Flavor Descriptions

Different types of grapes produce very different wines. Each one is unique and has its own special appeal. Here are a few of the ones you need to know about before you select a wine.

Whites

  • Chardonnay: Buttery, often oaky, and with hints of apples and pears, chardonnay is delicious with creamy pasta dishes, fish, and chicken.
  • Chenin Blanc: A real chameleon grape that thrives in France's Loire Valley, where it is made dry, off-dry, dessert-style sweet, and even sparkling and tasting of peach, apple, and pear.
  • Gewürztraminer: For people who love full-throttle fruit and are not afraid of a specter of sweetness. A wild character that mellows with strong cheeses, smoked fish, onion tarts, and Chinese, Thai, or Indian foods.
  • Pinot Grigio: Light and crisp with hints of fruit; pairs well with many light foods, but just as drinkable alone.
  • Riesling: Sweet and romantic, but with a nice acidic streak. Elegant. Pairs well with ham, chicken, pork, and fish.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Crisp, grassy, perfect with goat cheese or fish. New Zealand varieties are especially popular.
  • Viognier: An exotic profile that starts with the heady aromatics—honeysuckle, apricot, spice—and leads into generous gobs of melon, apricot, and peach. Goes well with lobster, creamy pasta, and simple chicken dishes.

Reds

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: Appeals to sippers who like a bolder wine with cassis and black-cherry fruit and mouth-drying tannins that pair perfectly with steak.
  • Chianti/Sangiovese: Cherry fruit and tart acidity that practically dances the Tarantella with classic Italian red sauces.
  • Malbec: Deep purple wine that appeals to novice red lovers and fans of "serious" wines alike, striking a balance of dark fruits (blackberry, black cherry), gritty but manageable tannins, and hints of chocolate, earth and toasty oak. Pairs well with grilled meat and pizza.
  • Merlot: Nicely fruit-forward with plum flavors and soft, velvety textures that make this wine easy-drinking, and much-loved. Pairs well with...anything.
  • Pinot Noir: Strawberry and velvety, a red even a white-loyalist would love, and delicious with any food. Try an Oregon variety.
  • Rioja/Tempranillo: Spain's best-known table wine, and likened to Pinot Noir and Chianti for its tangy fruit and mid-weight body. Pairs well with bold flavored food and tapas.
  • Syrah/Shiraz: From jammy and light to, at the high end, spicy and peppery. Meshes well with onion, garlic, and herbes de Provence.
  • Zinfandel: The red, not the white. Bursting with fruit, and perfect with saucy barbecue, spaghetti and meatballs, and chili.