About wines...

Trying different wines. There are more than 5,000 grape varieties in the world, but many of us drink the same one, or ones, week after week (the equivalent of eating chicken every night). Here are some to try more this year: Albari˝o from Spain; Pinot Gris from Oregon; Riesling from Alsace, Austria, and Australia; Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State , southern French reds like Gigondas; Barbera and Dolcetto from Italy; and Syrahs from all over the American West.

 wine Which is the proper wine to drink as an appetizer or with that big juicy rack of lamb you prepared? We've all been faced with a never-ending list of Californian, Washington, French and Italian wines that all seem to be the same at first sight.

Well, almost everything seems the same, until you view the difference in price.

Cost aside though, how do you select a proper bottle of wine for a specific meal? These simple guidelines will ease your wine selection process and give you a clear view for the next time you serve or order wine.

Before we even discuss the types of wine that go with specific meat and fish, we'll go over some of the basic terminology every wine drinker should be familiar with.

Generic, Varietal & Vintage...

The first important distinction one should recognize is between generic, varietal and vintage wines.

A generic wine is made of a blend of various grapes. There is no one dominant grape and these wines are labeled with generalized terms such as Chablis, Burgundy or Rhine.

A varietal wine is made of 75% of one type of grape. For example a Chardonnnay or Cabarnet Sauvignon are varietal wines.

A vintage wine is made of grapes that are harvested in a particular year. This means that at least 95% of the wine's composition is made up of grapes from the year stated on the label.

The remaining 5% of the wine is made up of different juices (wine) to make each wine unique.

Once this first distinction is made, it's time to taste the wine and learn about its characteristics.

Wine Tasting...

It's actually pretty funny to hear people's discussions at wine tastings. The vocabulary is very elaborate and as the night progresses, it can even become somewhat incomprehensible. The reason being that people are supposed to spit the wine away after each tasting, but we all know they end up drinking the whole glass and, needless to say, after a few glasses people start getting quite tipsy.


Basic Terminology...

Here are the most important terms you'll need to remember in case you ever attend a wine tasting festival or would simply like to know for yourself.


Aroma: The part of the wine's odor derived from the grape type and fermentation process.

Body: It is how the wine feels on the palate: its weight and fullness.

Bouquet: The portion of the wine's odor that develops after it is bottled.

Nose: It is the total odor of the wine composed of the aroma. That is the bouquet and all other factors involved.

Acidity: Indicates the pleasant tartness or sharpness of the wine's flavor due to the presence of fruit acids.

Balance: A term used when tasting, to define a wine that has complete harmony amongst its main components.

Another tasting term denoting the absence of sweetness in a wine.

Tannin: Components of a wine that leave a mouth-drying aftertaste. These components have an astringent, puckery, and sometimes bitter quality.



So now that you are familiar with some basic wine terminology, here are some tips on what types of wine should be ordered during different stages of your meal and for different types of meals.


  •  important characteristic in aperitif wines is that they have a crisp acidity and are pleasantly sharp and flavorful. These wines are a great contrast to rich canapÚs, oysters, caviar, and nuts, and they will help stimulate your appetite and refresh your palate.Before any good meal, it's always pleasant to have a little aperitif. 

    Here are suggested wines:

  • Champagne and sparkling wine.
  • Crisp white wines like Macon, California, Fume Blanc
  • Dry Fino Sherry
  • Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling

    It is essential to find the right harmony between your wine and your main dish. That's why it is so important to select the right wine for the right food.


    For most fish plates, choose a crisp white wine with high acidity levels. The acidity will accent the flavor the same way a pinch of lemon would. When it is a really rich tasting fish dish like salmon, you can order a light red or rose wine. Shellfish should be accompanied with a sharper white wine such as a Muscadet, and Lobster has an affinity with rounder whites such as Chardonnays and white Burgundies.

    Light Foods...

    When eating lighter meats such as chicken, veal or pork, opt for less tannic red wines such as Beaujolais, Chianti, Pinot Noir, or flavorful white wines such as Rieslings, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, or Gewurztraminer. These wines are also great for light flavored cheeses. White wine generally tastes better with most cheeses than red; acidity does the trick. 

    Rich Food...

    For strong cheeses, lamb and game, more intense red wines should be selected. Great choices are Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, rich Burgundies, Barolos, Riojas, and Rhone wines. Charismatic red wines with astringent tannins will balance the fattiness of the meat and cheese.

    Steak & Ribs...

    For those eating beef or steak, the wine selection should be emphasized on medium-bodied reds such as: Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlots and Zinfandels. A fine pinot noir is a personal favorite for prime ribs and a spicy Zinfandel for a charcoal-broiled steak with pepper sauce.


    By the time the dessert arrives, you might not feel like drinking anymore wine, but knowing which wines to drink might help you appreciate and complement the finishing dish. For fruity desserts, recommended wines are Rieslings, Sauternes, and Muscats, while for sweeter desserts such as chocolate, the selection would have to be a fine Port.

    As you can see, this is a pretty basic guideline on wine selection and there is a lot more to learn before becoming an expert. Try to remember the major categories that fit with the different types of foods -- this will help narrow down your selection.

    After narrowing down your selection, don't hesitate to consult the waiter or store clerk to really pinpoint the perfect wine suited to your designated meal.


Basics On Selecting Wine...

By John Samuel

buying wine
It's Saturday afternoon and you are preparing a dinner party for your business associates. The meal is taken care of; you are serving steak with potatoes, and chocolate mousse for dessert. The question is, what wine will you buy to perfectly complement the meal?

Selecting the right wine can be as simple as choosing a few favorite brands and sticking to them, or as complex as collecting verticals (different vintages from the same producer) of the world's greatest wines, or even buying wine futures (the right to buy a certain wine before it is actually made).

The selection all depends on the level of involvement and interest of the individual concerning wines. Many prefer to buy the same brand every time they go to the liquor store, while others prefer to try different brands everyday. So how do you buy the right wine? Here is a quick checklist to guide you in buying the best price/quality wine for any occasion. These guidelines are general tips targeted to help the average wine drinker.


Tips on Buying Wine...

Rule NO. 1 of buying wine is to trust your own taste, because no one knows your preferences better than you do. Make sure to taste the product before committing to it. The importance of this rule will be magnified as more expensive wines are chosen. A common mistake people make is buying wines which mainstream critics or friends refer to as their favorite. Trust your own palate and pick the wine you like to drink.

BuyingWine is a Learning Curve..

Buying good wine is part of a learning curve, and you're likely to learn as much from your buying mistakes, as from your triumphs. Therefore, diversify your purchases and expand your collection. Most people have a passion for particular brands and stick to them throughout their drinking lives. Nothing is wrong with this, except for the fact that they are missing out on many great wines that they will never have the pleasure of experiencing. Even if you are a conservative wine taster, try shopping around for different styles of wine, and watch your selection skills progressively develop into better wines for more affordable prices

Price & Quality...

Experts can debate endlessly on whether the prices of wine really reflect their quality. There is no doubt in my mind that when someone wants to drink the best wine on the market, he will have to pay a premium price. It's like anything in life; if it's a quality product, it usually comes with a heftier price. Yet, as a general rule, it would be wise to shop around for good value. Make it a habit to go out of your way to find the wine that offers the best bang for your buck. Experts will generally say: Go out of your way to look for the best buys to get the most mileage out of your wine dollar.

Mid-Priced Wines...

Keep an eye on mid-priced wines. Fine wines are usually over-hyped, over-priced, and most of the time they do not deliver that extra quality. Keeping prices in perspective will allow you to pick otherwise ignored wines that lack the image of higher-priced wines, while these mid-priced bottles will often be of very good quality.

Buy a Case...

Once you try the wine and like it, consider buying it in cases. Many retailers will give you a 10% discount, or even a free bottle when buying a case. If someone is a regular wine drinker, buying it by the case will add up sizeable discounts for one year's worth.

Watch Out for Popular Wines...

Be alert of which wines have been popular in the last few years. Last year's superstar sellers could be this year's worst vintage, simply living off of its reputation. Here comes the importance of stockpiling the wines you like. For example, if one year makes for a rare pearl; make sure to by one or two cases, so that when the next year's selection comes along, you will have the appropriate reserves.

Finally, assemble your wines with rhyme and reason. Think about your needs before parting with your cash. Think of how many times a year guests are invited over, or how many times you are invited. Keep the expensive wines for more important occasions, and the less expensive wines for everyday use. Obviously, you will not be one hundred percent accurate on how many bottles you will need in a year, but at least you won't be unprepared when the time comes along.

How to Create a Wine Pantry
Follow these tips, and you'll always have a great bottle on hand.
By Karen MacNeil

Have you ever been inspired to make a fascinating recipe one minute but changed your mind the next because you just couldn't manage (or bear) a trip to the supermarket? As every good cook knows, cooking is easier when you've got a well-stocked pantry to draw from.

The same holds true for wine. Having a selection of good wines on hand means that no matter what flavor you need, you're always ready. There's no need to set up a fancy wine cellar stocked with multiple vintages of Bordeaux or a cache of well-known Cabernets. Instead, try something smaller and simpler -- try creating a wine pantry that contains a few bottles for typical occasions.

Great Comfort Wine
Whether you're serving coq au vin or just plain old macaroni and cheese, comfort foods need comfort wines -- nothing fussy or too expensive. A simple, refreshing white like Zenato Pinot Grigio from Italy (about $10) fits the bill. For a red, the soft berry flavors of Zinfandels are especially cozy. Try Geyser Peak's Zinfandel from Sonoma County (about $17).

Wine for Spicy Dishes
Spicy dishes considered exotic just a decade ago are now mainstream. If you think spice is nice, make sure your wine pantry has an equally spicy white. Try the excellent Thomas Fogarty GewŘrztraminer from Monterey (about $13). If you'd rather have red, go with a Beaujolais, such as Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages (about $8) -- it's a superfruity wine that provides your palate with a sort of landing cushion for spices.

"Big Meat" Wine
From prime rib to pot roast, meaty dishes need big wines; well-structured reds are best. Try a Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia, such as the sensational Penfolds Bin 407 (about $25). For a more modestly priced bottle, consider the full-bodied, berry-flavored Hogue Cellars Cabernet-Merlot from Washington State (about $9).

Midweek Wine
Why not keep a very inexpensive wine on hand for Wednesday night meat loaf? Consider it your economy model. Juicy and appealing, Lindemans Bin 40 Merlot from Australia (about $9) is a good choice. If you're looking for a white, try a sassy, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, such as the one from Kenwood of Sonoma County (about $13).

Celebratory Wine
It's probably safe to say we could all use a little more celebration in our lives. And you don't need to wait for a raise; sometimes, just getting to Friday night can feel like a victory. I always have an affordable sparkling wine on hand, like the fresh, snappy Mirabelle Brut (just $13). I also like to keep an expensive wine that signifies a truly special treat. Try the Hess Collection Cabernet Sau-vignon (about $35).

Gift Wine
It's Saturday night; you're going to a coworker's home for dinner. Wouldn't it be convenient to have a bottle on hand to take as a gift? A gift wine should be serious and delicious, but not ostentatious. Consider Markham Merlot from the Napa Valley (about $22).

Two Good Standbys
Finally, it's always great to have two good standby wines (one red, one white) you can open for any occasion, be it a surprise visit from an in-law or just a friend dropping by. Chardonnay is a good standby white, especially if it isn't too oaky. A good one is Trefethen's Chardonnay from the Napa Valley (about $22). For the red, opt for something appealingly soft and lush like an Australian Shiraz. The Barossa Vale Shiraz (about $35) is redolent with ripe blackberry pie flavors.

Wine prices are national retail estimates, and may vary.



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  Central Valley     |     Sierra Foothills 





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