OT: Wine for Beginners

From a discussion in the morning thread, it seems that there might be some interest in a wine thread.  Probably because of my age, I've found that there's a lot of hesitance to explore wine amongst my friends or acquaintances.  I understand that the proliferation of wine due to its increased popularity (a survey found a year or two ago that wine is now preferred to beer for the first time since they started giving the survey) has resulted in an overwhelming experience at the grocery or liquor store for those who have some interest.  Ideally, this thread would help overcome that.

Interestingly, blind taste tests have found that beginning wine drinkers prefer wines in the $5-15 range more than than $50-100 range.  There are numerous theories as to why this may be, but the main point is to realize that you don't have to spend a lot to find a bottle that you are likely to enjoy.  Below, I'll offer some suggestions and (very) basic wine knowledge, but I am by no means a sommelier or wine expert (just a big fan), so I hope that others will chime in with other suggestions. 

In general, it seems that people who are getting into wine have an easier time starting with the sweeter whites.  Sweeter white wines are made by carefully pressing the grapes, then fermenting at cold temperatures in steel vats for around 3 months (though this is variable).  They generally don't see time in oak barrels (like a chardonnay or most reds), so they aren't going to have the stronger flavors that those wines pick up from toasted wood.  Instead, in addition to the sweetness, you'll find a wide array of fruity flavors like apricot, blueberry, or apple, with other flavors such as spices coming through as well. 

Depending on the type, they pair with a variety of foods.  Spicy cheeses (pepper jack) and foods, as well as some of the milder cheeses like muenster and mozzarella can pair well.  Most often, they're just a great sipping wine before a meal or hanging out on a porch in the spring or summer.  They are drank chilled, somewhere just above the temperature of your fridge.  I'd recommend keeping it in the fridge all day, then opening it and leaving it at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before pouring.  This serves a double purpose of getting the wine to a good temperature and allowing some of the initial alcohol vapors to evaporate and take some of the bite out of the wine.

As for type of grapes, I'd recommend the following: Riesling from the West Coast, Germany and Alsace region of France, Gewurztraminer (nicknamed "GAH-vurtz") from California or Alsace, Torrontes from Salta, Argentina, and Vinho Verde from Portugal (likely the cheapest and amongst the sweetest).  Other options include Pinot Grigio, Viogniers, Chenin Blancs and Moscatos.  Be careful with some Moscatos and Rieslings as they are often made as dessert wines meant to be served in smaller glasses (2-3 oz) after dinner.  West Coast refers to Washington, Oregon, and (generally) Northern California.

Easily found examples of these:

Estancia Riesling (California): $12


Crios Torrontes (Salta, Argentina): $13






Fonseca Vinho Verde (Portugal) : $7



Either later or in a separate thread, I'll get into good introductory red wines.  And as I mentioned above, please add other wines in the comments.

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