So many wines, so little time. It’s a tired old cliché, but it’s so true. Don’t lose sleep over the plethora of wine options, though; there are strategies that will help guide you through the endless wine-store aisles and phone-book-sized wine lists.
Everyone has that
pair of jeans draped
over their couch longer
than they’d admit;
and put you at ease. As
a sommelier, I watch guests flip through
wine list pages in the hunt for their favorite
and familiar all the time. Go-to wines
are fine, but stocking your cellar or filling
your glass with the same wine induces
tedium. Wine should entertain your palate,
and overzealous wine loyalty is as
monotonous as watching endless reruns
There’s a natural evolution to wine
tasting that’s individual and subjective,
but some guidance helps you
steer clear of furrowed brows and
swills of discontent. “Light and
white” is a great place to start.
There’s a wine from Portugal that’s
so agreeable it begs for swilling. It’s
a little off the beaten path, and you
might not have heard of it, but trust
me: Vinho Verde is a white table
wine that’s slightly effervescent,
dirt cheap and has flavors of lemons
and limes. Argentina’s Malbec
has everyone’s attention as of late,
but that country also produces a
signature white wine: Torrontes.
It is highly perfumed, medium-bodied
and versatile at the table.
Looking to support the good old
red, white, and blue? Try a squeaky
clean, crisp Sauvignon Blanc from
California. Craving something with
a little more richness, something
to make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Try
a Chardonnay from just about anywhere.
She travels well.
Spain is the sleeping giant of the wine
world, for good reason. With more acreage
under vine than any other country
in the world, it is a continued source of
great value and quality. Two grapes personifying
the “bang for your buck” genre
include Garnacha (known elsewhere
as Grenache) and Mencia. Garnacha is
loaded with mixed, dark fruit flavors,
and is medium- to full-bodied. Mencia
is found primarily in Galicia, located
in the northwest region of Spain.
Mencia is medium-bodied, sleek,
spicy and vibrant—like Pinot Noir
Portugal is known for its high-octane,
fruity, fortified, after-dinner
wines, but in the last decade it
has been making inroads with its
red table wines. These wines are
made from the same grapes as Port,
so there’s all that rich fruit of Port
without the fire.
Wine exploration should be
entertaining, not intimidating.
Don’t be afraid to ask the folks at
wine shops or staff at restaurants for
guidance. Start with a color (red or
white), then texture: light, medium
or full-bodied (a great analogy is
skim milk, two percent or whole milk). Let
them know how much you want to spend.
Tell them what wines you’ve enjoyed in
the past. There are too many wines, in too
many varied styles from all around the
globe, to constrain your imbibing to one
winery, country or grape. Make it a
priority to broaden your wine horizons
and enlighten your palate.
Here are a few suggestions for
exploration: Broadbent, Vinho
Verde, Portugal ($8.99), Crios
de Susana Balbo, Torrontes,
Salta, Argentina, 2008 ($15.99),
Saracina, Sauvignon Blanc,
Mendocino, CA, 2007 ($17.99),
Glen Carlou, Chardonnay,
Paarl, South Africa, 2006
($15.99), Dominio de Tares,
“Baltos” Mencia, Bierzo,
Spain, 2005 ($16), Borsao,
“Tres Picos” Garnacha,
Campo de Borja, Spain, 2007
($17.99). I purposely omitted
my subjective tasting notes riddled
with suggestions of fruit,
earth, wood, mineral and spices.
Consider that your homework.
Try to take mental notes of the
aforementioned wine components,
and I bet both your wine
lexicon and cellar will grow,