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Sep 4, 2013 05:09 PM

Intro to wine - from a nondrinking family

Hello friendly CH denizens,

Yours truly has recently hit the 21st birthday milestone, and it's time for me to finally start drinking and cooking with wine. Hooray!

One catch: I have no idea where to start. I come from a teetotaler family - there was no alcohol in the house whatsoever while I was growing up, so I never tasted anything and therefore have no preferences.

I've attempted to Google first-time wine guides, but they're all too in-depth about grape types, regions and other things I'm not interested in at the moment. I do know a little about types.

I have bought two bottles so far: Beringer Red Moscato and Yellowtail Pinot Grigio. My initial impression is that the red is probably sweeter than reds generally are. The Pinot Grigio has almost no flavor, but provided the necessary ingredient for the shrimp scampi I made last night.

Where did you start with wine? What would you recommend for a newbie? Any favorites? I'm a college student, so my budget is sadly limited to bottles under $10, but I think that's workable.


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  1. I started with something from a box that had the temerity to call itself wine.

    Personally, I would start with a light, fruity white, maybe with the littlest bit of residual sugar, and work your way from there. Hugel Gentil, a very refreshing blend from Alsace would fit the bill perfectly. Or perhaps Donnhoff Riesling Kabinett, which is amazing after a hard day's work. They might be slightly just over $10, depending on where you are, but not much...

    1. It'll take some time particularly reds; due to tannins (that dry feeling or taste you get when you over brewed tea). I'd suggest to start something w/ noticeable sugar (what you're expecting from beverages at your age) yet still legit wines. Off dry Chenin Blanc or German Riesling.
      In regard to cooking w/ wine the opposite is usually true you'll wanna use a drier wine; since cooking drives off water and concentrates sugar in sweeter wines (which is all you'll taste in the meal). From wine you want the acidity in your meal. I used a lot of drier White Bordeaux (semillon sauvignon blanc) for seafood and other light meals.

      1. Not sure where you call home, but I agree with the assessment of fruity for drinking and a bit drier for cooking. Perhaps you can find a Nero d'Avola or Zweigelt for a red or a Torrontes or off-dry Viognier for a white? There are tasty versions out there well within your budget. Enjoy!

        2 Replies
        1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

          Nero d'Avola is a great light red to start with. I tend to like medium to lighter reds and also enjoy a Pinot noir.

          Avoid brands like Yellowtail and Barefoot which typically aren't very good. There are better inexpensive wines out there.

          1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

            Hi BWS,

            I live in Orlando, so plenty of options for wine retailers and the like.


          2. Speak: based on your post, I would strongly recommend starting with the FOOD you like... that will then lead to recommendations for wines to match that particular food... it will also start you out thinking in terms of food and wine in combination, rather than wine by it's lonesome.

            However great wine is by itself, it's just so much more chowish when combined with appropriately paired foods... and vice-versa!

            2 Replies
            1. re: TombstoneShadow

              Thanks! I plan to finish off the bottles I have now before I buy anything new, so tonight will be the last of the Pinot Grigio with some cheese fondue.

              As I said, I can't spend too much too often on wine; are there any approachable all-purpose wines you would recommend that pair with many things?

              1. re: speakhandsforme

                Speak: PERFECT example... next time try gewurztraminer with your cheese fondue... you'll never go back to pinot grigio with it.

            2. Until my parents' first trip to Europe in 1974, wine was a rarity at our house also. It became a major enjoyment with meals and sipping after my student trip to Europe in 1975. It is interesting that we are starting at the same price point. Between 1 and 1.5 hours of minimum wage.

              In a small town with only a few wine outlets, I discovered Barolo and Valpolicella reds and sweet German whites. Most California wines came in large bottles. Small bottle french were out of my price range. Interestingly enough, Pedro Domecq was widely available. I still have a taste for good sherry.

              Please keep a diary. A few words on taste, price and where drunk will be priceless years later.

              Try to taste a number from the same grape and region. Year would be even nicer. Try regions that are not in vogue. Columbia river gorge, Argentina, Chile, Sicily, and Greece are generally underated and thus sometimes show up in the clearence bin. And please do not forget your local vintners. There are some delightful surprises out there.