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Love red wine...can't understand the subtle differences to expand horizons - help!

Hello all,
I am a red wine drinker, quite often nightly I sit myself down with a good glass or two. But I'm finding when I try to expand into other geographical areas or grape types, sometimes I am not pleased.

I've had success with Shiraz, Syrahs and merlots.. but find some of the wines to be a bit blunt. If one was to like these wines...tell me which direction to go.

FYI: I do not usually like white wines, too sweet, dry and buttery at times...

Thanks!

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  1. I'm not sure what "success with Shiraz, Syrahs and merlots" means. Does that mean you've had wines from thes egrape varieties that you've enjoyed? (Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape, BTW.)

    First, usual disclaimers:

    a) It's always good to remember that your taste is yours; mine is mine. Just because I (or others) may recommend some specific wines is no guarantee that you will like them. This is no less true of the "famous" people who write in newspapers, magazines and subscription-only newsletters, than it is for the people who post here.

    b) It's always good to know where you live, as there's no use recommending a particular wine to you if it's not available where you live.

    OK, I'm presuming you didn't like the wines which came across to you as "blunt," but I'm not sure what that means. Do you prefer wines with more fruit flavors, less spice? Do you prefer wines with less tannins, that rough, astringent feeling on the inside of your cheeks and gums? (Is that what you mean by "blunt"?)

    Give me some specific names -- if you remember -- of wines you have liked AND disliked in the past. Specific recommendations will follow.

    1. My best advice is to find an "entry-level" wine tasting course, or a shop nearby that offers a few wines for tasting at a time.

      There's no substitute for trying a few different things to see what you like!

      General advice aside, I always recommend Beaujolais to new wine drinkers. It's moderately priced and friendlier to the inexperienced palate.

      Etc.

      1. Try Andrea Immer's book "Great Wine Made Simple". She breaks down the varietal characteristics of the "Big Six" wine grapes, and tells you what to expect, etc. She mentions specific wineries and wines. Happy tasting!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jgholmes

          An enthusiastic second for this book, plus I wanted to point out that if you're looking for it in a bookstore, the updated edition is under the name of Andrea Immer Robinson.

        2. wrt Red Wines, definitely add Zinfandel to your list, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, and pinot noir... those 4 wines will expand your red wine horizons quite alot and you can find reasonably priced bottles in all these varietals.

          At the risk of the inevitable criticism, I highly recommend you focus on the better vintage years AND taste these wines side-by-side so you can distinguish the flavors.

          1. You're good to even want to expand your wine horizons--that's the first step! I'd check out a good wine site on line that explains varietal characteristics and flavors, like http://www.winepros.org/wine101/grape...

            That will help you to find varietals that seem to resonate with your sense of what syrah/shiraz taste like.

            Then, I'd agree that tempranillo and pinot noir might be to your liking, and I would also try cote du Rhone blends and also gamay wines which are very good value and from the Beaujolais.

            Good luck!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Dr. Debs

              I have never heard of a Tempranillo?!? Could you please educate me? Although I am not (yet) a wine eficinada, I do like trying different wines and varieties. I prefer reds-ie: Gamay Beaujolas, Shiraz, Malbecs, Cabs, Zins and late harvest Zins. But, some whites I enjoy as well. If there are a few Tempranillos you could recommend, I'd appreciate it. Plus, is it similar to any reds I just mentioned? Anyone, feel free to elaborate b/c I am still learning, and probably will do so for a lifetime! ;-) (Perhaps you can recommend several in various price ranges???) Thanks! O=:)

              1. re: Mermazon

                Tempranillo is a really versatile grape that is made into very different styles of wine in several regions of Spain. The classic Rioja is light-bodied, aged forever in barrels, and is subtle, vibrant with cherry-raspberry flavors that age into earthy, gamy, mushroomy flavors along the lines of French Burgundy (although very different). If you want to try old school Rioja, Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia is reasonable at less than $30, the 1996 is good now but could even age longer. Their Vina Tondonias are often drunk after decades in the bottle.
                More mainstream Rioja at $15 is Marques de Riscal Reserva 2001, still it's a classic style. Wow the Marques de Tomares 2002 Crianza is also delicious, $18. Many less expensive Riojas are out there, most not as interesting, quality usually corresponds pretty well to price. Cortijo is an example.
                Ribera del Duero tempranillos are often made in a rich, dark, fuller-bodied, fruity style. Dominio de Atauta "Atalayas de Golban" 04 for $20 is one example.
                In La Mancha and Toro, tempranillo is often made in a strong, fruity, "modern" style. These regions have some great wine bargains. Lots of good stuff for less than $10 a bottle. Ask at a good wine store.

                1. re: kenito799

                  Thanks for offering some great wines. Now all I need is a great wine store! I have been to some wonderful wineries, but am not sure of a store that just sells wines.

              2. To address your white wine comments I'm at a loss as to how a wine could be both too sweet and dry. Could you explain further?

                1 Reply
                1. Lollya,

                  One thing that would help others recommend wines, that you are likely to enjoy, would be to break down the elements that you DID like in the Syrah/Shiraz and Merlots. It is one these positive impressions, that one can build.

                  I would also second the other varietals, that have been recommended. Just to hazzard a guess, I'd say that you probably enjoyed the "fruit-forward" aspect of the Syrah and Merlot. Aspects that they are noted for. Along those lines, if I'm right, I'd throw in that style of Zinfandel, and especially the more concentrated US (especially CA) Pinot Noirs. They can exhibit similar characteristics. In time, you will probably want to expand into a drier territory.

                  I also second the rec. for Andrea Immer's book. Jgholmes beat me to the punch. From it you can learn a great deal about the varietals, and their similarities and differences, even differences between the style likely to be encountered across the globe from the same varietal - plus it's just FUN!

                  Hunt

                  1. well - whew.
                    i guess i don't often ask about wine because it seems people are pretty hoity-toighty about it. i drink a lot of wine. i know that a shiraz and a syrah are the same grape yet from different regions. i would not calssify myself as a 'new' drinker, however, i guess i need to clarify myself a little further - and thank you to those who were kind in their replies and suggestions. Although I consider myself familiar with wines, I need help in figuring out the terminology that wine users 'use' to define tastes. For example, blunt to me is when it kind of stings my mouth - sharp - i assume this is from tanins - but do not really know. i've tried merlot, temprinillos, noirs, cabs, cab-sauv, with good results from some and dreadful ones from others. so, with that said, i guess i am looking for help defining what it is that i don't like about a particular wine - even when it's just another version of it. i know that they are all subtly different - and that the y are grown in differing areas which depict tastes - but how does one know which wine they will like, when all the terms used to describe them are subjective? i like fruit, woody, but not astrigent tasting wine. To me, when it tastes blunt like that - it tastes old. Does this clarify?

                    Thank you for the suggestions to those who did.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: lollya

                      I know exactly what you are talking about. My wife enjoys a glass of red wine at the end of a long day and she was getting tired of the same old reds, Merlots,Cabs,etc. We went to a local wine store and tried a few wines they recommended, nothing great. Then we went to another wine shop and they seemed to know exactly what she liked based upon the wines she said she liked and disliked. That trip went well and she ended up falling in love with several Italian red wines, especially a Barbera D'Alba and a Dolcetto. She recently tried a Malbec from Argentina and she is still raving about it. We followed the advise of many on this board and signed up for a Wine 101 course and will attend some of the tastings offered by some of the local wine shops. In addition, I ordered a beginners wine reference guide recommended by many on this board. I think the key for newbies like us is to learn the terminology so we can better describe our tastes. The people on this board have been very, very helpful.

                      1. re: bobby06877

                        Bobby06977,

                        You might want to see my reply to Lollya, regarding "Wine Lover's Companion." I had not recommended it in an earlier thread (your's?), because it is definitely a reference, albeit a great one.

                        Hunt

                      2. re: lollya

                        Lollya, you're fine! See Eric Asimov's latest installment on his NYTimes blog The Pour (http://thepour.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=95) which should immediately make you feel better! You definitely should get Andrea Immer's book. She will help you to understand why some pinots work for you and some won't. It is well worth the price, she uses lots of simple descriptors, and really takes a lot of the mystery out of tasting wine.

                        1. re: lollya

                          It clarifies it a bit, but not completely -- for instance, "blunt to me is when it kind of stings my mouth - sharp - i assume this is from tanins." To me, blunt and sharp are opposites. Think of the blunt blade of a knife versus after it's been sharpened -- does that make sense?

                          " . . . but how does one know which wine they will like, when all the terms used to describe them are subjective?" Not all terms are subjective. For example, acidity and tannins are two very specific terms. They exist in wine. Acidity stings the mouth, especially at the back and on the sides of the tongue. Tannins feel astringent on the insides of your cheeks (think tea that has been steeped too long, or that old brand of mouthwash, Lavoris). But you're right when it comes to many descriptors -- one person's "fruity" may be another's "appley" may be another's "golden delicious apple notes" or even "mountain pear flavors."

                          BROAD GENERALIZATION (meaning there are lots and lots of exceptions, but it generally holds true): Wines from California and Australia will more often than not be more fruity than wines from Europe. Perhaps a better way to phrase that would be that "modern" wines are generally more fruity than "traditional" ones, in that several Europeans are making wine in a more "modern" style.

                          Body refers to weight -- just as non-fat milk is lighter in body than whole milk, which is in turn lighter than a milk shake, so too do wines vary in weight.

                          But I would again ask you for some specifics -- you said that "i've tried merlot, temprinillos, noirs, cabs, cab-sauv, with good results from some and dreadful ones from others." What was different about the ones you enjoyed from the ones you didn't? It could have been (for example) you liked the Merlot from the Columbia Valley but not from the Santa Ynez Valley; or that you liked the 2000 vintage but not the 1998. Or that you liked the Caberent Franc but not the Cabernet Sauvignon . . . this is why I was asking you for specifics, so that I can try to get a better idea of the wines you like (and don't), and so in turn can recommend some specific wines (and not recommend others!).

                          1. re: zin1953

                            If someone enjoys a wine that "goes down smooth", would it be safe to assume that they are looking for a wine that is low in acidity and tannins?

                            1. re: bobby06877

                              Not necessarily. I think of “smooth,” often with a great Spätlese Riesling (GR), which will have a higher acid component, though with less alcohol. OTOH, some highly acidic wines, like NZ Sauvignon Blancs, might cause the mouth to “tingle,” and water a bit. I’d not call most “smooth,” but “bracing,” or “refreshing.”

                              The best descriptor of tannins, that I can conjure up is from my youth. We’d take our bikes to the neighborhood grocery store and buy ice cream in tiny cups. They had wooden spoons to eat the ice cream with. While you had a dollop of ice cream on the spoon, all was good - “smooth,” but when you got to the last of the ice cream, and licked the wooden spoon, your tongue kinda’ “stuck” to the spoon. If you placed it into your mouth, you could feel the insides of your cheeks draw in, just a bit. Tannis are like that. There could be a tinge of “bitterness” in the tannis (one reason to decant a red to separate the lees, which have a tannic character, from the clear wine. Tannins cause a bit of a “pucker factor,” and it’s almost like trying to slide your bottom on cloth seats, when wearing corduroy, but with your tongue and palate. Tannins, in a red wine, are also part of the “backbone” of the wine, and allow it to age gracefully. The tannins can be presented in many structures, and in good/great wines, will integrate well. They may start off like little multi-faceted balls, with sharp edges. Over time, those “edges” yield to a more “spherical” description - softer, rounder. Take an older Bdx. from a great vintage, with proper aging, and THAT is what I would call “smooth.”

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                This is where people start to differ.

                                I would expect my Auslese to be smooth, and my Spatlese to still be crisp . . . but with more wieght. (This presuming the wines are still young.)

                          2. re: lollya

                            For the flavors of wine (part of the terminology), I strongly recommend the Wine Aroma Wheel (A C Noble), available from the UC Davis Bookstore on-line.

                            Next, another book might be of interest: "Wine Lover's Companion" (subtitle: "Comprehensive Definitions for More Than 3500 Wine-Related Terms") by Ron Herbst & Sharon Tyler Herbst, Barron's, ISBN: 0-8120-1479-0. It's a smallish reference tome, but indespesible to any wine-o. I have worn out two copies, so far. I doubt that there is a week, that goes by, that I don't grab it, if for no other reason, than to get the multi-national diacriticals. etc. correct in spelling!

                            As to "which one [wine], they will like... " Andrea Immer's book goes a very long way in that direction. I think that it was referenced in this thread. If I am confused, please let me know, and I'll post the particulars.

                            Hunt

                          3. Generally, I'd have to say yes, but keep in mind that with acidity that is too low, a wine will seem not only flat, but flabby and possibly cloying (think of a cola from a soda fountain that's too sweet . . . after you swallow, it still feels like it's in your mouth, and you reach for the water). So you need a certain amount of acidity.

                            Same with tannins in a red. There are two different kinds -- hard, astringent tannins (generally associated with oak), and rounder, riper, softer tannins (generally associated with grapes having reached their maturity at harvest).

                            1. the tannin description above really helped me to understand what tannin means - thanks.

                              okay, i will go home tonight and list out the wines (not sure i will remember the years) that I have had and enjoyed and those I haven't.

                              thanks dr. debbs - bobby and 1956.

                              1. This is v. useful commentary - thank you - i'm postin ghere for bobby and others...

                                great idea!

                                First, you need a good wine shop. What are the signs of a good shop? A passionate and confident staff, first and foremost. These are people who love wine and want you to love it, too, and they are motivated by wines that they love, not by what is popular in consumer magazines. How can you gauge passion? If a wine shop posts little signs with comments and scores from national wine critics, try somewhere else. If they post little signs touting their own opinions, you’re in the right place.

                                Next, pick out a salesperson. Tell that person that you are eager to learn about wine and that you would like a case of 12 different wines that are worth getting to know. Don’t forget about setting the budget.

                                Now comes the fun part. Every night or every other night, whatever feels right, break out a bottle to open with dinner. Write down the name of the wine, the year, and what you ate with it, and write down what you liked or didn’t like about the wine. When you finish the case, return to the wine shop. Find the salesperson and go over your list. Based on what you liked, ask the shop to put together a second case of different bottles.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: lollya

                                  I am very spoiled, in that I live across the street from an excellent wine store with a great and knowledgable staff...and I think that is the key. If you don't like what someone recommends, try another person in the store, or try a different store.

                                  I too don't like what you call a "blunt" wine, that lands on your palette with way too much force. I too like the deeper, chocolatey notes of the Syrah/Shiraz varietal. And from there I discovered that I love a lot of the younger Bordeaux reds, lots of reds from the Medoc region of France, lots of the Argentinian Malbecs, there are many good options from Australia - try a Grenache blend, I also found that some of the least expensive Spanish wines can be wonderful. In college when I was broke I fell in love with very inexpensive Portugese Dao, there was one vintage I found that was $6 that I served to my wine snob mother who swore it was a $30 bottle of wine.

                                  The only way I have found to expand my wine palette is to try try try again, and definitely go to tastings. There are so many great options that are under $15, or even under $10 a bottle. Start there. If there is a region and a varietal you like, go a little higher in price range, if you can, but always get advice from someone you trust. Build the trust with less expensive wines.

                                  1. re: ballulah

                                    ballulah - you hit the nail on the head for me...i just tried a grenache blend over the past weekend, which prompted me to write this thread. it's the first wine out of shiraz/syrahs i've loved amongst trying many others....more! more!

                                2. Offerred in the FWIW Dept.

                                  What I always tell my students to do is "go back to high school" --

                                  1) Get yourself a three-ring binder and some lined notebook paper like the kind used is school.

                                  2) Get dividers and mark them, for example, "Cab Sauv," "Merlot," "Zinfandel," "Pinot Noir," "Chardonnay," "Sauv Bl.," and so on.

                                  3) Every time you drink/taste a wine, write down what you thought of the wine -- start HALFWAY DOWN the page! Do this whether you liked the wine, or didn't. Write down as much detail as you can, but DON'T WORRY about the words you uses -- the only one who's going to read this is you.

                                  4) In the upper-right hand corner, tape the label to the page (most will come off the empty bottle after a few minutes in hot water); if the label isn't available, or won't come off, copy down all the wording that appears on the main label -- the name of the winer, name of the wine, the vintage year, the appellation, the alcohol content, vineyard name (if any), proprietary name (if any), specific designation (if any), and so forth.

                                  5) In the upper-left hand corner, write down where you bought it, how much you paid for it, when you bought it, and when you drank it -- sometimes these may be the same date, sometimes these may be years apart.

                                  * * * * *

                                  OK, now -- take this notebook with you when you buy wine. Use it as YOUR reference guide and your "jumping off point."

                                  For example: let's say you tasted the

                                  2012
                                  Chateau Cache Phloe
                                  Napa Valley
                                  Cabernet Sauvignon

                                  Let's say you liked it. Or not. Was it "Cabernet Sauvignon" you liked/didn't like? Maybe you should try the 2012 Napa Valley Cabenet Sauvignon from Jean Deaux Vineyards.

                                  Maybe it was "Chateau Cache Phloe" you liked. Or not. Maybe you should try the Chateau Cache Phloe Napa Valley Chardonnay.

                                  Was it "Napa Valley" you liked (or not). Maybe you might want to try a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma Co., from the Stag's Leap District, from Howell Mountain -- from a different area . . .

                                  Using this in conjunction with a retailer who knows what he (or she) is doing -- as described above -- can make the experience easier on the sales person and more rewarding for you.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    Interesting. This is exactly what I do, but it got tedious by hand so I do it on the computer now. I use the binder for printouts of articles of interest, specific info on favorite wines and occasional hard copy backups of my lists. It is very useful and I often refer to the lists to remember a certain favorite to search for or to remember just what I’ve tried, especially when reading about a particular type of wine. That reminds me, I need to backup right now since I seem to fry computers with regularity. Thanks.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      this is a great suggestion as well, thanks!

                                    2. Lollya,
                                      With your preference for Shiraz and the fact you liked a Granache blend....and your want to 'break out' of the habit, here are some specific wines I would suggest. I suggest these based on the price point I believe you are in(<$25) and being adventurous in wine tasting. I'm that kind of wine-o, always looking for a really good new taste under $25.
                                      One more piece of advice before the wines: Find a professional whose tastes correspond with yours. Start paying attention to the words they use to describe wines they scored highly, and taste that same wine if possible. Look/listen for those descriptors in other types of wine and taste them to see if you can identify what made them use that descriptor. You'll start getting some ideas.
                                      Now for wines:
                                      Carmenere from Chile - If your wine shop is not region-centric you should be able to find a good representative bottle for ~$17-$20. I need my notes in front of me to remember the latest bottle I had, Altavista or something like that.
                                      Castano de Solanera(house) Monastrell(variety) from yecla(region in spain) 01 or 03($12) - This is one of my favorite wines to serve with grilled meat. This will give you an example of what reviewers inevitably refer to as a 'strong' or 'firm' wine. The best have 'well integrated' tannins, and I think Solanera is one of the best for the $$.
                                      Coteaux de Languedoc - These are GSM(grenache, shiraz, mourvedre) blends and good ones can be found for ~$15-$20. If memory serves, Chateaux de Lascaux(sp?) '01 was my go-to red a couple years ago.
                                      Oregon and Washington pinot noir - These are a bit too light and fruity for my taste(WARNING - generalities like these make you miss some very nice wines) but A to Z can be bought for $15 from the williamette valley and gives a good indication of style.
                                      Altos de las (something) Malbec from any of the last three years - If I understand your descriptors above, cabernet without the blunt.
                                      Seghesio Zin Sonoma - In almost any year, this is one of my favorite wines to have around the house. Consistency, quality and value. Seghesio also lacks the heat(high alcohol is the usual contributor) most cali zins now have.
                                      Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc, New Zealand - Have this with fresh scallops sauteed in butter and you'll begin messing around with white wines, much to the chagrin of your pocketbook.

                                      A step up in price point wines:
                                      Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf du Pape '03 - CDP wines are the best wines out for the money in a good vintage. This was a steal because I caught a price mistake at the register...I bought the '03 at the '02 sale price. Stay away from '02 in CDP(another broad brush stroke, but more true than most).
                                      Cuvee Alexandre wines from S America - I can't remember the winery, but I've tasted several different grapes in this line and thought every one was good enough to pay the ~$30.

                                      Remember, have fun and drink what you like.
                                      TNC

                                      1. TNC, I appreciate whole-heartedly your lengthy and time-consuming response. I have written them down and am looking forward to heading to surdyks this weekend to pick a few out. You are correct to assume that I'm generally spending under $25, but most definitely will go out of my way for a superb more expensive one. It's just hard to part with the money if i'm not guaranteed a successful purchase...i mean, i'm adventurous, just a bit frugal as well.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: lollya

                                          No problem, glad you have a nice shop around to explore in.
                                          The wine name I couldn't remember was Alcance '04, it is the Carmenere from Chile. I served it with elk and bean chile without much heat(spice) and it was phenomenal.
                                          Also, Altos de las Hormigas is the malbec I would suggest you try.

                                          Chinon made my comment about drink what you like into a bigger deal than I had intended, so I will clarify a bit: When you get into wine at first, the tendency is to pay a lot of attention to ratings by WS or WA(<- I did!). The comment was intended as a gentle nudge to take ratings with a grain of salt. The advice included in my original post to pay attention to descriptors more than scores goes hand in hand with this. Highly rated wines are a really good way to get an idea of how a particular region or variety SHOULD taste, but a recommendation from a wine guy/gal that knows you would always trump a rating for my buying decision.

                                          TNC

                                        2. The first clue to your dilemma was the fact that you would refer to yourself as a “red wine” drinker. To make a broad generality red wine has a tendency to be more approachable than white wine (in terms of degree of flavor). In other words, what can make serious red wine appealing is more obvious than what makes serious white wine appealing. The syrah/shiraz that you like tends to be big and fruity with dark fruit and therefore to a degree its appeal (or what might make it appealing) is more obvious. Note: That is not to suggest that red wine (including syrah/shiraz) cannot have subtlety which they often undoubtedly do.
                                          To have success at expanding what you drink however you have to know what to expect or what to look for (beyond the obvious). For example, if you were to purchase say a cabernet sauvignon and were not told what to look for in terms of taste you’d probably:

                                          1) Reference the flavor of your favorite style (syrah/shiraz)
                                          2) Compare the cabernet to the syrah/shiraz
                                          3) Find that they are not similar
                                          4) Conclude that therefore you don’t like cabernet.

                                          However, if you were to drink the very same cabernet sauvignon but were told to look for things like green pepper and tobacco or anything else to focus on but syrah/shiraz your experience might be different. This applies to every serious wine. Once you know what to look for it becomes more interesting. This is the only way to expand your horizons and not by "drink[ing] what you like".

                                          1. I agree with your comment.

                                            It was like this with beer too. I never actually tasted a beer and thought 'wow' that is good beer - until about 3 months ago when I tasted a Samuel Smith Nut Brown. I just knew that out of all of the beers I had tried, I didn't really fancy any of them.
                                            Now that I know what to look for, it's easier. I found out I wasn't a fan of hoppy tasting beer and that beers with references to nutty/chocolate were going to work in my advantage.

                                            So...that being said...I guess I want to expand my horizons - however I can't find what it is in wines that doesn't appeal to me, much like the hops in beer.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: lollya

                                              I understand what you are saying however I wouldn’t define myself so rigidly (i.e. I don’t like {fill in the blank} wine/beer). Some like to suggest that we all have these rigid and inherent likes and dislikes and that we should only pursue wines (or books, or art) that mesh or blend nicely with them. To me that is just so boring.
                                              We will always have our personal preferences but isn’t it about discovery too; to discover what is appealing or interesting about something you thought that you’d never like? There was a time when probably most of us didn’t like fine wine at all. Our tastes however (if we are curious and willing to challenge ourselves) are constantly shifting and expanding. And from this process we might emerge enlightened?

                                            2. i can appreciate that.
                                              i really do find most beers appalling. :)

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: lollya

                                                Lollya, this will seem like a shameless plug, but you are welcome to swing over to my web site, http://goodwineunder20.blogspot.com and check out my reviews and the conversations they engender. I try to avoid the hoity-toity, and the wines are mostly under $20. I've been drinking a lot of Spanish wines lately, which I think you might like given your taste preferences.

                                                Also, I would like to echo the idea that you can now keep track of tastings on the computer and for free. I use cellartracker.com, which has the added benefit of letting you see other people's tasting notes so that you can read them and think, "wait, is that puckery thing I sense on the sides of my tongue tannins, like they say?" CellarTracker is free (some features require a contribution, which is $30 per year), and you can learn an awful lot from keeping track of what you drink and your reactions to them.

                                              2. TNC and Dr. Debs...

                                                As always I appreciate any knowledge from you all who have been somewhere much like me with your wine knowings.

                                                I took some advice and went to the lame liquor store by my house (i so couldn't bear the thought of anymore humans after work yesterday) ::smirks:: so I was trying to get in and out - but I did pick up a few variations t try...I'm looking forward to this weekend so I can induldge. And yes, I will check out your site, thank you for said shameless plug!

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: lollya

                                                  I just did the same thing, went to the local wine store and purchased a few new reds based, in part, on the feedback from this board. I went the "entry level" route and purchased a few wines under $20 to try out. I got a Bordeaux (2003 Cote Da Baleau)a Burgundy (2004 Cote de Nuits Le Villages-Louis Vaucrain)and a Shiraz/Grenache blend called Cote du Rhone Mon Coeur-JL Chave. I also picked up a few different Argentian Melbacs since they are a new favorite of my wife. I am sure some of these will be very good and some not so good but I guess trying is part of the fun. Good luck with your choices

                                                  1. re: bobby06877

                                                    Great! I wish I knew the names off hand...I will report back - definitely we should battle this together, perhaps your wife and i and yourself will find out about this wine thing together...should be cool...

                                                    1. re: lollya

                                                      That's exactly what to do! Go out and buy wines for a price that you won't be too upset if they aren't so good and try them!

                                                    2. re: bobby06877

                                                      Bobby:

                                                      A few things: about that Bordeaux. Open it up about an hour before you are going to drink it and put a little in a glass (just a mouthful) and taste it. You are probably going to taste a fair bit of green pepper and think "oh, yuck." Now go back in an hour, pour a normal glass. Give it a sip. Not so much now, huh? Swirl it and sip it slowly with dinner and by the end you will be surprised at how much you like it. That's cause it's a young Bordeaux and needs a lot of air.

                                                      You may also want to do this with the Burgundy.

                                                      The Rhone I expect you will love straight out of the bottle.

                                                      Enjoy and keep us posted!

                                                      1. re: Dr. Debs

                                                        dr. debbs - love this reply. not only did i not know that certain wines should sit - but also never even considered that wine could have a green pepper under/overtone? (eeks)
                                                        i probably just insulted someone with that comment. i am heading to the wine store and hope to report back shortly....i've tried 3 wines this weekend..i'd love to get some coemments on...

                                                        1. re: lollya

                                                          ALL wines will change in the glass with time . . . some wines, such as a young Bordeaux, will NEED the time; others will not.

                                                          1. re: lollya

                                                            You'd be amazed at what you can sometimes taste in a wine! Yep, wine changes a lot as you go from younger bottles to older, or simulate this process by giving your wine some air. (that's why wine people swirl glasses of wine, incidentally--it's not just affectation, it actually lets air into the wine more quickly). And zin1953 is right--not all wines need it. But bobby's young bordeaux will!

                                                    3. I've been sampling wines, sometimes from wine store recommendations (online), other times by friends introducing me to new wines. You may enjoy Castle Rock pinot noir, which I and all our dinner guests have liked. It's about $10. I just reordered a case of Coppola Reserve Syrah from them, which is three times the price of what we usually pay, but we drank a bottle on new years eve and were wowed. So, it's fun to play and figure out which wines you like. One day I ordered a mixed case of pinot noirs and served a bunch at our dinner party. Everyone seems to find that fun.

                                                      1. I was at an Italian wine tasting this evening. What was featured among other things were a pinot grigio, soave, arneis, barolo and an amarone. But what struck me was the almost universal dismissal of the white wines offered as "too light" by the guests. One of my favorites was a 2005 Giacomo Vico Langhe Arneis. It had a bright acidity along with a subtle nutty, almondy taste typical of Italian whites (which was apparently lost on this crowd). This is where (to me) the "drink what you like" approach is ineffectual in terms of broadening one's wine education. Are we to believe that for such a broad gathering that these wines (in totality) are just not what these folks should appreciate? Should these folks close the door on Italian whites because upon first introduction they don't like them?

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                          Americans often serve whites wines straight out of the refrigerator, which is so cold that you can't taste delicate flavors such as those characteristic of Arneis. If that's the case, warm the glass with your hands.

                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                            Chinon00, You're so right about the Italian whites. I love them with food. I think too many people at a wine tasting think of the wine entirely on it's own--like a cocktail--rather than what it might pare with. And if they've become jaded by huge chardonnays full of oak, let them drink trees.

                                                            1. re: Leper

                                                              I am GUILTY of not being able to drink wine or beer with food.

                                                              1. re: lollya

                                                                Ok, I get not drinking wine or beer with food. But I don't get "not being able" to drink wine or beer with food. Could you clarify?

                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                  I guess I am able, just do not enjoy it.

                                                                  1. re: lollya

                                                                    Now this intrigues me greatly, and I'm apologizing in advance for the off-topic thread drift . . .

                                                                    Let me quickly preface this by saying I grew up in a "wine family." I started tasting, reading, learning about wines at age 10, entered the wine trade at 16 and left the trade full-time at the age 50. And the one thing that I was always was taught as a child, and teach my students now, is that wine is meant to go with food.

                                                                    This doesn't mean one cannot enjoy wine without food by any means, nor does it mean that all wines are better with food than without. But -- for me -- the pairing of good wine and good food makes both better; the pairing of great wine with great food improves my enjoyment of both and the results can be almost magical.

                                                                    So my question, I guess -- following up on Chinon00's post, is what is there about wine with food that you do NOT like? that PREVENTS you from enjoying it? (I don't know: is "prevents" too strong a word?)

                                                                    * * * * *

                                                                    As an aside (and back to the original question you posed in starting this thread), while you DID write, "I am a red wine drinker, quite often nightly I sit myself down with a good glass or two" -- it was my incorrect assumption that you had those glasses with food. Had I realized you were having them alone, I would have recommended different wines/different ideas.

                                                          2. i am just learning so much from this thread.
                                                            i think i generally drink only water with dinner.
                                                            i shouldn't have said i never drink wine with food, as occasionally i have wine and cheese with bread or crackers. i find that it seems more astringent or bitter to me and i end up going back to water. i think it changes the way food tastes to me. (which i guess means that it could enhance it as well) but so far my experience has been the former. same sort of thing with beer. some relative information here about me - i am a vegetarian for one, so pairings usually either come by way of meats or cheese in my limited knowledge and me not eating meat tends to limit my options. (does it?) also i find that i am very sensitive to spice. i love spicy food, but when i drink wine and even beer, it makes it hotter. (i don't even like beer with pizza) maybe there is something wrong with me. (even toothpaste, the gel kind burns my tongue!) lame. anyways, it just doesn't pair well for me. but i am open to suggestions for sure. i may even learn to love it!

                                                            1. AHA! OK, This explains a lot. I suspect 2 things: you don't like oakey wines and because you go with red wines you are often drinking wines that completely overwhelm the food you are eating with tannins. Tannins ALWAYS make spicy food taste spicier. This is why most people who eat pizza go for a low-tannin red.

                                                              There is an interesting page on matching veggie food and wine here: http://www.wineloverspage.com/veggie....

                                                              But I think again you need to look for: gamay, grenache, mourvedre, tempranillo, syrah, and pinot noirs for reds. But I also urge you to consider rieslings, gewurztraminers, and viogniers for white wine options. These often have an impression of sweetness (even when they're not sweet) and may really cut down on your sense of the "wine burn."

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. lollya:
                                                                Please provide us with some foods that you regularly enjoy. I'm sure that utilizing our collective experience we on this post can come up with the perfect wine (or beer) pairings. And it won't burn (we promise).

                                                                1. sorry for the delay in response - i sprained my right wrist and it is painful to type and retype and retype (i keep hitting the wrong keys)

                                                                  well i actually LOVE to cook and each week comprise a menu for the week that is something like this...keep in mind i'm a vegetarian!

                                                                  mexican: enchiladas, taco salad, rice and beans
                                                                  asian: spring rolls, fried rice, stir fry
                                                                  italian: homemade pasta with homemade sauce
                                                                  indian: chickpea and rice
                                                                  soups: any roasted vegetable, red pepper and tomato, fresh asparagus, morrocan chickpea, potato, squash etc.
                                                                  african peanut

                                                                  salads, baguettes for fillers...

                                                                  we like things very seasoned and a bit spicy
                                                                  hope this helps.

                                                                  spices we like
                                                                  any chili powders (chipotle, cayenne) smoked paprika, garam marsala, garlic salt, thyme, basil, marjoram, peppercorn, cumin oregano, cardomom, herbes de provence, kaffir lime leaves, etc.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: lollya

                                                                    In terms of pairing with wine, the foods that you've listed would actually work very well with the aforementioned riesling, gewurztraminer, and viognier. Spicey food works well with wines with a touch of sweetness or fruit that these wines have. The sweetness counters the affects of the heat. For pairing with reds I'd suggest the lighter fruitier styles like Cab Franc or Beaujolais (Village).

                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                      thank you chinon - i will definitely pick those up!

                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                        Great suggestions, Chinon.

                                                                        One thing, lollya, you might wish to AVOID are red wines with higher alcohol content and/or higher levels of tannins . . . such as the Shiraz/Syrah you mentioned in your initial post waaaaaaaayyyyyy up there.

                                                                        Spicy foods can accentuate the alcoholic "heat" and made the tannins even more astrigent, rough and bitter-tasting.

                                                                        This may explain why you preferred this type of wine alone, rather than with food.

                                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                                          Thanks Zin. Is there any way to tell how high the tannin level is? Is it specific to certain wines and not others? I picked up various Penfold wine to do a taste test, so far each has been good. Shiraz, Shiraz Cab, Ca Sauv.
                                                                          I'm learning so much!

                                                                          1. re: lollya

                                                                            Danger, Danger, Warning Will Robinson! Broad Generalization Ahead!

                                                                            Keep in mind that winemakers can tame or, within limits, enhance the astringency of the tannins by what they do in the winery. Fining, for example, will alter or even remove some tannins from a wine. Also, there are grape tannins (found primarily in the skins of grapes -- next time you eat one, chew just the skin 8-10 times and you'll see what I mean), and there are wood tannins (from the cellulose in the wood). Ripe grape tannins will feel "softer" on the palate than will the "rougher" wood tannins.

                                                                            OK, that said, and GENERALLY speaking:

                                                                            -- Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah are on the higher end of tannins when it comes to the more easy-to-find wine grapes. (Tannat is, as you might guess by its name, really tannic, but unless your drinking Madrian or Iroulegy . . . )

                                                                            -- Zinfandel and Syrah can definitely be tannic, but it depends upon where they are grown, how ripe they are picked, and how they're handled in the winery (but that's true of almost all grapes). So think of these as generally medium to medium-high in tannins.

                                                                            -- Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignan, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese are all medium.

                                                                            -- Gamay and Pinot Noir are on the lighter end of the spectrum.