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The Guerilla Gourmand is back with a basic red and white tutorial this week. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for posts on beer, tea and of course, more wine :) Enjoy...

57 Mondays

Your Basic Red and White Wines Varietals

A couple months ago, I saw a pair of articles written by Karen McNeil for Cooking Light magazine entitled “Red Wine 101” and “White Wine 101”. In them, she listed the following wines as must-know for the budding wine enthusiast:

Red Wines: Pinot Noir (think “Sideways”), Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel (not the same as White Zinfandel)

White Wine: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Gewürztraminer

I couldn’t agree with her list more. If you have tried each of these, or even better, found your favorite wine maker for each of these, then you are well on your way to becoming a wine connoisseur. If you’re not quite there yet, however, not to worry! The fun part is yet to come!

I would suggest that you learn these varietals first in your quest to quench your thirst (of knowledge, that is!). Learn in which regions they are typically made, how they are normally described and priced, and then go window-shopping at your local wine store. If something catches your eye but you’ve never heard of it, write it down and go home to do a little bit of investigation on the reputation of the winery and/or vintage (i.e. the year in which the grapes were grown). Then buy it and try it!

Another, slightly cheaper way to get to know your wines: Cozy up to the people who work at wine shops, since they may give you a heads-up to when the store might be doing a (usually free) tasting. During those tastings, chat it up with the wine distributors, who will know a lot about what they are serving. Bring a notebook and pen, and jot down names and flavors that jump out at you. Don’t feel pressured to buy, but a good rule of thumb is buy your favorite from the tasting so you don’t go home empty handed.

Oftentimes, at wine shops there is a little tag next to the price tag that gives a mini-review and the rating by Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast or Robert Parker. A shortcut rule of thumb for me: if it is $20 or less and rates a Wine Spectator 90 points or more, then it is a good buy and you should just go home with it. I definitely trust their recommendations, though personally I do not find the same for Wine Enthusiast or Robert Parker. But that is probably more a matter of taste than of quality.

You know what they say about how you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! Similarly, there is no substitute to tasting, tasting, tasting. The lists above represent your Wine Fundamentals. So give your taste buds practice by trying those wines! You’ll be glad you did!

- The Guerilla Gourmand