Newbies to the world of wine often face a common predicament…where do I start? As the newest member of the Divine Wines team I am currently faced with the same challenge. I never expected to be so completely overwhelmed by different regions and unfamiliar producers and styles. Fortunately, I’ve never had better homework than drinking and learning about wine. I’m taking it step-by-step, starting with sampling some popular favorites then working my way through some of the tougher-to-understand geographic regions and unique products. I would love to share what I learn with you along the way!
I’ve started with the very base of the basics…Varietals 101. We have created a chart with a simple breakdown of our 7 main wine categories. While I firmly believe that wine can be taken a little too seriously sometimes (my number #1 rule is to forget the rules and just drink what you love!), understanding the basics can really help make your wine shopping a breeze. It’s also a great way to find new products you’ll love based on what you already enjoy…
BUBBLY: In order to be called “Champagne” it must be made in a very particular way and must be from the Champagne region in France. This can leave this style on the pricier end and perfect for a special occasion, however, not always in the average wine shopper’s budget. Cavas and Proseccos offer some great similar alternatives, typically at a lower price point. I have a serious fling going on with the Zonin Prosecco right now. It’s crisp, refreshing and at $9.99 a bottle it’s perfect for simple sipping or mixing up a Mimosa!
DRY WHITE: Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio tend to be the “go to’s” for dry white wine drinkers. Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Grüner Veltliner are some perfect additions to the shopping list for someone with this type of palate. We LOVE the Pratsch Grüner Veltliner ($11.99) right now! It’s from a family run vineyard in Austria and it’s made with organic grapes. The Pratsch winemaker describes this wine as “herbal, fresh and spicy with notes of white pepper, apple and citrus.” It is a perfect option for Sauvignon Blanc fans looking to change it up.
SWEET WHITE: Moscato, Late-Harvest Riesling and Semillon are all great choices for sweet white wine drinkers. Riesling is a very versatile grape, meaning that the resulting wines can range anywhere from bone dry to dessert sweet. As a general rule of thumb German Rieslings tend to be sweeter than the U.S. style, but keep in mind that it really depends on the winemaker. We’re always happy to do some quick research for you if you’re unsure if a particular brand will fit your tastes. Our sweetest Riesling in the store right now is 14 Hands from Columbia Valley ($9.99). It’s from Washington State and features fresh flavors of apple, pear and apricot. We also love the 90+ sparkling Moscato Dolce ($10.99). 90+ is a virtual winery that buys unused grapes from specific vineyards producing wines ranked 90 or above by Wine Advocate or Wine Spectator. They have created a genius way to produce incredibly affordable wines sourced from top vineyards. Their Moscato Dolce is just one of their many great options available in Divine Wines.
RICH WHITE: In my version of heaven all they will serve is rich, oaky, buttery Chardonnays. I may be a little biased when it comes to this category but if your taste buds are like mine you’ll love my personal favorite, Green Truck Organic Chardonnay ($10.99) or La Crema Chardonnay ($17.99). If you’re looking to splurge a little try Cakebread Chardonnay ($41.99). The Cakebread bottle describes heavenly optimal growing conditions for the 2011 vintage currently on our shelves and highlights flavors of rich apple, citrus and melon. If Oaky Chardonnay’s aren’t your thing but you’re looking for a full bodied white or something different try a Grenache Blanc or a Marsanne (Michel Gassier Nostre Pais Blanc is a great option! $16.99) . We’re always happy to make personalized recommendations based on your tastes when you visit our store.
LIGHT RED: Pinot Noir grapes tend to be some of the trickiest to grow. The resulting wines typically have a lighter body and a somewhat tart characteristic. Bursts of fruit and long, soft finishes are my favorite highlights of drinking a Pinot. The lighter body makes them a perfect match for dishes like roasted chicken and pork where the flavors will hold their own without overwhelming the food. If you tend to enjoy more of the earthy, mushroom notes classic to Pinot grapes try a French or Oregon Pinot. We love Oregon grown Underwood Pinot Noir ($11.99) and Maison Roche De Bellene Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($16.99) for cooler climate picks, they tend to show a bit more acidity than your usual California Pinot because of the climate. If you prefer more fruit driven Pinot Noirs try a California produced wine such as Mark West Pinot Noir ($11.99). The warmer climate brings out ripe red fruit tones such as the prominent red and black cherries highlighted in the Mark West tasting notes.
MEDIUM RED: Malbec, Zinfandel and Garnacha (Grenache) are all great options for those who enjoy medium bodied reds and are looking for an alternative to Merlot. Malbecs are known for dark fruit flavors such as plum and blackberry with a smoky finish. Zinfandels tend to be very jammy with hints of tobacco and spice. Garnachas (also known as Grenache, depending on the growing region) tend to highlight red fruit and white pepper. Tintonegro Malbec ($12.99), Truant Old Vine Zinfandel ($9.99) and Evodia Old Vines Garnacha ($9.99) are great “entry level” options for those looking to branch out.
BOLD RED: Cabernet Sauvignon is the Adele of the wine world. It’s hard not to love them, or at the very least, to admit to their popularity. In 2010 fans of this classic favorite even created its very own holiday dubbed “Cabernet Day.” While you may not be ready to throw on a party hat, tackling some basic knowledge of this popular favorite is a great way to begin your wine-ucation. WineFolly.com said it best with their spot on description, “fundamentally speaking, Cab is a full-bodied red wine with dark fruit flavors and savory tastes from black pepper to bell pepper.” Cabernet grapes are grown everywhere from the U.S. to France, Italy, Chile, Australia, South Africa and Argentina. As with any wine, the growing region will drastically affect the flavor profile. This phenomenon is known as “Terroir” or the environmental factors such as soil, climate and topography that influence the grapes as they grow and develop. If you are ready to take on a full-bodied Cabernet Owen Roe Sharecroppers from Columbia Valley ($15.99) is a great option, or Joel Gott from Napa Valley ($15.99), or even an entry level Cabernet, Dark Horse Cabernet ($8.99).
Come visit us at Divine Wines for a chance to learn and enjoy. Whether it’s a beer question for Douglas, a hard-to-find wine or special request for Eva, or you’d like to hear me hilariously mis-pronounce Gewurztraminer, we welcome everyone from the beginners to the experts.
-Kelsey, Divine Wines
*Please note that the prices may reflect current sales or specials and are subject to change.