Yesterday I called my friend to find out how she celebrated her birthday which came last week. She said she had a wonderful time with her family and even said she has tasted wine for the first time. I asked her how she liked it and she said she didn’t like the wine at all. She even said she had a horrible headache and heaviness the following day, When I tried to know the wine she had tasted, she said she had the best wine the shopkeeper gave.
Choosing the best wine for beginners is always a tough task. Beginners without any wine knowledge end up following others and choosing the wine liked by many. Expensive wine isn’t always the best wine. It depends on various factors like your taste, the climate of your residence, and of course the occasion of the wine tasting. This article focuses on providing help for all the beginners who are looking for the best wine to make their moments special.
Winemaking is an art starting from harvesting the grapes at the correct time, to fermenting and aging the wine for the perfect time bringing out the flavors. The vintners pay more focus on the controlled fermentation and the soil in which the grapes are grown plays a very important role in the quality of the wine. For example, vines growing near the river give the best quality wine, as the soil is rich in minerals.
We have wines that give warmth when you sip the wine causing a heating sensation at the back of the throat and wines that are sweet enough to enjoy with our dessert. To choose the wine, first, the beginners must know the wine characteristics.
What are the different wine characteristics?
Body of the wine
Wines are described as full, medium, and light-bodied basing on the level of the alcohol and the feeling of fullness in the mouth.
Full-bodied wine will have an alcohol by volume percentage ABV of more than 13.5 percent.
Medium-bodied wines have an ABV between 13.5 and 12.5 and
Light-bodied wines have an ABV of 12.5 percent.
As the name indicated full-bodied wines have a thick creamy structure and often make us thirsty for more. They are intensely flavored and thick. Light-bodied wines are translucent, clear, and crisp. The flavor intensity is light causing a tingling sensation on the tongue which remains for a long time. Medium-bodied wines come in between these two.
Tannins are astringents that are responsible for the drying sensation and bitterness on the tongue. They react with the proteins found in the saliva and often constrict the throat. Hence tannin wines are always paired with high protein food like red meat and turkey which balances the taste.
Tannins are found in the skin, stems, and seeds of wine grapes. Tannins can not be smelled or guessed, they are found only by tasting them. One can feel the mouth full and the bitterness stays for a long time.
Wines are classified by having more tannins and fewer tannins. Though tannins have bitterness in their taste, they play an important role in the complexity and structure of the wine. They are very useful for the aging of wine, that they are introduced through oak barrels or oak chips.
Tannins are rich in antioxidants and are good for health. However, they cause migraine headaches, and to prevent that, always look for aged tannin wines that are less harsh than young tannins.
In the red wine-making process, the fermentation happens with the grapes along with the skin and hence they get the dark color and for the white wine, the fermentation happens only with the juice extracted from the grapes leaving the skin behind. In the case of the Rose wine, skins are kept in contact with the juice for a certain period until they reach the required color.
During the fermentation process yeast is added to the grapes, it is responsible for eating all the sugars in the grapes and converts the grape juice to ethanol(alcohol) and carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide is made to escape freely in the air, resulting in still wine production, however in the case of sparkling wine, the carbon dioxide is trapped inside the wine.
The longer the yeast is made to stay with the grapes, the more alcohol content gets in the wine.
Sweet wines are made by stopping the yeast from eating up all the sugars in the grape juice. The fermentation is stopped forcibly either by chilling or by filtering the wine to remove the yeast. In another way, the sugar in the wine is obtained naturally by prolonging the harvesting, making the grapes stay on the vine for a longer time.
We also have Ice wine which is formed by freezing the grapes to make the sugars reach a high concentration without water like a thick syrup, making the very sweet wines. The sugar remaining in the wine makes the wine sweet. Basing on the sweetness levels, we have sweet wines ranging from off-dry to very sweet wines.
Sweet wines always taste best when served at a slightly cooler temperature. They have less alcohol content compared to dry wines. The wine with high alcohol content is known as a dry wine. We also have fortified wines which are sweet wines with high alcohol content.
It is always recommended to start with sweet wines instead of trying the dry wines with high alcohol content. It all depends on your taste, whether you want to taste the wine dry or sweet.
White wines are acidic compared to red wines, they cause a crisp and tingling sensation on the tongue just like citrus fruits. They cause a mouth-watering sensation and have citrus aromas.
Tartation level indicates the percentage of wine that is acidic, which is 0.6 to 0.8 in the case of red wines and is in the range of 0.7 to 0.9 in the case of white wines.
Like the tannins, young wines will be more acidic than the old ones. To minimize the acidic nature, look for the aged wines that are smooth and easy to taste. Acidic wines go well with high fatty foods and fried foods. Hence they are generally served with good appetizers.
Home winemakers often make fruit wine by fermenting fruits other than grapes like plums, pomegranate, and bananas. They have a rich range of flavors.
Some of the fruits may not have enough sugars for the yeast. These are added with additional sugars during the fermentation process to make the alcohol generated in the finished wine. This process is known as chaptalization.
Fruit wines are not meant for aging and are consumed early within a year of production.
Best Fruity wine for beginners
Merlot is one of the most popular wines available in the market. It is the second most widely grown grape variety after Cabernet Sauvignon. While cabernet sauvignon comes with a heavy body, Merlot is light-bodied and has high sugar content.
Merlot grapes ripe early compared to Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, the fast ripening leads to the high sugar content in the grapes. Also, these are less tannin in nature and are smooth. In that way, Merlot is better than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the smoothest red wine available in the market.
There are many fruity flavours associated with merlot wines like blueberry, blackberry, red cherries, plum, etc.
These fruity wines are the best for beginners to taste and start light. And they are best to pair with dishes like salmon and mushrooms.
What is the best red wine for beginners?
Beaujolais is a light-bodied red wine that is highly recommended for beginners. It is less tannin in nature but highly acidic.
The next one is Pinot Noir. This is the highly recommended red wine for beginners with light flavor intensity as the grapes have thin skin. They are rich in antioxidants and play a major role in longevity and studies have shown that Pinot Noir is capable of stimulating brain activities thereby reducing the effects of Alzheimer’s.
Hence Pinot Noir is the healthiest red wine you can drink.
The aroma of Pinot Noir is known for its seductive and desirable nature. It is known as the best red wine for Ladies and is the most romantic wine.
So, loaded with health benefits and with a light body, Pinot Noir is the best red wine for beginners.
Read our post to Know more about the benefits of drinking wine.
Sweet Red wine for beginners
Port wine is the sweet red wine often served as a dessert wine. As we discussed earlier, arresting the fermentation for the residual sugar makes sweet wines. Port wines are fortified, by adding neutral grape spirits which stop the yeast from eating the sugars in the grapes.
Port wine is sweet and high in alcohol content unlike the other sweet wines because of the fortified wine. It has nearly 20 percent of alcohol.
Like all the dessert wines Port wines are served after dinner along with fine cheeses, walnuts, and chocolate.
Port wine has many styles like Ruby, white, Rose, tawny, vintage.
Ruby port wines are bright red and the high color is because of their bottle aging. They are tasted when they are young, after 3 to 5 years of aging.
Tawny port wines are aged in oak barrels, the wine due to oxidation loses volume and color and becomes thick. Because of the oak barrel aging, tannins are more in these Port wines and hence you need to try a 20year old Tawny port wine which generally comes at a heavy price.
Our recommendation is to start with Ruby Port wine with chocolate, only if you are used to the alcohol and the headaches.
List of sweet wine for beginners
Sweet wines are high in calories. And those who are on diet should always check the sugar content before opting for them. The amount of sugar in the wines is indicated by g/L grams per liter wine.
Sweetness in the wine can be scaled from dry to very sweet.
Dry wines have the lowest residual sugar levels of about 1-3(g/L)
Example:Cabernet Sauvignon,Pinot Noir,Chardonnay.
Off-Dry wines have a residual sugar content between 10- 50grams of sugar per liter.
Example: Rieslings, White Zinfandel.
Sweet wines have high sugar content between 50and 150grams. They are very sweet and are high in calories.
Example: Moscato, Port.
We have discussed earlier that sweet wines are formed by arresting the fermentation and preventing the yeast from eating the sugars in the grapes by chilling the wine. There are also some other ways of making sweet wines,
1.Delayed harvesting, where Grapes are made to stay more time on the Vines so that they get ripe enough to become sweet wine.
2.Adding sugars or honey to the fermented juice to make them sweet, this process is also known as chaptalization.
3.Diluting the fermented wine by adding unfermented wine juice made from the grape must, makes the wine sweet.
4.Dehydrating the grapes by
- Air drying the grapes to turn into raisins with high concentrated sugars.
An example is Pedro Ximenez sherry wine
- Freezing the grapes to form thick residual sugars, the wine thus formed is also known as Ice wine.
An example is Cabernet Franc Ice wine.
- Adding fungus mold to the grapes to form high sugar to the wine. Also known as noble rot or botrytis cinerea.
An example is Sauternes sweet wine.
5.Fortified wines are sweet wines with high alcohol content. During fermentation spirits like brandy are added to grape juice, which makes them sweet and dry.
Examples of red fortified wine are Port and Madeira.
White fortified wine made from white grapes is Sherry.
Dessert wines are broadly available as Port wines, Madeira wines and sherry’s, ice wines, and Muscato.
Port wines are already discussed above.
Madeira wines are similar to port wines. They are also fortified wines where alcohol is added to the wine in the form of neutral brandy spirits which stops the fermentation and increases the alcohol percentage. These wines take a long time to make and these are cooked wines.
Madeira wines are oxidized wines that are cooked with temperature and heat. The Dried nut flavors of the aged wines make them more delicious. These are long-lived wines and survive for decades and centuries.
They come in 4 styles
Sercial-dry with sugar levels of 9-27g/L
Verdelho With sugar levels of 27-45g/L
Bual with sugar levels of 45-63g/L
Malvasia with sugar levels of 63-117g/L
Sherry wines are made in Spain where the soil is rich in limestone and it is a fortified wine. It is made of white grapes and ranges from very dry to sweet.
There are two styles of dry sherry wine, one that is aged with the layer of flor yeast and the other without the flor yeast which makes the sherry wine age with oxidation. The flor yeast and the oxidation makes it different from Madeiras and ports.
Sweet sherry is made either naturally by sun-drying the palomino grapes to make concentrated sugars or by blending the sherry wine with a sweet must unfermented thick wine of Muscatel grapes.
Pedro Ximenez is the sweet sherry wine recommended for beginners.
Here are some other options.
1.Dornfelder is a sweet soft red wine that is less dry and has low tannins.
2.Barefoot Red Muscato is a sugary sweet red wine that is soft and easy to drink.
3.Lambrusco Dolce is a sweet sparkling Muscato red wine.
4.White zinfandel is a sweet Rose wine made from red zinfandel grapes.
5.Sauternes is a sweet white wine made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes.
Best White wine for beginners
The following are the best and popular options of white wine
Riesling is a light-bodied white wine with a light sweet taste having the green apple citrus aroma. Perfect for serving with appetizers.
Sauvignon Blanc comes under medium-bodied white wine which is dry and has no sweetness. It has a citrus flavor causing a mouth-watering sensation and matched with dry foods.
Chardonnay is a full-bodied white wine that is heavy and has high-intensity flavours coming from oak barrel aging.
We also have Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris that come under easy-going wines with no high alcohol content and no sweetness. They are the best for summer afternoons.
Riesling is the best white wine for beginners.
Tips for beginners
- Always pair your wine with the correct food, Don’t ask the bartender to serve you the best wine, ask him to serve you the best wine that matches your salmon or beef steak.
- Enjoy your wine at the right temperature, White wines are always served chilled while red wines are served warm.
- Always give five minutes to the wine to adjust after pouring in the glass and choose the correct glassware to enjoy the aromas and flavors coming out of the wine.
- Choose wine matching your occasion, sparkling wine like Champagne when you are enjoying a family gettogether, Pinot Noir for a romantic date, or a Reisling for a pre-dinner drink.