Wine, like coffee, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You might know one or two people who swear that the only thing keeping them on this side of sanity is a good glass (or perhaps bottle) of wine. You might have given the odd glass a taste and winced at the sour, unfamiliar flavor.
Does that mean the wine isn’t for you? Probably not. It could just mean you haven’t found the right wine to appease your taste buds. But, with so many brands and variants out there, how do you know where to start?
With our article today we’d like to give beginner wine drinkers an introduction to the wonderful world of wine. It’s easier to get into the swing of things if you’re familiar with the basics and terminology. We’re also going to give you a list of favorites that we think would be the perfect stepping-stone to finding your personal favorite! Read on to start your journey into this tasty world!
A Basic Introduction into the World of Wine
If you’re not ordinarily a wine drinker and you’d like to find your type of sanity, standing in front of the wine rack at your favorite store can be very daunting. Reading the labels doesn’t help much if you don’t quite know what to look for.
Well, before you head out to the store, it might be helpful to know the common wine terms as well as the major differences between red and white options.
If you hang around with your wine drinking friends around dinner time, you’ve undoubtedly heard them use words like aroma, tannin and vintage. Does it make you feel like a fish out of water because your current drink of choice doesn’t have its own jargon?
As a beginner, there are a few terms you should familiarize yourself with. Some of the words to know include the following:
- Sweetness: Often beginners prefer a wine with a touch of sweetness. These are wines with higher alcohol content.
- Dry: Dry is the opposite of sweet, so you’re looking to get a bitter, sour taste.
- Tannin: This refers to the compound in red wine that sticks to your gums after you swallow. It can be unpleasant if you’re not used to it. As a beginner, you might start with a wine that has a lower tannin.
- Acidity: Grapes have different levels of acidity. This will determine how sweet or sour the wine ends up being. As with the tannin, a lower acidity is preferred by newbies.
- Aroma or bouquet: This refers to the age of the wine. Wines of different ages have different aromas. This is why wine connoisseurs give their wines a sniff before trying them.
- Body and viscosity: Both these terms refer to how heavy and light the wine feels when it’s swirling around in your mouth. Beginners often prefer wines with a light body.
- Flat: When a wine is flat, it’s still effervescent but without bubbles.
- Sparkling: This refers to how fizzy wine is. A fully sparkling has an average of 3 atmospheres of pressure, meaning there are a lot of bubbles!
- Semi-sparkling: While semi-sparkling is still fizzy, it doesn’t have as many bubbles.
- Vintage: Refers to the year the grapes were harvested. This is only listed on the bottle if the grapes were all harvested from the same year.
Red or White – Does it Matter?
Deciding if you’re a red or white wine person is purely based on your preference. Some ardent wine drinkers enjoy both, while others are either one or the other. You’ll only know your preference after a few trail and error experimentations.
The real difference comes in when you’re deciding what food to pair your wine with. The golden rule is generally red wine for red meat and white wine for white meat and fish. It’s all about enhancing the overall taste of your meal. Wines are also a great addition to meats during the marinade process.
The general rule of thumb in beginners’ circles is to start with white wine. For the most part, this is because white wines are lighter in body and more comfortable on the not-so-experienced palates. There are also a few sweeter wines that are being hailed as the best wine to drink for beginners.
Sweet Wines to Try if you’re a Non-Wine Drinker
Often the easiest way to enter the wine world is with sweet wine. The good news is sweet wines can be red or white with some sweeter than others. Some great sweet wine options are listed below.
Brachetto d’ Acqui
This particular wine is a sweet red from a little place called Piedmont in Italy. Made exclusively in this region, this wine has a bright color and when it comes to flavor, you’ll get a burst of refreshing flavor burst of strawberry, raspberry and sweet cherry.
Lambrusco is an Italian sweet red wine that’s not only fizzy but dry as well. With a low alcohol content, this sweet wine with its fruity flavor is the perfect and fun wine, to begin with!
Another popular sweet option for beginners is Port. While this wine was originally made in northern Portugal, it’s now found all over the world. It’s a super sweet wine for a beginner with a sweet tooth!
If you want to step into the wine world with a sweet-tasting white wine, Moscato is the one to try! This wine has a light body, a fruity bouquet and a sweet taste. Despite being a sweet wine, it’s classed as semi-sweet.
One of the easiest ways to get your taste buds used to the taste of wine is by drinking Concord wine. Many people describe this wine as the adult version of the grape juice you drank as a child!
Made with 100% Concord grapes, this home-grown U.S. wine is sweet and offers both a low tannin and acidity level. Perfect for non-wine drinkers who enjoy the taste of grape juice!
Grenache wine is made from grapes grown in warmer regions. With flavors like spicy pepper and berry, it’s still easy on the palate. While it’s still sweet enough to keep it on the sweet list, it hints on a dry wine. If you want to move from sweet to dry, this is the perfect transition wine!
White Wines to Try if you’re a Non-Wine Drinker
If you want to follow the general rule and ease into the wine drinking experience, white wines are the best place to start. A few popular white wines to choose from are listed below.
Commonly referred to as one of the most widespread options for beginners is the Pinot Grigio. Its light body, crisp flavors will provide you with a rush of delightful flavors from the first sip!
This type of wine is very refreshing and doesn’t have that heavy wine taste a beginner might not be used to. This smooth option has a delightful mixture of kiwi and citrus flavors flowing through it.
Moscato d’ Asti
This Italian variation is an off-dry yet delicate frizzy delight. If you enjoy the taste of apricots mixed with sweet almonds, this crispy wine will make your day!
This is a German option that can vary from overly sweet to very dry, depending on the type you choose. Wine drinkers enjoy Riesling because it has an exciting acidity and offers a light body. You’ll get a taste of fresh citrus mixed with minerals.
Known for its refreshing and fruity taste, White Zinfandel is a popular choice because it’s not too dry or too sweet. It’s a perfect option for beginners or people who don’t drink wine that often. Its flavor hints toward strawberry, pineapple, pear and even peach. This particular wine is the perfect drink to wash down a plate of seafood.
Prosecco is another common choice for beginners. This Italian sparkling wine is slightly sweet and fruity. If you enjoy lemon and green apple flavors, this is the choice for you. With no tannin and exceptionally low acidity, it’s easy for beginners to enjoy.
Red Wines to Try if You’re a Non-Wine Drinker
Although white is a better option to start with, you might want to dive right into the deep end and find your favorite red. If that’s the case, our advice is to start with a simple option.
As your palate for wine develops, you can move to the more complex wines. A few great starter reds include the delicious options listed below.
This wine is often referred to as a great food-friendly option for beginners. It’s medium-bodied and goes down well with a juicy steak!
A French favorite that is best enjoyed when its young, Beaujolais Nouveau has a low tannin. Its fruity, light flavor is a popular choice for beginners.
This dark red wine is often referred to as Shira or Shiraz. It’s a firm favorite of people who either don’t like wine that much or don’t drink it that often. It has higher levels of tannins and is full-bodied. It’s a mixture of flavors include berries, tobacco and even pepper.
Although this wine offers you an array of dark fruity plums, it sports a considerably higher tannin and acidity. It might be a little too intense for your first day of wine tasting, but its combination of flavors such as chocolate, vanilla and coconut is worth adding to your list!
Another French wine makes it to the list! Made in the south of France, Banylus is fortified in the same way as a Port. Unlike other wines, this option requires a minimum aging period of 10 months. With a lower alcohol content, this wine is both sweet and easy on the palate.
The trick to finding the perfect wine for your palate is to try a few different options. As your wine tasting experience grows, your palate will become more accustomed to different flavors, consistencies, acidities and tannin levels.
The wines mentioned in this article are all great options to start with. Finding your particular favorite wine will ensure you don’t feel left out at your next dinner party. When all your friends are enjoying a glass or two, you’ll be able to not only join in the wine conversation but share a glass as well!
Leave us a comment below with your opinion. We’d love to know which wines you started your wine journey with!