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By Cherilyn Hearn

Wine for the beginner

Common wines & complimentary pairings

Wine has come a long way over the years, from being a specific choice for the more sophisticated palette to now finding a place on almost any table. You don’t have to be an expert on wine to drink it, but knowing a little about your options can broaden your horizons and actually make your experience that much better. Wine isn’t just wine.


Rieslings are white wines, considered light and known for some fruity undertones, but still subdued and not too sweet. They can also be dry, which is easy to identify on their labels, except occasionally in areas where only dry Reislings are common and labeling isn’t necessary. Rieslings go best with spicy foods because of the contrast between zesty and tangy.


Another easy, fruity wine, this unusual-named port actually comes from a very rare grape, but still remains relatively undervalued and therefore inexpensive. The Gewurztraminer has been compared to the trendy Moscato, but with a higher alcohol content. Less acidity makes it a great pairing with extravagant, subtle meals like French food, roasted meats and light cheeses. The heavy aromas in this wine can actually bring out similar traits in an entrée.


Some consider Chardonnay the most common, easy to find wine, simply because it is the most heavily harvested grape and is therefore in good supply. You can find old and new Chardonnay as well as a bottle for every budget. Chardonnay is a white, heavy wine and pairs nicely with fresh fruit and seafood. A common marketing image is that of a glass of Chardonnay with strawberries, as it is the same grape used in champagne.

Sauvignon Blanc

Originating from France, the Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape with intense tang and aroma. Like the Riesling, this white wine can be sweet or dry. Its oak aging gives it a dark aroma, but it tastes carefree and juicy. It pairs best with white meats and salads and is usually served slightly below room temperature.


This dry, red wine originated in France or Australia, depending on who you ask, but everyone agrees on its appeal. Shiraz, also known as Syrah, is great for a special night out since its medium-bodied blend pairs perfectly with dishes like pasta and red meat.


This thin red wine is so popular in America that it is often considered the best red wine for someone new to red wine or wine in general. This full-bodied wine is very common in California and comes from a dark blue-colored grape common to those vineyards. The Merlot is a dry wine that fits well with rich Italian sauces and grilled meat and vegetables.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is arguably the most recognized red wine in the world. It is suitable to serve with proteins and fats, which can absorb some of the wine’s tannic attributes and heavy, dark fruits. This full-bodied wine is often slightly blended with various Bordeaux, and unlike a lot of stereotypes, is usually just as good young or old and changes very little once in the bottle.

Pinot Noir

The dark blue grapes that create one of the clearest burgundy wine struggle to grow and survive, meaning the cost for Pinot is always on the rise. They produce a dry, light wine that is best served cool and is easy to share at a table or serve at a party, because it goes well with a wide variety of foods.


This red or rose/blush wine comes from a common black grape and can vary from dry to sweet, pleasing most all preferences. Made famous in California, it was a mystery for years, but its true origins would be found in Croatia and Southern Italy. Its hints of pepper compliment any harvest meal and will go over well with your Thanksgiving guests.

Pinot Grigio

The Pinot Grigio is a light, white wine that pleases a variety of palettes and is rarely turned away. Slightly sweet and always refreshing, it makes a good pairing with almost anything and is enjoyable warm or chilled.

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