We all want to introduce people to our love of wine. However, the world of wine can seem daunting to someone new to the subject. With thousands of bottles available, which ones should a beginner buy first? This post will guide you to some of the most common types of wine you can gift to help a beginner in this complex world.
Thoughts on Wine Tasting for Beginners
When you’re new to wine tasting and just learning terminology, it can be frustrating putting your preferences into words. Here are a few characteristics of wines that are especially relevant to beginners.
- Sweetness: some beginners – including myself years ago – find that sweeter wines are easier to enjoy early on. This does not mean that sweet wines are only for beginners or that they are of lesser quality than other wines. Many of the most highly regarded and expensive wines in the world are sweet. If you find that you like wines with a touch of sweetness, look for higher alcohol content – more alcohol will add to the perception of sweetness, even in wines that don’t contain much sugar. Note: in wine terminology, “dry” is the opposite of sweet.
- Tannin: This is a compound found mainly in red wine that sticks to your teeth and gums after you swallow, leaving an astringent feeling. This sensation can be unpleasant to new wine drinkers, so you might consider looking for wines with low tannin early on. Keep in mind that as you get used to drinking red wines, you may learn to like and even prefer high tannins. Be sure to at least sample wines in a variety of styles as your tastes evolve.
- Acidity: wine grapes, like all fruits, contain acids that make them crisp and refreshing. Acidity levels vary considerably from wine to wine. As you taste new wines, ask yourself how tart they are and whether you enjoy wines that are more or less sour. This will help you decide which wines you’re more likely to enjoy in the future. In my experience, newer wine drinkers tend to enjoy wines with lower acidity. Check out some of our previous articles to help you learn more basics of wine tasting and jargon.
Here are five of the most popular wines in the US to try if you’re just getting started.
Prosecco is a sparkling wine from Italy made from a grape called “Glera.” It’s called a “sparkling wine” because it’s a white wine with bubbles in it. You’ll find that it’s fruity and slightly sweet, with flavors that might remind you of green apples and lemon. Prosecco has no tannin and relatively low acidity, making it easy to appreciate for beginning wine lovers. It’s also among the most popular types of sparkling wine.
Chardonnay is the name of a white grape and the wine made from it. Each type of grape has a unique taste – just like granny smith and red delicious are both apples but with distinctive flavors. Chardonnay is often described as having apple and pear flavors with notes of butter, toast, and oak. Chardonnay is usually dry – not sweet – but can still be fruity. It has no tannin since it’s white, and the level of acidity depends on where it’s from. European Chardonnay tends to have higher acidity than examples from America.
3. Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio is another white grape that produces wine with a clean, subtle flavor. It’s a great wine for beginners looking for something relatively soft and approachable. It’s not a sweet wine, but it does have a mild, fruity flavor and is great for drinking on its own or with seafood.
4. Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir grape is red and has gained in popularity over the past few decades. It is relatively light and low in tannin with fruity berry and cherry flavors even though it’s usually dry – not sweet. With its light body and low tannins, Pinot is a great choice for someone who likes white wine and wants to try reds.
5. Cabernet Sauvignon
This red grape is for those who like a richer, fuller wine. It has relatively high tannins and acidity, but it also features bountiful fruity flavors – ranging from berries to plums. Cabernet Sauvignon also features flavors like vanilla, chocolate, coconut, and baking spice, depending on the producer and place of origin. Some beginners might find Cabernet a little too intense for their taste, but I’ve met some people who loved it right away.
After you’ve tasted each of these five wines, you’ll have enough experience and context to branch out and try new things. Wine offers endless variety and potential for exploration. Enjoy your journey!