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new to wine - recommendations

fldhkybnva Mar 10, 2011 06:56 AM

I have finally acquired a taste for wine, however am completely lost in the wine store. I have tried several chardonnays which I enjoy, but thought that I would explore other whites. Last week I tried a sauvignon blanc and found it to be underwhelming. I thought that I might branch into the pinot grigio or riesling categories this week. Any recommendations? If it helps, while I like chardonnay I do prefer muscato and d'Asti. Thanks for any suggestions.

  1. r
    ReeseChiarlo Mar 15, 2011 01:08 PM

    Hi, welcome to the wonderful world of wine. The Sauvignon Blanc you tried, do you remember where it was from? I would not give up on the Sauvignon Blanc altogether, it has a wide variety of flavor profiles depending on where its from. For instance New Zealand Sauv Blancs tend to have a lot more citrus and sweetness to them, then say a Sauv Blanc from California or especially france. Sauvignon Blanc from Chile are also a whole different profile. Try Sauvs from around the world you might be surprised.

    Some other white suggestions would be Vouvray (france), Viogner (California or French), German or Washington State Rieslings, some interesting white blends you might enjoy:

    Sokol Blosser Evolution
    Conundrum

    As well Semillion/Sauv blanc blends form Australia.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ReeseChiarlo
      Bill Hunt Mar 15, 2011 05:52 PM

      I strongly agree, but not just with SB - almost ALL varietals have many flavor profiles, and those can depend on the vintage, the region, the treatment by the winemaker, and other factors.

      To the OP, never try to group ALL varietals into a little box. You will miss some great wines, along the way.

      Even with Pinot Gris/Grigio (a varietal, that I often ask, "what's the big deal?"), I still keep trying. Along the way, I've found some very interesting examples, just not THAT many.

      Also, cubbey-holing, a region, or even a hemisphere, can be a mistake. For me, it's Chilean wines (same general results, as for PG's). I still keep tasting. The "batting average" has not been good, but I continue to try and keep a very open mind.

      The reason that I recommended the Andrea Immer book, is that it exposes one to variables, that might not seem obvious at first glance, and that's probably one reason that Reese likes it too.

      Exposure and tasting, with some note taking (even mental ones) will benefit you for life. Immer gives you a little bit of the "why," in the exercises. Also - the "homework" is a lot of fun!!!!

      Enjoy,

      Hunt

      PS - as you expose yourself, keep in mind what you like, and what you do not like, in all wines tasted. Use that info to talk with the wine shop personnel, so they can do the "candidate search," and help you concentrate on some "likely suspects." Be open, and patient, and do spend time reporting back. I strongly recommend building a relationship with a good shop, especially now. Maybe down the line, you can head to the "big box" stores, but I'd not do so yet, even if it costs you a few extra $'s initially.

      1. re: Bill Hunt
        b
        bricap Mar 20, 2011 10:12 PM

        I've made a lot of the mistakes that Bill has mentioned in my past experiences. I learned that not all chardonnay tastes like the heavily oaked stuff from California, for instance. (I commend Bill for not giving up on Pinot Grigio, though.)

        My approach is to keep trying new wines. To the OP, if you see a grape on a wine list that you have never heard of, try it. Do not settle for a standby. Keep expanding your tasting experiences. They say there are 3,000 grapes out there. Don't stop at 10. Keep going. And yes, try different regions for the same grape. Try blends, too, even if they have a grape you didn't have a good experience with before. I'm not a big Sauvignon Blanc fan, but I sure liked a white Bordeaux which had SB blended with Semillon, for example.

        I love to experiment at Trader Joe's. My mistakes generally cost less than $10 there, and often enough, I find a solid everyday drinker. More often than I expect, anyway. There is a lot of value to be found at that place, but that's for another thread...

    2. h
      HoosierFoodie Mar 14, 2011 12:34 PM

      Read (books, magazines, wine boards etc..) and taste. But most importantly taste. Just because you tried "a" (singular) sauvignon blanc doesn't mean you throw out the entire variety! A sauvignon from the Loire Valley is going to be different from one grown in New Zealand or California or.....

      Find a decent wine shop and ask for recommendations. Always decide for yourself. Just because Parker or Laube loves it doesn't mean you have to and vice versa. Its fine to take direction from a particular writer but it isn't gospel.

      It helps to also take notes so that you can remember what you liked or didn't like. Tasting wines "blind" can be fun. Have your significant other place the bottles (two or more of the same variety of wine) in paper bags and taste from each bottle or bottles. The one you like better is the one
      you should be drinking. This illustrates looking past the label or someone else's preference.

      German or Alsacian rieslings is a good place to start, you can find value there, they are good with a lot of foods, and some might argue that Riesling is the greatest white grape.

      1. d
        dustbuddy Mar 14, 2011 07:24 AM

        It might be worth trying some off dry Chenin Blanc from the loire. The best producer to look out for is Huet but there are lots of good value options around the $20 mark. Best place to seek recommendations will be your local wine shop.

        1. b
          bulavinaka Mar 12, 2011 08:12 PM

          If white wines are your current comfort zone for wines and you want to venture into a broader winescape, you can always try rosé wines, both still and sparkling. I find the varieties from Provence (Bandol) to be similar in some ways to good dry whites, but with some citrus and strawberry kicks as well - this is true for most rosé but even more so with Bandol rosé. Italy offers some sweeter sparklers (moscato di asti) while Spain has a lot of sparkling rosé wines that are dryer but are also great values. The level of tannic structure can vary quite a bit when considering the whole spectrum of rosé but the vast majority are are closer to whites than reds. We drink a fair amount of rosé at home as well at eateries because a lot of what we eat doesn't sit on one side or the other of the food/wine scale. Sparkling rosés tend to be a good match with so many foods, from bbq, to sushi, to even some of the more assertive Asian dishes.

          1. Bill Hunt Mar 12, 2011 06:16 PM

            I would recommend that you pick up a copy of Andrea Immer's (now Robinson) "Great Wines Made Simple." It's a general wine reference, but with a big difference - she steps one through many varietals, and many countries/styles of wines. Let's just say, "the homework is well worth the price of the book." The exact recs. are probably a bit long in the tooth, the concepts are still right-on, and with her lists from when the book was published, will resonate with any good wine shop. They can "read between the lines," and make good recs. for what is current. She also offers about 3 different price-points for each tasting exercise, so you do not break the bank. You will NOT be disappointed.

            Enjoy your journey,

            Hunt

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt
              r
              ReeseChiarlo Mar 15, 2011 01:10 PM

              Hunt, this is a book I reccomend to all my employees at my wine bar, it really does bring a very fresh and easy to follow approach to wine. Not to mention an enjoyable read. Great reccomendation.

              Cheers,
              Reese

              1. re: ReeseChiarlo
                Bill Hunt Mar 15, 2011 05:43 PM

                I still utilize it to structure wine-courses for some societies, that I belong to. Yes, there is some updating, that is required, but it's quite easy, and easy for a beginner, with a decent wine shop. So far, the "courses" have been very well-received. We normally end with some blind exercises in New World vs Old World (and I do not pull ringers). Everyone loves it.

                Glad that you are a fan too,

                Hunt

            2. m
              MRich Mar 10, 2011 06:42 PM

              My best advice would be to take notes about whatever you drink. It will help you keep track of what you like and of the changes in your taste. As tastes evolve in wine drinking I find that most people move farther from sweet (except in the case of dessert wines).

              1. Midlife Mar 10, 2011 03:25 PM

                Good suggestions so far above. You give enough clues to suggest you like sweeter wines but you'll get more help here AND in a wine shop if you can describe the tastes you like because styles vary within single varietals and so many wines are blends.

                Some of the more general descriptors used to categorize wines in some shops are fruity, mellow, bold, silky, crisp, big, sweet, juicy. With some specific grape variety preferences and descriptors like those you'll be able to navigate more easily in reaching your goal.

                Have fun!!!

                1. dandyessex Mar 10, 2011 03:00 PM

                  I think a good Viognier is a nice stepping off point from Chardonnay. I find they often have similar qualities (if the Chard is oaked) in mouthfeel, but the differences in typical flavour profiles will allow you to branch out.

                  I like Stag's Leap from Napa, but I think they do it best in France.

                  1. SteveTimko Mar 10, 2011 07:26 AM

                    Sounds like you like sweeter wines? Which chardonnay did you like?
                    I'd suggest German riesling to start.. It looks like you live in the Baltimore area, so I'll make recommendations available at Wells Discount Wines. I know nothing about the store. Hopefully they're a reputable retailer.
                    For riesling, start with a Donnhoff 2009 estate for $20 a bottle. It's a good introduction to riesling. Also consider the Leitz Dragonstone.
                    For chardonnay, I'm going to suggest wines at two extremes to see which one you prefer. You could like both. One is Foxglove Chardonnay. It's the second wine from Varner. Restrained. No oak. Something like $15 a bottle. Another is Rombauer Chardonnay. $33 a bottle. Big and lots of oak. See which one you like.
                    They also have some gruner veltliners, which along with riesling are some of the most food friendly wines made. You could try that for a different pace. Ask at the store for a recommendation.

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