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Red Wine for a Non-Wine Drinker?

LorenM Mar 22, 2011 07:58 PM

My doctor recently told me I shouldn't drink so much beer and liquor and should replace it with wine- preferably red because it won't jack with my blood sugar as much and is generally healthier. The thing is I have almost always found red wine to be kind of tannic, acidic and bitter and just not very tasty to me. Growing up I would drink my parents cheap Carlo Rossi Paisano wine (nasty!) and boxed wine. I wasn't drinking it for the taste.

Recently I told a friend about this and she bought me a bottle of Malbec wine from Argentina which was really dark but there was not much off-putting about it and it wasn't bad at all. However it is not available at my little corner liquor store. I also have tried some white Merlot which was okay.

Really I am clueless and don't know the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet. Can anyone recommend some other wines that would be fairly mild tasting for me to try? Also easy to find and not overly expensive? Any advice would be most appreciated!

  1. Bill Hunt Mar 22, 2011 08:39 PM

    There are many red wines, that do not exhibit tannins that high. A start would be Cru Beaujolais (even the Villages would be worth the efforts).

    It's all about the grape, the style and what you like.

    Enjoy,

    Hunt

    17 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt
      sunshine842 Mar 23, 2011 01:05 AM

      many of the reds from the Loire,especially the Touraines, are not oaked -- so tannins are minimal.

      You won't likely find them at the corner liquor store.

      Unfortunately, the US wine industry is still very much in love with big oaky tannins...there are some produced without, but not very many. Head for French wines (they're not always expensive, by the way) -- and you might find something a little more drinkable to your palate.

      (I'm not knocking Italy, Australia, or Spain, by the way -- I don't know the varietals and regions as well as I know the French ones, so can't really make an educated recommendation.)

      1. re: sunshine842
        Bill Hunt Mar 23, 2011 06:36 PM

        Well, tannins usually come from extended contact with the skins, pips, etc., and oak is but a part of the mix.

        Hunt

        1. re: Bill Hunt
          sunshine842 Mar 24, 2011 01:37 AM

          absolutely -- but oak is usually responsible for the "my mouth is shriveling up" feeling that some folks don't care for.

          Skins and pips don't generally leave you feeling like your lips and gums are suddenly two sizes too small.

          1. re: sunshine842
            LorenM Mar 24, 2011 11:50 AM

            Exactly the flavor profile I am trying to avoid. Thanks for putting it so eloquently!

            1. re: LorenM
              r
              Ricardo Malocchio Mar 24, 2011 12:41 PM

              I am very sensitive to excessive oak treatments, and I'm starting to believe that an (IMO) over-oaked young wine will never integrate. The tannins will smooth out a bit, of course, but the oakiness will continue to jut out all gangly like a third arm.

              I like sunshine's rec for the Touraines, and one I'd recommend is the 2009 Jean-Francois Merieau "La Bois Jacou" Touraine (variety: gamay noir) for about $12/btl. If you like it, then you might want to put a few dollars more toward some 2009 cru-Beaujolais. Look for some recommendations, especially for those vinified via carbonic maceration (whole cluster) as there are fewer tannins and a much lighter, almost lace-like texture. You might also look for whole-cluster/carbonically macerated pinot noir from Washington or Oregon, which is a bit less vinous than the crus can be, often tasting like a bowl of fresh crunchy berries.

              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                ChefJune Mar 24, 2011 01:29 PM

                Well, Ricardo, an over-oaked young wine is going to turn into an over-oaked older wine. If it's not well balanced to begin with, age isn't going to help it.

                1. re: ChefJune
                  sunshine842 Mar 24, 2011 02:48 PM

                  Not necessarily -- I've had a number of wines that were pretty hard tannins and a few years later the tannins had mellowed, leaving a very well-balanced wine that didn't make you pucker.

                  I've also had a few that were beautifully balanced at purchase...and a few years later, the tannins had mostly dissipated, leaving the wine a bit hollow.

            2. re: sunshine842
              Chinon00 Mar 25, 2011 03:13 AM

              "Skins and pips don't generally leave you feeling like your lips and gums are suddenly two sizes too small."

              Really? I find Nebbiolo based wines for example to be very tannic (i.e. mouth drying, bitter). You are saying that that flavor profile is not from the grape but from oak? From what little I know (and I'm here to learn) new oak provides a sweet vanilla flavor, while non new oak can give a dry leathery taste.

              1. re: Chinon00
                sunshine842 Mar 25, 2011 04:28 AM

                I didn't say anything about flavor profile, I was talking about tannins, which aren't tightly tied to flavor profiles (there are great and not-so-great oaked wines, just like there are great and not-so-great unoaked wines).
                I don't even pretend to be knowledgeable about Italian varietals (and said as much upthread).
                My comment has a big "don't generally" in there.
                They don't use Nebbiolo in France, so I'll freely admit I had to look it up to find out about their highly-tannic tendencies.

                Obviously, Nebbiolo is not a good wine for the OP.

                1. re: sunshine842
                  Chinon00 Mar 25, 2011 05:19 AM

                  Do you find both red and white wines to be "tannic"?

                  1. re: Chinon00
                    sunshine842 Mar 25, 2011 05:28 AM

                    not unless it's a California-type chardonnay, with big oak.

                    1. re: sunshine842
                      Chinon00 Mar 25, 2011 06:50 AM

                      Ok what I'm describing as tannic I've never found in any white wine. We aren't talking about the same thing.

                      1. re: Chinon00
                        sunshine842 Mar 25, 2011 07:29 AM

                        You're right about the *flavors* contributed by oak...but tannin is the feeling that all the moisture has been sucked out of the surfaces in your mouth...brew a very strong cup of plain black tea (not herbal, not flavored,and don't add sugar or milk) -- let it brew for 15-20 minutes -- then taste it (don't take a huge gulp, it's not all that nice) That cottony, sticky dry feeling is tannin.

                        1. re: sunshine842
                          Chinon00 Mar 25, 2011 08:02 AM

                          And you are getting this from oaky Chardonnay wine? Any particular producer?

                          1. re: Chinon00
                            sunshine842 Mar 25, 2011 01:08 PM

                            I *really* don't like aggressive tannins and big oak, so I haven't bought one in over a decade, so couldn't give you a producer on a bet.

                            Tannin and oak *flavor* are not the same thing, by the way -- tannin is a part of the total tasting experience, but tannin is not a flavor.

                            Along with the tea, if you've ever bitten into an underripe persimmon, then you know what tannin feels like.

                            I took part in a big wine tasting last weekend, and it's too bad it can't be copied and published -- it was a poster child for assertive tannins. The color was gorgeous - a dark ruby, with a big berry nose and a beautiful full round flavor of black fruit and pepper and leather...then the tannins kicked in and it was like having had your mouth dried out with cotton. I actually had to get a sip of water, because it felt like my cheeks were stuck to my teeth...pity, actually, because the rest of it was amazing.

                            There had been another wine in the same flight (different producer) that had a similarly lush nose and flavor, but the tannins in it were far better managed, and it was the proverbial Baby Jesus in velvet slippers...that wine took our table by a landslide, by the way.

              2. re: sunshine842
                Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 07:13 PM

                Well, the tannins can be from the oak, but also from the time, that the skins, pips, etc., spend with the wine. It is not always about oak, but it can certainly play a role. A bit of list A, and maybe a bit of list B, plus perhaps some elements from list C.

                What many find as objectionable, is often attributed to time in oak, but that is not always the case. Many more factors can enter this equation.

                As an anecdotal example, a friend loves many FR Chards, but is less a fan of US Chards. She thinks that it's ALL about the oak. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it is about much more. It could well be a Chard with ML (Malo-lactic secondary fermentation), or the time on the lees, or maybe even the Chard clone chosen. Lot of variables.

                Hunt

                1. re: sunshine842
                  Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 07:14 PM

                  Oh, but they do, though you might not be aware of the "cause."

                  Hunt

          2. b
            BigWoodenSpoon Mar 23, 2011 11:28 AM

            You might like more medium weight wines like a Perrin Reserve Cote du Rhone, Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel or Merlot and maybe even a Nero d' Avola which has some fruity notes to it. All of these are usually around $10 or less, especially if you have a Trader Joe's in your area. (If so, I think you'd really like the Cocobon if your region carries it)

            1 Reply
            1. re: BigWoodenSpoon
              b
              bob96 Mar 23, 2011 06:48 PM

              There are fine value Cotes du Rhones (Perrin, Delas, Chapoutier), good mid weight Italian reds (Palazzo della Torre from Allegrini, Campo Fiorin from Masi, a good nero d'avola fromm Sicily Cusumano) and Riojas with some age that do not say fruit bomb.

            2. r
              rchlst Mar 24, 2011 09:40 AM

              If you're not looking for a high alcohol wine, you'll probably like a Malvasia. Usually on the sweet side, very slight bubble to it, and very easy to drink.

              1. v
                Val Mar 25, 2011 10:56 AM

                LorenM, if you have a Total Wine by you, you might try D'autrefois Pinot Noir, right around $10. I like red wine but can't stand big fruity sugary reds that everyone seems to market these days and some of them have outrageously crazy alcohol content...I saw 16% on a California red label the other day--wasn't Ravenswood but another big-label name. eesh!

                8 Replies
                1. re: Val
                  LorenM Mar 25, 2011 02:13 PM

                  There are a few larger liquor stores in my area. I have had wine that was too sweet too. Yesterday I bought another Malbec (Bodega something or another) from Argentina since I kind of like the first one. I am going to give it a whirl this evening. I noticed they did have cru beaujolais there as well for about $14 which a couple of posters here recommended. There have also been a couple of mentions of pinot noir, so I assume these aren't the long oaked, tannic, dry-your-mouth- out varieties. I really appreciate all of the suggestions and am anxious to try some of these! Hopefully it opens up new worlds!

                  1. re: LorenM
                    v
                    Val Mar 25, 2011 04:04 PM

                    And as many other posters recommend in other threads, see if you can catch a wine-tasting...Total Wine has them I think every weekend. Why do I like Pinot Noirs so much? To me, they are lighter, and taste a bit of cherry...AND I've read that resveratrol levels are highest in pinot noir wines, an added health benefit. (but please: moderation as your doc probably also said...eeesh!) Plus I can find PNs at lower alcohol levels, 12%-13%...to me this, is also important. And thus, they are mostly from France and Italy since California is so smitten with producing high-alcohol wines it seems.

                    1. re: LorenM
                      r
                      Ricardo Malocchio Mar 29, 2011 08:08 AM

                      Like burgundy, beaujolais is VERY producer/vigneron driven. Don't think you can pick up just any old cru and expect to get something "recommended". For example, I wouldn't recommend the Descombes Morgon, but I highly recommend the Foillard Morgon. I also adore Lapierre's Morgon, but it is quite a different beast than Foillard's. I like Chateau des Jacques' Moulin-A-Vent, a deeply structured almost burgundian cuvee, but I prefer Jean-Paul Brun's which, though needing age, is a bit racier and lighter on the palate. Coudert's Clos de la Roilette Fleurie is drinking great right now, but his cuvee tardive will easily best it with a bit more age.

                      In short, Malbec often tastes the same from Bodega Whatever and Bodega What-was-that-again? because they're often vinified in the "globalized" style that strives for a single overarching expression most appealing to the mass market. Burgundy, Beaujolais, Loire Valley, etc., are VERY producer driven wines often revealing small distinctions in adjacent terroirs as well as the "house style".

                      I know this may sound like far more complexity than you're after. But should you tire of a certain, overworked, ubiqutous "international" style, you'll come to greatly appreciate the vast diversity in other parts of the wine world.

                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                        LorenM Mar 29, 2011 09:03 AM

                        I am discovering the world of wine is extremely complex and is going to involve much trial and error. The Cru Beaujolais I saw was The Villages that Bill Hunt mentioned. You are right about the Malbec- it didn't have anything that stood out as far as complexity but it didn't taste bad at all either (which to me is saying something) - kind of a generic tasting wine. I think I would like a bit more character though to tell you the truth. I have been writing down some of these recommendations and keeping them in my wallet so really appreciate all the feedback.

                        1. re: LorenM
                          sunshine842 Mar 29, 2011 10:36 AM

                          when you're ready for big bold Malbecs, try a Cahors from the southwest of France.

                          For now, just jot it in your notebook, because you won't like it...yet....it's almost black, complex, and rich....and a real favorite at our house.

                          1. re: sunshine842
                            Delucacheesemonger Apr 2, 2011 01:03 PM

                            l haven't seen an old style Cahors for a while. Go through the Cahors once a year on my way to Toulouse and the wines seem to keep getting lighter. Easy to see through the black wine. In earlier days light would not even go through it. That was why switched to Madiran, tannat makes wine very dark and delightfully impenetrable.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                              sunshine842 Apr 3, 2011 01:51 AM

                              they're still out there, but yes, they're getting harder to find. I tried one at a recent foire -- it was a blend of Malbec and *can't remember* -- and it was a very nice wine, but it was NOT Cahors.

                      2. re: LorenM
                        Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 07:30 PM

                        Pinot Noir is a grape, that does not do well with long contact with the skins, pips, etc., but can age in oak, nicely - depending on the desires of the winemaker.

                        Many "fruit-forward" wines have lower tannin levels (though not always).

                        Too many folk will attribute some aspect of a particular wine to one element, when it is usually much, much more complex, than that. Some focus on oak, and some on time with the skins, or even the lees. In the end, it's about THAT wine, and what the winemaker wished to achieve. The variables can be fermentation (initial, plus any secondary), the clone used, the vessels used for fermentation, and for aging, plus the vintage, the region and the varietal. Such are the "mysteries" of wine. To me, one should focus on the particular wine, and not try to cubbyhole one aspect, as that might not come into play on the next wine on the list.

                        Many Mendozan Region Malbecs are quite fruit-forward, and are designed to be consumed fairly early. They are often (though not always) designed for just such usage, and will often be a tad less tannic, than some other versions of the Malbec grape.

                        It is almost impossible to ascribe certain characteristics to any one varietal, or even to that varietal in one region. There WILL be differences, depending on what the winemaker is trying to attain.

                        For me, it is all about the balance, regardless of the "numbers" involved. Higher alcohol can yield "silky" wines, so long as everything is in balance. Low alcohol wines can be in balance, so long as other aspects line up. When you find a varietal, and a producer (or maybe Region, or sub-Region) that you like, explore their wines. Do not try to use one such wine, as a template for others. They might fall in line, or maybe not. It all just depends.

                        To me, the journey is worth the price, as one can experience so many variations. I love my FR Chards, and often group several into neat little columns of styles - but then there are exceptions - vintages, vineyards, etc., so a Puligney-Montrachet might differ from Ronin to Flavier. A Mersault might be more acidic from one producer, or negotiant, than the same vineyard, but from another winemaker. There are not that many "constants" in wine, and one should keep an open mind, and taste as much, as they can.

                        Enjoy,

                        Hunt

                    2. j
                      j8715 Mar 25, 2011 11:28 AM

                      I'm going to throw Montepulciano d'Abruzzo into the mix. Not always the easiest to find as many shops have over whelming selection of chianti and not much else in terms of italian reds. Not too pricey, should be able to get something decent for under 14 dollars (depending on your area).

                      actually all of these wines are generally cheaper because they are wines you drink early and don't put in a cellar for years.

                      Oak flavors and tanin flavors are two different things i'm confused by most of this thread???

                      1. i
                        Isolda Mar 25, 2011 01:13 PM

                        Whatever you do, check the alcohol content on the bottle before you buy. There's a trend in CA and Washington wines to make wines with alcohol as high as 15%, and I find the alcohol really causes that mouth puckery feeling. It's not just the tannins.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Isolda
                          sunshine842 Mar 26, 2011 01:22 AM

                          +1 wine isn't supposed to burn.

                          1. re: sunshine842
                            v
                            Val Mar 26, 2011 05:00 AM

                            EXACTLY...to me, it really isn't wine any more at that high of an alcohol content...15% 16%??? rubbish!

                            1. re: Val
                              Chinon00 Mar 26, 2011 05:15 AM

                              I agree that wine being "hot" is never a good thing but would you consider Amarone (which is typically above 15% abv) to be "rubbish" as well? It depends on the final result to me.

                              1. re: Chinon00
                                v
                                Val Mar 26, 2011 05:57 AM

                                Chi, I guess what I'm saying is that this trend towards producing so many wines with these higher ABV's is rubbish...not that ALL of them are rubbish...I should have elaborated.

                                1. re: Val
                                  sunshine842 Mar 26, 2011 11:58 AM

                                  sadly, when everyone starts following a trend like this, the number of unpleasant 'hot' wines far outnumbers the drinkable ones.

                                  You can find an exception to everything if you look hard enough...but at >15%, I'm not really sure I want to look all that hard.

                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                    Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 07:46 PM

                                    Personally, I think that the "exception" is in the other direction. In the end, it is about the individual wine, and to shove them into neat little boxes, based on some numbers, is not the best course of action. It may tell one a bit about a wine - or maybe not.

                                    Hunt

                                2. re: Chinon00
                                  Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 07:38 PM

                                  Great point!!! Too many people get hung up on numbers.

                                  There are many threads on alcohol in wines, and all too often, the numbers are what people focus on. Same thing with "oak." There are many variables, and if one could produce the greatest wines, based on some set, or sub-set of numbers, then all great wines would be done by computers, and not humans. Alcohol ABV is but one constituent element. One would do better to not focus on that, though it can be an indicator, if balance is NOT maintained. It CAN be an indicator, but is not ALWAYS an indicator.

                                  Hunt

                                3. re: Val
                                  w
                                  William James Mar 29, 2011 08:29 PM

                                  Earthquake Cabernet 15% Earthquake Zinfandel16% two Phenominal bottles of wine $25.00!!!

                              2. re: Isolda
                                Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 07:32 PM

                                As mentioned above, alcohol is but a part of the equation. It is about balance.

                                I do agree that wine should not "burn," but alcohol is often typified as "silky," so it is not bad - so long as balance with other elements, is maintained. I have had low-alcohol wines, that were "hot," and high-alcohol wines, that were not. Balance - balance - balance.

                                Hunt

                              3. w
                                William James Mar 26, 2011 01:57 PM

                                Cupcake Velvet Red $ 8.99 most places is a nice red for non wine drinkers!

                                1. LorenM Mar 28, 2011 07:55 PM

                                  I am trying the Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir and it was a bit too acidic for my taste. I had to make the bitter lemon face when I took a drink. So Pinot Noir- not my variety, I think or just the brand (it was a 2009). There were a couple of suggestions for Cote du Rhone. Maybe I'll look for that next time. My local liquor store seems to have a lot of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvingnon mostly but not much variety, I might have to search elsewhere for that. Still trying! I know there is some stuff out there I'll really like- I just haven't quite found it yet- though I must say the second Malbec I purchased and drank last Friday, like the first, was pretty benign. Is the Cupcake Velvet Red as sweet as it sounds?

                                  20 Replies
                                  1. re: LorenM
                                    r
                                    Ricardo Malocchio Mar 29, 2011 08:12 AM

                                    So, you're writing off Pinot Noir in totality - all of Burgundy, and much of Oregon and Washington, not to mention Cali - because you had one sucky Mondavi?

                                    Loren, you simply can't dismiss Pinot Noir because you don't like one expression of it. And a Mondavi no less - it just might be supermarket plonk. Or it might be one of his $100-or-more bottles, which I also don't like and would not recommend.

                                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                      LorenM Mar 29, 2011 08:44 AM

                                      Not writing off Pinot Noir forever. Just not going to run right out and buy another bottle right away (though I can see it might be great to cook with. Hmmm. Still have a little left). I am sure there are fine examples of it out there with different characteristics. It really to me tasted like I would expect a classic red to taste like- whatever that means, but quite tart nonetheless (so tart, it was distracting for me). I also know Mondavi is a mega producer and it wasn't the cheapest they had, so I assumed their version would be kind of middle-of-the-road-ish which is why I went for it.

                                      1. re: LorenM
                                        w
                                        William James Mar 29, 2011 03:10 PM

                                        Pinot Noir ...Also Cupcake, Blackberry Chocolate Red Fruit With a Mocha finish Delightfull Shoule be $8.99 a Bottle Run right out and buy some!!!

                                        1. re: LorenM
                                          Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 07:54 PM

                                          In very general (read broad-brushes here) terms, PN is a bit higher in acid, and because of that, is often more food-friendly, than some other varietals. Again with that broad brush, Barberas will likely seem similar. They will each be lower in tannins, than many other varietals, but the acid CAN give you a "lemon pucker," which is different than a "tannin pucker." The feeling might seem the same, but if you get into real details on the sensations, they will be different.

                                          Also, and especially with Cal PN's, and more especially from the Monterey/Santa Barbara/Central Coast, there are many PN's, that are much more fruit-driven, whether one likes those, or not. Many will typify some of those fruity PN's as being more "Syrah-like." Could be a compliment, or maybe not - just depends.

                                          With regard to any one, or two producers, do not be too quick to judge any varietal, by their examples - Mondavi, or other.

                                          What this tells is that you do not like THAT Mondavi PN, so scratch that off your list, at least for now. Maybe another winemaker's PN, even from the same Region/sub-Region, might be more to your liking. Still, PN will often exhibit a bit more acid, than some other red varietals, so perhaps look elsewhere for now.

                                          Enjoy,

                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                            LorenM Apr 1, 2011 08:19 PM

                                            Thanks, Bill. I am kind of seeing your point but would love some clarification. Are you saying that particular varietals can have completely different characteristics? Are there characteristics that are almost always true of one particular varietal? For example I will draw from what I do know, which is beer. I generally know an IPA will be very hoppy. I expect that from every IPA I drink. Doesn't mean they all taste the same but I do know they all will have that certain hoppiness to them (or it's not an IPA in my book) and a certain amount of dryness and bitterness which goes along with hops. I mean, it's really obvious what type of beer it is when you taste it. Are you defining it the same way in wine as well or are you saying that you can never anticipate at all what a wine tastes like before you drink it (which is difficult for me to grasp) just from what varietal of wine it is? I'm really trying not to be too naive about it, just trying to understand your point of view. Perhaps the variations of flavors in wine are much smaller than in beer? I haven't really drank enough of them to know. If someone took a blind taste test of red wines, do you think they would identify them all correctly? Sorry, you just kind of confused me with your post. Thanks!

                                            -BTW I bought a bottle of Ravenswood '08 Zinfandel to try this weekend. Seems like they really like California wines at the corner liquor store. Might have to make a field trip soon!

                                            1. re: LorenM
                                              LorenM Apr 1, 2011 09:09 PM

                                              I was inspired to pop open the Ravenswood Zinfandel and it is not bad at all and is actually kind of good. Seems to be quite drinkable. I didn't have great expectations and am pleasantly surprised. It was pretty cheap too! Yay!

                                              1. re: LorenM
                                                Bill Hunt Apr 2, 2011 06:56 PM

                                                Ravenswood has gone a bit commercial, since Joel Peterson sold it. Do not know if he is still the winemaker, but that was part of the original sale.

                                                Ravenswood does several Zins (and a Chard, or maybe two now), that range from the Vintner's Blend to several single vineyard offerings. Those single vineyard offerings have changed over the years, so what was once available, might not be today. I loved their Monte Rosso.

                                                The Vintner's Blend is fairly consistent, as it is a blend, so one usually gets the "Ravenswood house style" there. I use it (and the Peachy Canyon) as my red "cooking wine," and it's also worth drinking, while cooking. It is a nice "everyday wine."

                                                Enjoy,

                                                Hunt

                                              2. re: LorenM
                                                Bill Hunt Apr 2, 2011 06:50 PM

                                                A varietal will have some very general characteristics, but even those can change, depending on the Region, sub-Region, Vintage and winemaker's desires. Little things, like the exposure, or the slope, can alter what one gets in the bottle.

                                                A great example of this would be the Chardonnay grape. Just in France, one can find all sorts of differences, from say Chablis to one of the Montrachets. Mersaults will be closer to the Montrachets, but still different.

                                                There is a great book by Andrea Immer, Great Wines Made Simple, and one of the things that Ms. Immer (now Robinson) does is step one through the differences, such as Old World vs New World, and then warm climate vs cooler climate, for many varietals. If this book has not been recommended up-thread, I would definitely pick up a copy. Note: it was written some years ago, so when one encounters her suggested list, well things have changed, but a good wine shop can take her list, and update it, to work with current wines. It's more about the concept, than the exact wines. It is really a workbook, but the homework is so much fun!

                                                Enjoy,

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                  r
                                                  Ricardo Malocchio Apr 3, 2011 09:25 AM

                                                  Loren, while you can anticipate some very general characteristics when approaching a wine of a particular grape variety, there are at least two other variables of equal or perhaps greater importance: location (or terroir) and producer (the style of the particular winemaker).

                                                  The practice of placing the grape variety in prominence on the label is, for the most part, a recent and decidedly New World thing. In the past (and presently in most of the Old World), wines were/are generally identified by terroir and maker. One doesn't drink a "cab/cab franc/merlot blend"; one drinks a Bordeaux (a region in france) from one of the carefully defined sub-regions (appellations) from Chateau So-and-So (the house). It's not that folks didn't know that certain grape varieties were vinified in certain regions; it's simply that this alone does not adequately or accurately describe the wine.

                                                  So why is the grape variety the most prominent descriptor of New World wines? In many ways, it's the newness of the New World. And it's not that they didn't try to adopt the established indentifiers! We had "Napa Clarets", "Fume Blancs", and even California sparkling "Champagne" (the folks in Champagne - which is, again, a REGION in France, not a grape variety! - reacted strongly to protect their name from use by non Champagne growers). As you can well imagine, calling a wine from California a "Champagne" is as silly and misleading as calling a wine from Hungary a "Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon".

                                                  In honesty, I think it was also an attempt to simplify wine for the new market. You know, three flavors! Cab! Pinot! Merlot! Sadly, the effect is oversimplification. It seems much less complicated, but in the end the consumer is much more in the dark about what she's drinking. Even though some Old World producers are now listing the grape variety on the labels of their basic wines to appeal to the new world market, I think the pendulum is moving in the other direction. People now know that a cab from Rutherford has certain terroir-specific characteristics, as do Zins from Dry Creek Valley, or Pinots from Willamette Valley. People now know that a maker like Ridge will produce a decidedly different wine than a maker like Sine Qua Non. As New World terroirs continue to be discovered and developed over many vintages, and as wine makers establish themselves over the same long periods, I'm certain that the recent trend of signifying a wine by grape variety alone will continue to abate.

                                          2. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                            w
                                            William James Mar 29, 2011 03:37 PM

                                            AGood middle of the road Pinot Noir BEL GLOS ...About $59.00 Good Pinot Noir!!!

                                            1. re: William James
                                              LorenM Mar 29, 2011 08:59 PM

                                              59 bucks is middle of the road? I must be slumming cause the Mondavi was only like 14 or so. I better know what I'm getting into to plunk $60 down on a bottle! That would be a special occasion kind of thing. For a replacement for beer and bourbon, it has to be something I can afford pretty regularly. I drank the rest of the Mondavi Pinot tonight cold from the fridge and it was pretty good. Is that wrong?

                                              1. re: LorenM
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                                                William James Mar 29, 2011 09:08 PM

                                                HMMMMMMMM Cold from the fridge! Why not put ice cubes in it? OK LA CREMA Pinot Noir $22.00 WORTH every Dollar Then again POPPY Pinot $14.99 Very good bang for the Buck!!

                                                1. re: LorenM
                                                  sunshine842 Mar 29, 2011 11:38 PM

                                                  Not wrong, particularly, but not recommended, despite the other posters screaming at you.

                                                  Chilling tends to dull flavors, so while yes, it will soften the acidic notes that you don't care for, it will pretty much neutralize everything else, too.

                                                  Try pouring a glass and letting it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to warm a little...as an experiment, take a sip every few minutes and see how the flavors begin to change as the wine warms and how the flavor begins to change as the oxygen hits the wine.

                                                  Reds are usually served cool (not cold, but not average room temperature, either), and whites are served much cooler. (actual temperatures vary according to what kind of wine it is)

                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                    Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 08:21 PM

                                                    Good advice. The concept of "room temp" for reds originated in Europe, where "room temps" were not THAT far above a cellar temp of 55F, and not what one encounters in the US. There, "room temp" runs up from about 78F, which is too warm, IMHO. By the time that I have decanted, or even just poured my reds, starting at 55F is not a bad place to begin. Also, as I live in AZ, USA, it does not take long to bump up the temp of a wine.

                                                    Sampling a wine, as it warms (one's hands can be very useful here) is a good exercise, and one that can tell a person a lot about how a particular wine behaves with the temp.

                                                    Hunt

                                                  2. re: LorenM
                                                    Bill Hunt Apr 1, 2011 08:15 PM

                                                    Well, PN is a tough grape, and lower-end examples can be, well lacking. Still, I normally find great examples in the US$ 35 range. One of the better low-end PN's, in my book, is the Acacia, which runs about US$23 (Costco in AZ). However, that is about the low-end for PN's, in my experiences.

                                                    It is not an inexpensive, nor easy grape to work with, and really shows "flaws" with the lower-end versions.

                                                    While I love FR Burgs (PN's), and there are some good recs. from the US$ 25 range, up to about US$ 3K, they do tend to be a tad more acidic, and thus often more food-friendly, than many US versions. Hence, in very general terms, I would not recommend the Burgs - at least not yet.

                                                    Again, and in very general terms, PN's do a bit better with a tiny bit of chill, than some other reds will. Still, out of the 'fridge, I would allow an hour to warm up, depending on the ambient temp of your kitchen. Cold can hide many flaws in both whites and reds. That is why so many US restaurants will serve their whites much too cold - they want to hide the flaws. OTOH, these same restaurants will served their reds at 85F, and all that one gets is heat, even when the alcohol is in balance otherwise. Temp is important for the fullest enjoyment of a wine, and can differ by the varietal.

                                                    Enjoy,

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                      sunshine842 Apr 2, 2011 11:55 AM

                                                      first lesson from a wine seller in Florida on dealing with less-than-stellar wines:

                                                      Chill Swill.

                                                      (the colder it is, the deeper the flavor hides. Yes,this can be a good thing.)

                                                      1. re: sunshine842
                                                        Bill Hunt Apr 2, 2011 07:02 PM

                                                        Yes, and that is what too many restaurants do, even when it's not the "house white."

                                                        Last week I was surprised with a few restaurants in the UK (all big wine locations), that wanted to put my Montrachets into an ice-bucket! Maybe it was because I was obviously from the US, but we worked things out, and got some good temps. Actually, in the US, I request an ice-bucket for reds more often, than my whites. Especially with lighter reds, I find the 85F to be horrible, and worth sticking in ice water for a moment. Decent serving temps are often either overlooked, or altered to hide the flaws.

                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                          sunshine842 Apr 3, 2011 01:57 AM

                                                          I think this is where my new phrase of the week applies: Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

                                                          There are so many people who just think that wine ought to immediately go in a bucket with ice....amazing that even "big wine locations" would fall into the same trap.

                                                  3. re: William James
                                                    westsidegal Apr 2, 2011 11:23 PM

                                                    william,
                                                    i want to be walking YOUR road if $59 is in the middle of it.

                                                    1. re: westsidegal
                                                      w
                                                      William James Apr 3, 2011 05:36 AM

                                                      At times more at times less Depends onthe week! Old Greek Proverb Treat Yourself Like Nowbody Else Will!!!

                                              2. s
                                                suzysue2 Mar 29, 2011 09:30 PM

                                                It might be worth your while to get on the email list of a couple of reputable wine shops in your area, that way you can be alerted of the free tastings they offer and perhaps find what suits you, wine vendors always offer a reasonably priced option as that is what sells best. You can always ask for a case discount if you find something you like. Good luck.

                                                1. junescook Apr 2, 2011 01:39 PM

                                                  Wines from Chile and Argentina can be particularly good values because of the 3:1 exchange rate in favor of American $$. Like you I prefer lighter reds. Look for Merlot and my absolute favorite, Carmenere, which is very light indeed.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: junescook
                                                    LorenM Apr 6, 2011 09:18 PM

                                                    Thanks, June. I am trying a Lindemans Australian Shiraz Cabernet tonight. Sounded funky and I haven't tried either one (that I know of yet). Seems okay but not great. It was $7.99. I drank some Merlot once and didn't like it but then cooked some mushrooms,garlic and butter in the rest of it and poured the whole thing onto a nice sirloin and it was a great thing. Have you tried Grenache? I read it is sweet and low in tannins. Just curious.

                                                    1. re: LorenM
                                                      b
                                                      bob96 Apr 6, 2011 09:29 PM

                                                      Grenache can have a touch of sweetness, with some spice and a lovely rustic feel.. By itself, usually in Spain, it can to my taste be overextracted, high in alcohol and jammy; I prefer a good Cotes du Rhone blend with Syrah and other mates combining nicely with Grenache. Tannins can be relatively low for everyday CdRs.

                                                      1. re: bob96
                                                        r
                                                        Ricardo Malocchio Apr 7, 2011 07:56 AM

                                                        Domaine Paul Autard makes a widely available, around $10 CdR (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault blend). The current vintage, 2009, is rustic, spicey, and not overwhelmingly fruity or extracted, and an inexpensive introduction to CdRs and that category sorta known as "GSM" blend wines.

                                                        Another cheapo you might find anywhere is Michele Chiarlo's Barbera d'Asti (around $15). Juicy with a nervy spine of acid and low tannins make this an easy drinking, non-spoofulated if not exactly distinctive wine.

                                                        1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                          b
                                                          bob96 Apr 7, 2011 09:39 AM

                                                          The Chiarlo is a nice Barbera and a good value. I'd also suggest exploring Minervois , Fronton, Gaillac, and other Southwest/Languedoc-Roussillon wines, exc. perhaps those high in Carignan, like Madiran, for midweight warmth, fruit, and spice. In Italy, of course, grenache can be delicious (and a little baked, but in a nice way) as Sardinia's cannonau.

                                                  2. t
                                                    TheWineScoop Apr 4, 2011 08:36 PM

                                                    Baron Herzog Jeunesse Cabernet Sauvignon might be a good choice if you are not a big wine drinker. It's a semi-sweet wine that is under $20. It's actually a red wine that can be served chilled if you want.

                                                    1. nsenada Apr 7, 2011 09:54 AM

                                                      Jumilla is a nice Spanish wine that's very easy to drink, and quite affordable. I like Luzon Jumilla, and haven't had any bad experiences with others. I also really like Allegrini's Pallazo Della Torre, very fruity, not too tannic, a touch sweet, if that's a plus.

                                                      1. LorenM Apr 8, 2011 09:46 PM

                                                        The Grenache sounds like it might be good. I guess I would like to try a couple sweeter reds. I am actually trying the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2008 . A couple of you recommended the style. I like it pretty well. It goes down smooth (I guess meaning not too acidic) but it does dry my mouth out pretty well. I don't really have any experience with French wine but this seems pretty refined- meaning I can see how some folks would really like it. It's good.I probably will try this style again. So far California wines seem to have really bold characteristics compared to other countries' wine which seem more delicate. Is this generally the case?

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: LorenM
                                                          Bill Hunt Apr 9, 2011 09:32 PM

                                                          The Villages BJ's will probably be more to your liking now, though do not dismiss the Grand Cru BJ's, some years from now. You would likely find them too dry right now, but keep them in mind for later. These are wines from the Gamay grape. Side note: many US wines, that mention BJ Gamay are probably not. While you might like them, do not be confused. For a domestic (US) Gamay, seek out Beckman, from the Santa Barbara/Lompoc area of the Central Coast.

                                                          For Grenache, also try the offerings from Beckman, especially his Rosé of Grenache. He also does a nice Syrah, that might be too your liking.

                                                          Enjoy,

                                                          Hunt

                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                            LorenM Apr 19, 2011 07:45 PM

                                                            The Grenache is still on my short list. I did try some Yellowtail (cheap, I know) Shiraz which I guess is the same thing as Syrah. It totally gave me heartburn. Not sure if it was the type or brand. Drinking Beaujolais Nouveau right now (see post below). I tried this kind on your recommendation, Bill and thank you for it!

                                                          2. re: LorenM
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                                                            Ricardo Malocchio Apr 11, 2011 08:28 AM

                                                            Loren, though I haven't had the 08 Duboeuf Bojo-Villages, please understand that this wine is not a particularly good example of Beaujolais. I would drink it (and have had the 09 bottling), but this wine will lack both distinctiveness and the refinement of better crus and producers.

                                                            What it most certainly DOES possess, however, is acid. Acid up the ying-yang, in fact. That's one of beaujolais' defining characteristics and a characteristic that I think you should seek out rather than avoid. Acid content is what makes wine refreshing, lip-smacking, palate-cleansing. It's what urges you to take another sip, another bite. It's what creates that sense of energy and "lift" on the palate.

                                                            It's true that BAD high-acid wine can come off as merely tart or even bitter. If a high acid wine goes "volatile", it can be like paint thinner mixed with industrial white vinegar. But bad wine is bad wine, whether more on the lithe, energetic side (acid) or flabby, fleshy side (lack of acid).

                                                            The drying astringent thing that you seem to be trying to avoid is more likely from the tannins,either from highly extracted grape skins/pips or an abundance of new oak treatment. The bad news is that these elements - along with a highly ripe, sweet, low acid fruit and the concomitant high alcohol levels - are defining characteristics of the "international style", and you will find a glut of these types of wines in your supermarket.

                                                            The good news is that the lighter, more finessed wines are often not as highly priced, even though they are just as greatly prized by those of us who prefer this style. Hence, the bargains that are represented by cru-Beaujolais, all manner of Loire Valley reds and whites, old-school rioja from Lopez de Heredia, and the "non reserve" bottlings of Barbera, Chianti, etc. *(many Italian wine-makers have recently adopted the "international" style for their riservas - high extraction, extreme oak treatments - but are maintaining a more traditional style for the base bottlings).

                                                            Keep tasting and good luck!

                                                            1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                              b
                                                              bob96 Apr 11, 2011 08:58 PM

                                                              Good advice, Malocchio. The crus Beaujolais are often very good value wines, esp. a Morgon or Moulin a Vent or Fleurie. As for Chianti: I stumbled pleasantly onto an $8 Gabbiano base bottling that was rustic, a little leathery and baked, but with fresh fuit around it. A very pleasant old school surprise, esp at this price point.

                                                              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio
                                                                LorenM Apr 19, 2011 07:35 PM

                                                                I think I see what you mean, Ricardo, about acidity. I guess I kind of equated acidity to the bitterness I tasted in red wine but am finding out that the tannins seem to be an important factor in that as well. That said, tonight I am trying a Georges Duboeuf (the only brand my local lick carries) 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau. I think the price tag indicated it was a step above the Villages. I actually like this wine. It is quite drinkable and smooth. Last Friday I went old school and tried some white zin (which I am more familiar with than true reds), and it was too sweet after the first glass. I think this experimentation into the world of reds is expanding my tastes which is exactly what I was hoping for!

                                                                1. re: LorenM
                                                                  r
                                                                  Ricardo Malocchio Apr 20, 2011 01:41 PM

                                                                  I think acidity can sometimes heighten the sensation of bitterness in a poor wine (particularly on the finish), and VOLATILE acidity (a defect) can make wine taste as vinegar. Or paint thinner. But without acidity wine is like poached fish with no lemon ... all flesh and no zing. That lively spritz on the palate gives the wine life and energy, and allows it to stand up to acid-y foods (say a tomato sauce) or cut through a high-fat dish (anything Alfredo, for instance).

                                                                  I'm very glad you liked the Duboeuf (of course, the single most important thing!), but I think I might be wary of 3-4 year old Nouveau. Shouldn't the 2010 vintage be the only Nouveau one should find on the shelves?

                                                                  The good news: Nouveau is the lowest form of Beaujolais, but, as you've found, it can be quite pleasing nonetheless. Since you like what you've tried, you might want to look for some Lapierre Raisins Gaulois (a juicy, gulpable "table wine" from this fine and, sadly, recently departed beaujolais maker that goes for around $11/btl) or some 2009 Jean Francois Merieau "Le Bois Jacou" (a gamay - same grape variety as in beaujolais - but from Tourraine in the Loire and about $14). And if you get really serious about the Bojo, then you'll want to seek out the crus from Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, etc.

                                                                  Best of luck on your continued search!

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