This article is not designed for the wine aficionado. This is not a discussion of tannins or grapes. This piece is meant for those asked the perilous question, “red or white” and were utterly lost. Let’s dispense the smug atmosphere that wine can at times enable. The world of wine is a diverse, vast and flavorful place, but it’s ridiculous to assume that everyone was sat down at one time or another and told all the varying types of wines and exactly what can be experienced. So, here is a short list of common types of wine, what they pair well with, and what you might be expect flavor-wise. Perhaps these definitions are overly simplified, but that’s kinda the point.
Cabernet Sauvignon – This is a dense, dark wine with a heavy body (meaning it has a strong alcoholic content and sensation). It comes from places like Bordeaux, Napa and Sonoma. You might taste notes of jam, mint and even bell pepper in some.
Pairs well with: Steak, Brie, mozzarella and cheddar.
Zinfandel – A semi-sweet wine that contains notes of raspberry, blackberry and pepper. It can have a medium to heavy body and was original grown in Croatia, with similar grapes in Italy.
Pairs well with: Beef, Lamb and Venison.
Pinot Noir – This is typically a very dark wine with notes of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. It has a medium to light body and is grown in Champagne, Burgundy and Oregon.
Pairs well with: Beef, fish, ham and lamb.
Cabernet Franc – This medium-bodied wine can offer hints of raspberry, violets and black currants. It is grown and harvested in Bordeaux.
Pairs well with: Tomato sauce, poultry, pizza, cheese and red meat.
Riesling – This renowned grape contains notes of flowers, tropical fruits and honey. It is grown in Germany, France and Washington State.
Pairs well with: The semi-sweet styles are excellent with Asian cuisine and the dryer styles pair well with chicken or fish.
White Zinfandel – It has been called a rosé or a blush, but really it’s a pink wine. It is made from the Zinfandel grape, but the skins are removed from the grapes after fermentation has begun, altering its color and taste. This popular varietal is often very sweet and fruity.
Pairs well with: Pizza, fish, pork, egg dishes and lamb.
Sauvignon Blanc – This smoky wine often contains notes of melon, mango, black currants, apples and pears. It is most often grown in France, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, California and Washington.
Pairs well with: Seafood, poultry and salads.
Chardonnay – This popular varietal is grown virtually everywhere wine is produced. They typically offer a crisp, buttery taste with notes of vanilla, toffee, citrus and melon.
Pairs well with: Fish and chicken.
Pinot Grigio – This full-bodied wine is grown in France, Australia and North America. It often has hints of vanilla, smoke, almond and cream.
Pairs well with: Creamy sauces, turkey, shrimp, tomatoes, and spicy foods.