pinot Noir Cabernet Sauvignon (Red)
How to Taste
- Start by swirling the glass. See if the wine leaves strong “legs” or streams down the side of the glass. Notice the color and how opaque it is as well. These tell you whether it’s a light or full-bodied wine. A wine that has strong “legs” and a deeper color typically mean that it’s a full-bodied, rich flavored wine.
- Smell the wine. What does it smell like to you? Fruity? Flowery? Sweet? Acidic?
- Taste the wine on your tongue. Swirl it around a bit and see what flavors you notice.
- Swallow the wine, and notice the aftertaste – how or if it changes the flavor at all for you.
Food & Wine Pairings
I’m sure it gets way more complicated than this, but here are some general ideas:
- Light, sweet wines pair well with appetizers, light foods, summer fare, etc.
- White wines pair well with fish, pasta, and white meats and sauces.
- Medium-bodied wines pair well with pizza, and grilled and roasted foods.
- Full-bodied wines pair well with rich food, such as red meats and spicy foods.
- Red wines pair well with “red” seafood (salmon, tuna, sushi), and red meats and sauces.
I also find this chart to be useful.
Okay, wine experts – what am I missing? (Or what did I get wrong? Again, not an expert.)
Also – what’s your favorite wine? I’m always up to try something new.