If you think of how each person has such different likes and dislikes in food, it’s not surprising that we enjoy different wines. Some like the zip of a crisp white wine, while others prefer the smooth softness of low-tannin red wine.
The key to finding new wines you like is a better understanding of what you enjoy about a specific wine and being able to discern exactly what you dislike. Being able to articulate your preferences will enable you to become a smarter buyer in the retail shop and offer you more confident choices while dining out.
If you enjoy the sharp, puckery sensation of biting into a Granny Smith apple, most likely you enjoy light-bodied wines with vibrant acidity. The most piercing style is New Zealand sauvignon blanc. For less zest, consider sauvignon blanc from California or France’s Loire Valley.
- 2010 Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $12 retail)
- 2010 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $19 retail)
SMOOTH AND SOFT
There is a reason merlots and chardonnays are the bestselling crowd-pleasing wines on the market. A wine being smooth, neither tart nor tannic, is one of the most sought-after qualities for many wine drinkers, from novice oenophiles to seasoned connoisseurs. This style of wine is usually medium-bodied, with less tannic bite for reds and less oak for whites.
- 2010 Lindemans Cawarra Merlot, Australia (about $10 retail)
- 2009 Gloria Ferrer Merlot, California (about $22 retail)
If you enjoy sweet wines you’ll want to be able to distinguish between the styles. (Asking a sommelier for the best sweet wine by the glass could end in a $40 Sauternes versus a $4 white zinfandel.) A wine becomes sweet from added sugar or a natural viticulture process. A wine obtaining its sweetness in the winery involves fermenting a wine to dryness and adding a sweet reserve juice, grape must or grape concentrate back into the wine. When Mother Nature has her hand in the process it results in a luscious sweet wine with a higher price tag.
- 2009 Hogue Cellars Late Harvest Riesling, California (about $15 retail)
- NV Jackson Triggs Riesling Ice Wine, Canada (about $55 retail, 375 ml)
It’s not always easy to know whether oak has been used in a wine style, but scents of vanilla, toast or grilled nuts are often reliable clues. If you enjoy a full-bodied wine, most likely you will like a wine that has been in contact with oak during winemaking or aging. The most familiar is Chardonnay, with the soft, rich, buttery and creamy style so many consider a favorite.
- 2009 Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, California (about $15 retail)
- 2009 Silver Oak Napa Valley Chardonnay, California (about $24 retail)
Aromatic qualities of floral are more common in white wines than red. Certain grapes offering layers of this pronounced sensory explosion for your nose are Gewurztraminer, viognier, Riesling and torrontes.
- 2010 Bonterra Vineyards Viognier, California (about $19 retail)
- 2010 Calera Mt. Harlan Viognier, California (about $37 retail)