The Types of Wine You Should Be Sipping, According to a Sommelier
It doesn't matter if you're hosting a dinner party or simply relish a glass with dinner—sometimes the occasion calls for wine. We've rounded up a list of the types of wine that need to be on your radar. With a combination of familiar favourites to a few varieties that are off the beaten path, there's a little something for everyone here!
Cabernet sauvignon is the classic Bordeaux grape. There’s a reason why this French variety is the most planted red in the world. Full of bold flavours like black cherry, blackcurrant, mint, sweet tobacco and spice, cabernet makes a fantastic food pairing for your go-to beef dishes, lamb and game meats.
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Loved for its versatility and ability to express the region in which it’s grown, chardonnay is the preferred white wine of many. This white wine can range from a racy, mineral-driven style full of tart green apples and citrus peel to something much lusher with notes of pineapple, melon and Meyer lemon seasoned with a generous helping of oak-derived vanilla. Basically, great chardonnay offers something for everyone. Enjoy cooler styles with seafood and shellfish and opt for a richer style when tucking into a bit of roast chicken or tasty wild mushroom risotto.
Pinot noir hails from Burgundy, though you can find it in virtually every wine-growing country in the world. It’s often sought after for its rich red and black fruit flavours mixed with hints of cola, flowers and spice. Pinot makes a great gateway wine for those looking to drink more red. It’s a must for poultry and game birds, duck, mushroom dishes and makes a gorgeous pairing for beef bourguignon.
Let’s talk about riesling. Riesling is the wine lover’s white wine. Thanks to the fact its produced in every style ranging from dry to sweet, it’s absurdly versatile. Dry riesling is ideal for pork and poultry while you can pour off-dry and even sweet rieslings with spicy Indian or Asian dishes. Dessert rieslings are also a winning pairing for fruit-based desserts.
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With its grassy, herbaceous flavours, sauvignon blanc makes an excellent partner for salads, hard to pair green vegetables (think peppers, artichoke and Brussels sprouts) and light fish dishes. In warmer climates, sauvignon blanc shows more peach and passion fruit aromas. Wherever it’s grown, this grape’s bright acidity makes it a great palate cleanser and a friend to light fare sprayed with citrus.
Peppery, smoky and full of decadent blueberry and plum, syrah is one wine we could all stand to sip on a bit more often. Originally from France’s Rhone Valley, this fantastic variety has also made a name for itself in Australia (where it’s known as shiraz), the US and Chile. Need something bold to pair with your best summer grilling recipes? Syrah’s got your back.
A frequent blending partner of syrah, grenache is known for its lifted raspberry, strawberry flavours. In its more intense varieties, grenache can take on tantalizing spice notes. Look to Spain, where it’s known as garnacha, the Southern Rhone and South of France, and Australia for the best examples.
Sauvignon blanc drinkers looking to branch out should give pecorino a taste. The grape, whose name comes from the pecora, the Italian word for “sheep” (and is also a famous cheese) can be found throughout central Italy. People love pecorino for its expressive floral aromas mingled with peach, citrus and wonderful minerality. You can’t go wrong with fried seafood and chicken, but because pecorino has a bit of weight to it, you can also serve it up with pork or veal.
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Lush, plush merlot hits the spot if you’re after a riper wine that’s a little more full-bodied than pinot noir but less bold than its fellow Bordeaux grape cabernet sauvignon. Expect flavours of black cherry, plum and raspberry with hints of baking spice and vanilla—like cabernet sauvignon, merlot usually gets the oak treatment. Pop open a bottle of merlot the next time you’re tucking into sausages, hamburgers or lamb cutlets. You won’t regret it.
Xinomavro is easily Greece’s most important red wine. This Greek red is a must for cabernet lovers. In the glass, the grape is a beautiful blend of plum, raspberry, baking spice and tobacco with an incredible structure which boasts high tannins and acidity. This isn’t a shy wine in the least. Drink it with a steak or any grilled or roasted meats.
Even if you’re not big on wine, at some point you’ve probably found yourself with a glass of pinot grigio in your hand. The name comes from the greyish-pink hue of the grape. While many of us are familiar with the light, apple and citrus style of pinot grigio, you’ll also come across versions which are full of peach, pear, honeysuckle and spice. These are typically labelled as pinot gris and work well with creamy dishes with white fish, chicken and pork. For the more spice-laden styles, look to Alsace in France or Oregon. For the crisp, clean light-bodied versions of pinot grigio head to Italy or California. Enjoy with lighter fare like vegetables and white fish.
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Furmint is a delectable white wine that comes from Hungary. Its most famous incarnation is in the ultra-luxe dessert wine Tokaji, but many producers are releasing gorgeous dry versions. As a dry wine, furmint is incredibly refreshing with pear, peach, grapefruit and lime balanced with a crisp minerality. Furmint is also phenomenal with sushi.
One of the kings of the wine world, Nebbiolo grows in Italy’s Piedmont region where it’s the sole source of Barolo and Barbaresco. It’s a massive wine that somehow still manages to be elegant. High in tannins (which gives it that mouth-drying sensation) and acid, the red wines Nebbiolo produces can age for decades. Expect to taste red cherry, rose petals, earth, violets, truffle and licorice when you sip on Nebbiolo. Duck and steaks go perfectly with Nebbiolo as does anything with truffles. That and the fact Nebbiolo can fetch a higher price make it a flawless special occasion wine.
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This white Austrian grape is another great alternative for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers to investigate. It possesses similar lime and grapefruit aromas and flavours but can also show slightly spicy, peppery and even honeyed notes. Like Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll want to consider Grüner for light vegetable dishes, salads, schnitzel (of course!) and fish but the bolder versions are compelling with many Southeast Asian flavours.
This one is for all the dedicated chardonnay lovers out there. Fans of the lusher chardonnays, it’s time for you to meet viognier. This white Rhone grape was brought back from the brink of extinction and now enjoys newfound popularity among winemakers in France, California and Australia. One thing to note—viognier is considerably more aromatic than your typical chardonnay. Juicy peach, mandarin orange and honeysuckle are the prevalent flavours you’ll discover in a glass of viognier. As far as pairings go, treat viognier like a full-bodied chardonnay.
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You’ll find Aglianico growing in vineyards throughout Campania and Basilicata in Italy where it makes concentrated, powerful red wines tasting of black cherry and plum, earth, spice, savory dried herbs and smoke. Aglianico is a complex wine which can definitely age several years. Serve it with roasted meat and wild game dishes, rich tomato-based meat sauces and hard cheeses.
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The list goes on!
Naturally, the list of wines to try goes well beyond this list! Recognizable wines like Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Chenin Blanc are never out of place on your wine rack, but you can look to slightly more niche varieties like Assyrtiko and Albariño (both white) and Barbera and Touriga Nacional (both red) to satisfy your taste buds.
Next, find out why you need to be cooking your pasta in red wine.