New to wine? Start here.
The world of wines can be intimidating. It sure doesn't help that there's a whole slew of wine jargon that you don't understand! We're here to help you out. What's a QPR? Do I really have to pair white wine with fish? Learn it all here!
Where Do I Start? The world of wine is more vast than you can probably imagine. Don't let it overwhelm you. We always tell new wine-comers to break out the corkscrew and start pouring! You might have a few favorites that you lean on, but break away from those comfortable favorites and explore the world around you. An easy way to do this is to attend a local wine tasting. Hundreds of wines, from light bodied to full bodied to sweet dessert style, are usually poured at these events. This gives you a chance to sample many different styles without having to purchase a whole bottle. These events might not be available to you, so do the next best thing: go to your local store! Try something different! We recommend starting with a region of the world that interests you. It's a fun way to learn about a geographical location, as well as a great starting point for exploring new varietals!
Wine Blends When you pick up and look at a label on a bottle of wine, you usually look for a few things: where the wine is produced, what year in which it was made, and most importantly the TYPE of wine it is. Winemakers often will include the type of grapes used in the wine, with the exception of many French winemakers. Sometimes the label will say "red blend" or "white blend." It's exactly what you think, a blend of grapes by the producer. Usually they will list the percentages of different grapes used in the blend. For example: one might read "80% Cabernet, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot." We reviewed a white wine that was made up of 6 grapes, and it was a quality wine! Vintners blend wines to either create more complexity, character, or even to follow consistency from previous vintages. Whatever the case may be, when a wine label reads "Blend," don't pass it by because it isn't your usual "Cabernet" or "Chardonnay;" you might be missing out on some delicious wines!
GSM This acronym is thrown around quite a bit in the wine world, but usually only discerning wine enthusiasts tend to know what it means! GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre, which are types of grapes. They are combined together as a blended wine. Often times a GSM will come from Australia or France, although you may even see some from California. TRY one when you see it in your local store…
No, “vintage” wine isn't a wine that is old…. Doesn’t work like that here. Vintage means that all, or most, of the grapes that were used to make a wine are from the same year. In other words, if you see a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, you’d bet your bottom dollar it was made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from 2010. Different countries have different regulations on what percentage of the wine must be from a certain year. You’ll sometimes see N.V. on some wine labels. This just means that a winemaker used grapes from different years. Don’t let this deter you; I’ve had plenty of N.V.’s that were very serviceable. Take notice next time you’re reading a label!
OK… First thing you probably think of when you see or hear “zinfandel” is a big glass of Sutter Home white zinfandel (rose/blush wine). Well, it all ends here. Zinfandel is a RED grape, producing RED wine. They’re both made from the same grape, but just processed differently. So, we beg you… please try some red zinfandel! They can be a full bodied, spicy, and bold wine SURE to please many!!
While not always a great option for someone who likes to pop a bottle and get drinking, decanting offers some great benefits. Certain wines, usually those that are younger, can benefit greatly from being in a decanter. The large surface area created by the decanter’s wider bottom exposes the wine to the air, which allows the wine to “open up” and aerate. Sometimes this can allow the wine to show off more of its “talent,” especially so when a young wine may not yet hit its peak.
Red for Meat and White for Fish
9 out of 10 people you ask, they’ll agree with this, “yeah, yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to be!” Don’t be ridiculous! Get ready to explore something new (and tell those nine people what’s up!). Grilled chicken? Try a nice oaked chardonnay—they go together wonderfully. I must say, red meat is best accompanied by a nice bold red, though to each his/her own. For fish that has a fattier makeup like salmon or a dark tuna, try a Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, or even Syrah. The key to pairing a red wine with fish is balance—you don’t want to overpower the flavor of the fish with a big wine like a cabernet sauvignon. Don’t get me wrong on all of this: I wouldn’t give up anything for a nicely chilled bottle of Chenin Blanc with my steamed lobster. On the other hand, it IS important to try new things! Read more about wine pairings with food.
Quality to Price Ratio (QPR)
You MAY have seen QPR a few times in the wine world, probably in the context of, “for a bottle this good, it’s an excellent QPR at only $10.” See, many people think that the more expensive a bottle of wine is, the better. This is true, and it isn’t. There is a LOT of $10 garbage out there (sorry to be so blunt), but there’s also a LOT of $20 garbage, too. So, the lesson? While you will most likely never be able to compare a really good $10 bottle to an exceptional $55 bottle, you should always be thinking of QPR. Read more here about the relationship between Wine and Price. In short, get the best bang-for-your-buck. Save those $35+ bottles for special occasions.
Wine Ratings (Points)
You’ve seen it… “Rated 91 points from Wine Spectator.” What does that even mean? Without going into too much detail, you can probably figure it out for yourself. But what’s good, acceptable, and not worth buying?? Take a quick look at this: http://www.erobertparker.com/info/legend.asp