We have to agree there’s nothing more frustrating than to buy a bottle of wine and after tasting it, realizing it was not what you hoped for! I always say thank God for tastings! they happen, so that we can get a sip before we decide and in a way start filling our mental wine library/ bank. So, next time you see a person with a few bottles opened at your favorite wine store, go ahead and stop for 5 minutes and try whatever they are offering, maybe there’s a jewel there waiting to be discovered.
But the truth is, there’s so much wine on the shelves, even if you have the money and time, it’s going to be extremely difficult to taste all of it. And even if you do taste a lot, the next step is identifying the different wine styles you like. I suppose in life it is the same, you need to know what you want first, in order to pursue it!
Hopefully, this classification below will help shed some light into the sea of wine labels you encounter in stores and online. Some of which have been smart enough to classify their bottles by style, instead of by grape or country, like most retailers do.
Now, the elements in wine play an important role here when talking about styles, since they vary and connect differently. Fruitiness can vary from nonexistent to mild, from balanced or too intense or concentrated, acidity can go from low, medium or high, body can be light, medium or full (alcohol plays an important role here) and oakiness might be present or not. In the case of the reds, we need to add one more element which is tannin. Tannins can go from non-existent to mild and smooth, or super tannic (harsh). Of course each variety has their own character/aroma profile and depending on climate the same grape could smell/ taste differently, a Chardonnay could be very tropical in warm/ hot locations: and will show pineapple, guava, passion fruit notes or in a cool climate it could show citrus, lemon, green apple notes.
To make things easier I created this classification below. I also took the time to explain some of the terms too.
Once upon a time when I used to coordinate and pour at in-store tastings, the two questions I always asked to all customers that walked through the door were: Do you want to taste my wines? Followed by which wines do you like or normally drink? This helped me identify whether the person in front of me would like or wouldn't like what I was serving.
So, are you ready? Let’s play the game, If you like...? You should fill out with one of the categories below, to obtain your answer.
*Green, tangy whites: You are like me! We have the same wine taste. You like crisp and refreshing whites, with herbaceous, vegetal notes: green pepper, peas, asparagus, fresh grass, minerality and citrus (lemon, lime) notes, good acidity here too. Then go for: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Verdejo, Gruner Veltliner, dry Riesling.
*Aromatic whites with intense fruit or floral notes: I also love this style, especially as an aperitif or with spicy foods. You like wines with intense fruit or floral notes (lychees, roses, apricot, peach). They could be light to medium bodied, usually without oak. Then go for: Viognier, Riesling, Albariño,Muscat, Torrontés, Moschofilero, Gewurztraminer.
*Bold whites with nutty notes: nutty notes come from oak, it could be a touch like in Burgundian Chardonnay or a lot like in CA Chardonnay. But also, these are the biggest whites of the spectrum so expect: plenty of body and fruit here. If you close your eyes, it will be almost as if you are tasting a red. Then go for: good quality Burgundy Chardonnay, and Chardonnay from warm climates: California, Australia, Spain, these will have more oaky flavors.
*Delicate and velvety reds: then you like wines that are light to medium bodied with strawberry, raspberry, cranberry or other red fruit flavors. Light on tannin and mellow. Then go for my favorite red grape: Pinot Noir! from anywhere in the world, but Burgundy if you have $$$$, if not Oregon, California or Chile.
*Juicy fruity reds: here I include two categories, fruit forward and fun like Beaujolais (banana, bubble gum notes) and young Garnacha/Grenache (strawberry, raspberry) or mouthwatering, with light to medium bodies, high acidity and refreshing, featuring red or black fruits and some herbaceous notes. Then go for light Italian reds, with solid acidity: Chianti, Barbera, Dolcetto, Valpolicella.
*Spicy warm reds: I like these because they have plenty of fruit aromatics and spice, but also a bit of structure from tannin from grapes or oak. These are usually medium to full bodied, some featuring black pepper, chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, clove or other spicy notes. Then go for: Syrah, Malbec, Carmenere, Pinotage, Zinfandel, Tempranillo (Rioja, Ribera del Duero, reserva and gran reserva).
*Bold and Intense reds: these are big big big! Tannic, with concentrated black fruitiness (blackberry, plum, black cherry), full bodied and with oak. I like to call them A Powerbomb! These are the biggest reds of the spectrum! these you age for a long time. Go for: Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Barolo, Barbaresco, Douro, Priorat, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Uruguayan Tannat.
Now Rosé: they can be fruit forward or dry.
*Dry Rosé: is on the other hand more serious, crisp and refreshing sometimes mineral. Tons of complexity here! Then, go for Provence, Languedoc, Navarra and Rioja rosés.
Finally Dessert Styles:
*Warm, fortified wines: if you like these, you like high alcohol, full bodied dessert wines that can taste of molasses, chocolate, raisins, prunes, dates,brown sugar, caramel, toffee, some have been oxidized. Then, go for Port, Madeira and sweet Sherries (Oloroso, PX).
I probably omitted a style or two, but this post should be the beginning for you my Dear Winos and a sample of everything that is out there. Now, what are you waiting for? go discover more! Cheers! Silvina.
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