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SUGGESTIONS FOR A NOVICE WINE DRINKER???

  • vgenna Aug 27, 2010 07:19 AM
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I am a wine "weenie" and just started to drink it. I normally did enjoy the very sweet wines- Muscadines, Mogen David, etc. After all, I was raised on grandpa's home-made burgundy wine and 7-Up spritzers from childhood. After a recent trip to San Francisco and a wonderful trip to V. Sattui Winery, I was able to move to sweet Rieslings. They have a Gamay Rouge that was to die for also, but you can only get it through them. I was so disappointed. It costs so much to order a case plus shipping, so I've not had their wines since our trip.

I am trying to finesse out of the sweet whites. I know I don't like the bitterness of tannins (at least I think it's the tannins that taste bitter) and the reds have more of that bitter taste to me. Also, the dryer they are, the more bitterness I taste. At least that's what I think I am tasting that I don't like. I tried Yellow Tail Shiraz that was suggested here, but didn't like that either. Last night, I had Duca Stella Rosa that is an Italian red sparkling wine that I loved. of course, it was only 8% alcohol and didn't have that bitter taste.

I have to admit that the less alcohol content the wine has, the better I like it and the less bitter it tastes. In fact, the expert at Sattui was playing with me when he was trying to find a sweet and bitter less wine I enjoyed. When he finally brought one I enjoyed the best and became very excited about it, it turned out to be straight fruit juice! So, that's the type of drinker I am coming from, and I am 55 years old.

So, my question is after I disclosed all this embarrassing information about being a wine weenie, can anyone suggest wines more leaning toward the reds that I can finesse to? I did see the Zinfandel suggestions above and I will try those. Any other suggestions, based on what I said about the bitterness taste? I know it's not the fruitiness i am looking for because I tasted very fruity reds that were very dry and bitter that I did not like.

Please help a weenie!

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  1. Did you copy and paste this verbatim from Snooth or something? There aren't any "Zinfandel suggestions above".

    1. I'm guessing the bitterness you're talking about is tannins. Your palate may be overly sensitive to tannins.
      I would suggest looking for unoaked wines, since oak adds tannins to wine. Italian wines are often made in big cement vats. Di Majo Norante is a widely available sangiovese and it's cheap, too. Try that.
      Also, wines from the Almansa region of Spain are made without oak. Higueruela is one producer from that region I've tried and liked.

      2 Replies
      1. re: SteveTimko

        Definitely agree with everything Steve wrote. That's great that you discovered riesling already; there are absolutely world-class German rieslings at 8% alcohol or less that don't see oak, and that are available at very reasonable prices. Chablis also might work for you a lot better than California chardonnay or other white Burgundy, since it doesn't see oak.

        It might be hard to find, but there's a Jura grape called Poulsard (sometimes spelled Plousard) that tastes a lot like pinot noir without tannin. Beaujolais also might work, where you get a sense of sweetness, but a a lighter wine without astringency. And conveniently, the 09s are hitting the market soon and are reputed to be outstanding.

        1. re: SteveTimko

          Thank you Steve. That is very helpful. I will let you know once I try them.

        2. It is not going to be easy to find sweet reds outside of the dessert realm. You might try Grenache. Also tannins are more prevalent in young wines so you should find something that has aged well, unfortunately this would also mean that cheap wines are probably not going to be to your liking. I would recommend avoiding cabernet, pinot noir, and zinfandel since they are typically tannic. You might try a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) it is typically a pretty mellow blend. Try finding a small wine shop in your area and ask for some recommendations there. If you want to become a true "wino" you will need to taste a lot of wine and may learn to appreciate the tannins at some point.

          You also could focus on whites and become a white wine snob, try Reisling and Viognier both are dry wines that can impart some sweetness. I would recommend staying away from chardonnay initially, they can be as harsh as reds sometimes.

          In addition try drinking your wine with food, this can enhance both the flavor of the wine and the food and can mellow tannins if pair appropriately. An example would be don't pair a tannic wine with spicy food. Tannic wines should have some fat in the food to balance the tannins and acidity.

          I hope this helps.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pairswellwithwine

            Thank you a lot for this. It does help. Though, many of the Rieslings I drink are all very sweet.

          2. You might want to try a lambrusco--it will be slightly sweet, with some fizz, and may be a nice transition wine for you (I'm referring to the better quality type that's now available--best to ask in a well stocked wine store.) Two other Italian wines that may work for you are grignolino and freisa--both are lighter bodied, with good fruit flavors and no tannin.

            1 Reply
            1. re: penthouse pup

              I will definitely try them. Thank you!

            2. If you want to build up a useful body of knowledge, be sure to take copious consistent notes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tripeler

                I've already missed a lot from not taking enough notes!!!

              2. These will be very hard to find in North Carolina, but the red wines of the Republic
                of Georgia (not the US Georgia, but the Black Sea Georgia), such as Kindzmarauli
                or Mukuzani are naturally sweet, yet are not intended as dessert wines.
                These wines have been made for over 2000 years and are typically a favorite
                of former residents of the Soviet Union. I tend to think they are fun to try, but
                I would not drink this stuff every day.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bclevy

                  I will look for them anyway!

                2. Welcome to the club. And stop calling yourself a weenie!

                  Here is one technical observation, and then some practical -- if not contrarian -- suggestions.

                  First, the technical - based on what you say above, you may be a hypersensitive taster, and if so, 90+% of the wine recommendations coming from the masses will not make sense to you. Nor will they understand why you like what you like...and perhaps call you unsophisticated! Google "Tim Hanni" to find the TasteSQ questionnaire online and figure out where you fit on the continuum of wine tasters. Hypersensitive tasters like sweet wines, low alcohol, and there is just no two ways about it. High alcohol zinfandels from Lodi will never work for hypersensitives. Nor will black coffee, single malt scotch served neat, and diet coke (aspertame), etc.

                  Forget notes, forget books unless you are really information starved. Just go to the best wine shop in your town once a week and buy a week's worth of wine. Tell them what you bought last time and whether or not you liked it. Your wine retailer will adjust your next purchase accordingly. This is so much more fun to most new wine drinkers than buying books and taking notes in solitude. Wine a very social topic.

                  As much as possible, taste before buying the bottle. This will keep the cost of "guessing wrong" way down....

                  Whatever wine appeals to you now is the wine you are supposed to drink now. If it is Sutter Home White Zinfandel, so be it. Many, many individuals who start to like wine start there -- and never like anything as much. Especially the hypersensitive tasters.

                  Don't collect wine. That gets expensive if you are in the exploration stages. Everything you can possibly need is available today at your local wine shop or within 3-4 days shipped from elsewhere.

                  I'll stop there.

                  Enjoy!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                    Fantastic! You got me down to a science. Thank you very much for your help. Based on your suggestions, I should just drink the wine I like and not worry. And you're right because I have been trying so many different wines that I don't like.

                    1. re: vgenna

                      Bingo. I know a billionaire who drinks nothing but highly sweet, low alcohol white wines because that's all he can tolerate. He tried EVERYTHING with hopes that he would some day get a "sophisticated palate." But never did. I think this is a physiological issue.

                  2. You might also consider not so much staying away from "wines with tannins," but actually ease into them.

                    Rosés are a good starting point, as are sparkling rosés. They are typically light and just have a nudge of the red in them. They also tend to be very food-friendly across a broad range of edibles. You can also look for wines where the accompanying literature indicates notes like, "smooth tannic structure," or something similar to that.

                    One rule that you might keep in your back pocket is, what ever you are eating should not be sweeter than the wine you are drinking. If the food IS sweeter than your wine, the wine will end up tasting sour or even slightly bitter. Since you currently have a preference for sweeter wines and probably have a sweet tooth (like me), I think this will be of at least some value to you.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      Red wines are still going to have tannins. The idea is not have extra tannins added by oak.
                      A simple test would be to find orange wine somewhere and see if he tastes the bitterness in that. Orange wines are white wines made with skin contact, which gives them an orange color. The tannins are in the skins.

                    2. i agree with the other posters, to start with white and perhaps a rose. with white i love sauvignon blancs. they don't have heavy oak so it's more refreshing and fruity and sometimes grassy. also agreed with bulavinaka regarding eating something that's not sweet. wasn't it here on on this site that some article went over what foods don't pair with wines? well, never eat cake and wine together if you don't like the bitter flavor.

                      as far as experimenting with reds i'd stick with pinot noirs. they go down easily. one other thing i find with pinot noirs is that the more i spend the better it's tasted. i don't have much wine knowledge and may be wrong but that's just been my experience.

                      i'd go to wine bar or somewhere you can get a small flight so you don't end up buying a whole bottle that you may not enjoy. good luck.

                      1. I used to hate tomatoes, goat cheese, mustard, crusty bread and medium-rare steak. I now love them all. So my advice: drink more and drink often. You'll develop a palate. I know it sounds snarky - but it's true. I started out drinking really fruity, young reds (wine, not women) and really tame whites. My perfect bottle is now giant, tannic reds and full-bodies whites. So this advice is sincere -- it's the best time I've ever spent in education.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: henmonster

                          Bingo. Everyone I know (including me) started the same way....you start with the light stuff and ease into drinking bigger and bigger wines...and loving every step of the way!

                          You might also consider looking toward wines made in the Loire valley of France (you'll see Touraine on most of the labels) -- they tend to not oak their wines -- red or white, and produce some really lovely wines. Chenins are on the sweeter side, although I've had some lovely sweeter sauvignons, too.

                          Keep an eye out for wines marked "demi-sec" -- literally "half-dry" (the other half is sweet) -- you could even try something labeled Moelleux (pronounced something like mooyoo) -- they're on the very sweet end of the spectrum.

                          I wholeheartedly agree that good wine is whatever you enjoy...wine is not so much labels and vintages and bouquet as much as it is enjoying what's in your glass, how it interacts with what's on your plate, and enjoying the company with which you share it.

                        2. Forget the theory, in my opinion. One good way is to ask around for a good wine store near you, then walk in and talk to the owner. Tell him you want six bottles, not too expensive, and this is what you have tasted and liked in the past. Have some friends over for dinner, pop some corks (unscrew some caps?) and taste. My guess is that you will make some real progress in deciding what you like pretty quickly. Plus anybody who whips out 3 bottles of wine at a dinner is automatically designated a "wine guru." Emmis.

                          1. I used to down Black Tower whites and those horrid Wild Vines wine coolers in my adolescence, and somehow morphed into a Big Red lover. So tastes can definitely change!

                            Aside from the excellent suggestions for whites and rosé, I've found Menage a Trois' red to be very nice... smooth, jammy, and sweet. Seaview makes a sparkling shiraz (possibly only available during the holidays) that is interesting -- on the sweet side, but definitely less saccharine than an Asti Martini sparkler.