On most wine labels you’ll find the name of the grape used to make them or the district (also called the “appellation”) in which they’re produced. Head spinning? Don’t panic!
To simplify things, here’s a list of popular grapes along with their flavor descriptions and tasty pairings. And to make sure you never blush at a dinner party again, we’ve included a few tips on how to pronounce everything, too.
Chardonnay [shar-doh-NAY]: These dry wines are bold, ripe and rich. Their apple, fig, lemon and honey undertones are out-of-sight with cream sauces, shellfish, poultry, pork, veal, salmon and full-flavored cheeses.
Chenin Blanc [SHENIN BLAHNK]: Close your eyes and you’ll think you’re eating a slice of ripe melon. Peach, spice and citrus flavors also float through these wines, so serve them with Asian food, roasted chicken, shellfish (clams and mussels are a stellar match) or mild cheeses and you can’t go wrong.
Gewürztraminer [geh-VOORTZ-trah-MEE-ner]: This one may be a tongue-twister, but trust us, you won’t regret learning how to say it right. This grape makes for wines full of spicy peach and apricot notes. Sip them — no, wait, guzzle them — with Asian seafood or noodle dishes, pork, veal, poultry or even mild cheeses.
Pinot Grigio [PEE-no GREE-zho]: These wines, also called pinot gris (PEE-no GREE), are full of citrus, spice and toasted almond flavor. Pour them generously when you’re serving rich cream or red sauces napped over pasta or veal and poultry dishes like grilled chicken. Full-flavored cheeses hold their own with these wines, too.
Riesling [REES–ling]: Since these wines come in dry, off-dry and sweet styles, if you’ve tasted one you definitely haven’t tasted them all. Redolent of apricots and green apples, pair these with Asian food, grilled seafood (fish, shrimp, crab and lobster are all stand-outs), smoked salmon or fresh fruit and mild cheeses.
Sauvignon Blanc [SO-vin-yon BLAHNK]: You’re barefoot on a beach in Hawaii. The smell of tropical fruit wafts through the air. Just as the sun goes down, you’re thinking about having a bright salad with a dollop of soft goat cheese and a plate of seafood for dinner. This is the wine you’re looking for.
Cabernet Sauvignon [cab-er-NAY SO-vin-yon]: You wouldn’t want to run into these wines in a dark alley. Marked with firm tannins and flavors like currant, plum, black cherry, spice and dark jam, they’re big and tough. Pair them with hearty meals of roasted red meat, game, lamb, pasta with red sauce, full-flavored cheeses or rich chocolate desserts.
Merlot [mur-LO]: Because Merlot’s style can range, some offerings may be softer, suppler and less tannic, but they’re no slouches. These well-loved wines are full of currant and cherry flavors. Pair them with roasted red meats, duck, goose, lamb and full-flavored cheeses.
Pinot Noir [PEE-no NWA]: These grapes have classic black cherry, spice and raspberry flavors with an aroma that can resemble, well, wilted roses of all things. Since these chaps are earthy, pair them with turkey, beef, game, lamb, pork, veal, pheasant, duck or goose.
Sangiovese [san-geeo-VEHS-eh]: Wines made from this grape are spicy and taste a bit like raspberry or anise. Pair them with beef, veal, pork, pasta with red sauces, poultry and rich, powerful cheeses.
Shiraz [shih-RAHZ]: Also called syrah (sir-RAH), these grapes can be very rich and complex with pepper, spice and leather and tar flavors (in a good way, we promise). Pair them with beef, game and chicken or turkey.
Zinfandel [ZHIN-fan-del]: These guys can be a little tannic, but don’t hold it against them! They’re rich cherry overtones are perfect for everything from pizza and hamburgers to barbecued ribs and tomato sauces.
For more vino information, check out www.wholefoodsmarket.com