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Wine for Beginners


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#1 Bond Girl

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 01:19 PM

I am thinking of embarking on a project that will require me to cram some wine knowledge fast. The problem is I know Jack S**t about wine. So, it's time to hit the library! Does anyone out there have a recommendation of books that I should start with?
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#2 RobInAustin

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 01:28 PM

I think the best written and easiest for beginners is "Windows on the World" by Kevin Zraly

Cheers,
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#3 tommy

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 01:31 PM

willie gluckstern's book is a fast read, and it's entertaining. it focuses somewhat on wines and their relationship to food.

http://www.wineaveng...m/Book/book.asp

Edited by tommy, 20 September 2004 - 01:33 PM.


#4 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 01:34 PM

What type of wine knowledge are you looking for? It will be easier to recommend books if we know specifically what you are hoping to learn (i.e., simple geographical information? how wine is produced? how the geography determines taste?)

#5 KatieLoeb

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 01:36 PM

Andrea Immer's Great Wine Made Simple.

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#6 Bond Girl

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 01:41 PM

Hey guys, thanks for the rec.

Caroline, I wish I know where to start...The problem is I can't drink, I mean I can but not a whole lot so wine tasting is out. And, of course I don't know enough to ask the right questions. I guess a general overview would be nice.
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#7 malcolmjolley

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 01:43 PM

Matt Kramer's revised Making Sense of Wine is the best wine book I've read. It's suitable for absolute beginners, experts and everyone in between.

Jay McInerney's Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar is also very good and fun.
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#8 Laksa

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 02:05 PM

The problem is I can't drink, I mean I can but not a whole lot so wine tasting is out.

View Post

You can get a lot out of a wine tasting by just smelling the wine and moving it around in your mouth a little. After that you have the option of spitting it out. If you can drink a little, what little alcohol that you might ingest should not pose a problem.

I think a lot of "professional wine tasters" do just that.

#9 Jean Brislance

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 04:21 PM

I would also add Wine For Dummies, one of the yellow and black "Dummies-series" books. It is inexpensive, and gives you a good introduction to, and a nice basic overview of, many aspects of the world of wine. I still find myself referencing it from time to time for general information.

Jean

#10 carswell

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 04:46 PM

I second the Kramer and Wine for Dummies reccos. And when you begin to tire of "textbooks," pick up a copy of importer Kermit Lynch's 1988 Adventures on the Wine Route. Although some of the info is outdated, the book provides an excellent overview of the business, touches on many issues of continuing relevance and is just a hoot to read.

#11 jayt90

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 04:48 PM

Once you have acquired the basics, there is no better choice than
The World Atlas of Wine, by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. I found Hugh's original volume (1970) immensely helpful, and now the current edition, with Jancis, is even better.

#12 melkor

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 05:02 PM

I think the best written and easiest for beginners is "Windows on the World" by Kevin Zraly

Cheers,
Rob

View Post


I'd agree completely.

#13 Bond Girl

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 05:06 PM

Ordered Andrea Immer's book and the Wine Avenger from BN.com. Will keep you posted.
Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

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#14 Chris Amirault

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Posted 20 September 2004 - 07:28 PM

Once you have acquired the basics, there is no better choice than
The World Atlas of Wine, by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson.  I found Hugh's original volume (1970) immensely helpful, and now the current edition, with Jancis, is even better.

View Post


Eve if you want the basics, it's a nice place to start, if a bit encyclopedic. Because of the maps, photos, and the short synopses of important topics, it's a great bathroom -- er, I mean bedside table book.
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#15 arielle

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Posted 21 September 2004 - 09:53 AM

I really like the writing of Jancis Robinson. I agree that the World Atlas she wrote with Hugh Johnson is amazing, but I think two other books of hers are even better to start with: Wine Tasting Workbook; and Wine Course (a new edition was just released).
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#16 Sararwelch

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 03:56 PM

I don't like to drink wine. I've never found a wine that I've been able to tolerate. I hear it's an acquired taste, and it's just something I've never gotten into.

That being said, I cook constantly and have gotten to the point where I think I need to learn something about wine to further my culinary skills. I use wine in my cooking, but I never know if it's a good wine or not.

I have a friend that's really into wine, and he's willing to teach me some things, but I also need the absolute basics. Does anyone know of a good website to start with?

#17 KatieLoeb

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 05:25 PM

May I suggest checking out Local Wine Events for your area? There will be listing of wine tastings and classes that you could attend to get a better knowlege base for yourself. Take a few "Wine 101" type tasting classes, or "Pairing Wine & Food" classes and you'll have a much better chance of enjoying it than having a wine geek friend tie you to a chair and make you swirl and spit.

Nothing will make you acquire a taste for wine. You just have to taste enough of them to find the ones you like. After a while you'll want to expand your horizons and you'll try more things. Or you may never acquire a taste for it. Some people don't, although I think exposure to as many different types of wine as possible will give you a better idea as to whether you'll ever like it or not.

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#18 Brad Ballinger

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 08:15 PM

I notice you are in San Francisco. I'm guessing there are plenty of classes available to you. I'd for sure check out theCopia web site to see what they are scheduled to offer. If there are any classes being taught by Tim Hanni (pronouced han-EYE), take one of those. I think that will be what you are looking for.
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#19 Yuri Asx

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 05:18 AM

Hello everyone,

 

I am very new to wine in general as my drinks of preference have always been madeira and cognac. Occasional cocktails involving Campari as well. I do drink wine now and then, but it has always been cheap wine that tasted sharp, bland or just had horrible aftertaste. Probably the best wine I had was supermarket version of Chateauneuf 2010 for £14, which tasted OK, but I would much rather prefer blandy's 10 year old malmsey for that price.

 

Maybe the wine is not my drink? Anyway just as I was about to give up on it, I managed to score a deal, and long story short, I get to pick a case from local Majestic store. The wines can be mix and match and priced up to £15 per bottle, so I am really hoping you guys can suggest me something good that will perhaps open wine world to me :)

 

The link to what they have is here: http://www.majestic....our>{red20wine}

 

I don't like white at all, so it has to be all red but I would like to try a bottle of rose as well. Now for some reason I think at this price point I should go for French for the best quality/price ratio, and I seem to like French wine more in general, but feel free to correct me.

 

There is one more thing, I'd like one of the bottles to go well with cheese; now do red even go well with cheese? If they do, I would imagine it has to be something light and low in alcohol, so I was thinking this one: http://www.majestic....ng=|searchterm:

 

I hope someone knowledgeable will find a few spare minutes to help me out with this request. Many thanks to you in advance!



#20 Smithy

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 09:32 PM

Yuri, welcome to eGullet!

 

I'm sorry to see that more than 12 hours have elapsed with nary a reply to your question.  I don't think that means a lack of interest, but it may mean a general feeling of "eh? er...?" and general shuffling of feet among the people who are paying attention this weekend; or else it means that The People Who Really Know This Stuff are all busy at the moment.  I'll start a response.  I hope other, more knowledgeable people will chime in.

 

First of all, the easy part: yes, cheese and red wine absolutely go together.  You can spend a lifetime exploring *which* cheese and *which* wine match each other best; this truth gives me no end of pleasure and my husband no end of frustration.  As an example, a feta cheese and a sharp cheddar cheese are not likely to not pair well with the same wine.  In fact, I can promise you from direct experience that a particular basil pesto and one particular merlot can sing together whereas the same pesto and another merlot can merely cohabitate.  At the same party. If you're interested in more exploration of the topic you can go over to the eGullet Culinary Institute (eGCI) for a (free) course on tasting wine; there are some really interesting comments on pairing foods with wine.  The same goes for cheese and wine.  If you need help finding the course, just ask.

 

If I were in your shoes, I'd plan to pick 6 pairs of wines: each pair being either 2 of exactly the same wine (same vineyard, same year) or 2 of the same wine from different vineyards, preferably from the same year.  Then you could do some comparing and contrasting to start learning what you like and don't like.  Here would be my suggestions for the red wine pairs:

 

- The Beaujolais-Villages from George DuBouef that you linked to is, in my experience, a nice light (what they call "approachable") and eminently drinkable wine, with or without cheese.  I haven't had the 2011 but in previous years I've liked this.  Yes, I'd say you should include it.

- A red Bordeaux will have a bit more body but lots of good flavor.  I can't recommend anything out of the listing, though; I don't know any of them.

- Grab a couple of the Cotes du Rhones.  I find the Cotes du Rhones blends to be meal-friendly but very amiable on their own as well.  These have a bit more body than the last 2 I've mentioned. I believe Chateauneuf de Pape is a subset of this blend. I know it's a very tasty, toothsome wine.  It's usually rather expensive, however.  I don't know whether an inexpensive Chateauneuf de Pape would be a good representative.

- For a bit more spice or body, I recommend a good Spanish Rioja or a California Zinfandel.  I just looked at the price points of the California wines, and I see what you mean about prices.  Rioja is NOT the same grape, but Rioja and Zinfandel, in my experience, have a similar spicy note and zest.  Get the right bottle, and you may find yourself yelling, "yahoo!  I see what the fuss is about!"

- Hmm.  Should I recommend a cabernet sauvignon as a noble grape, or a merlot as a smoother noble grape, or malbec because it has flavor and spine without as much tannin, or a good Italian Chianti, or a red burgundy?  I wish I knew more about your tastes!

 

Have you noticed that the Majestic Wine web site has selectors for things like "wine style" (smooth reds vs spicy red, for example) as well as price point and region?  Those may be good guides for you.

 

I'm sorry, I'm totally clueless about rose wines; I've enjoyed some and am not laughing at them, but can't help a bit.  Not sure I've helped much as it is, but at least I'm bumping the topic back up.

 

Ask questions!  Good luck!


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#21 djyee100

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 10:22 PM

As Smithy said, sorry you had to wait so long for a response. You've asked a big question, and it takes time to mull it over a bit.

How about going to the store and talking to a sales person? A good vendor can point you to wines that will pair well with the food you want to serve, and also match your tastes. A good sales person has tasted many of the wines, and will come up with the best bottle for your needs within your price range.

I've known my wine vendor for almost two decades, and my brilliant method for selecting wines means walking into his store and asking for his help.

Does the Majestic store offer a free tasting before you buy a bottle? That will help you avoid some wines you can't stand. Remember, when you taste many wines at once, you're not expected to swallow them all and get drunk. Ask for a spit glass and use it.

If for some reason you want to look outside the vendor for advice, are there any winetasting groups, societies, or even classes in your area? Someone from those groups might be willing to help you choose your wines.

French wines can be fantastic, but don't automatically assume those wines are the "best," to the exclusion of others. (I realize French people will give me an argument about this.) The world of wine is huge. There are some great Italian and Spanish wines out there that I wouldn't want to do without (sangiovese, pinot grigio, rioja). And don't forget the Australian and Californian fruit bombs that go so well with grilled food. People tell me the South African wines are beginning to make their mark, but I haven't tasted enough of them to form an opinion.

I eyeballed the list on your link. First of all, I noticed some famous names on the list, like Chateauneuf-du-Pape and St. Emilion Grand Cru. When wines from these great vineyards go on sale, that means the wine is from an off-year vintage. There's a flaw or two or three in the wine that's not keeping with its usual standard. The bottle may still be very nice and drinkable, but don't expect it to be an example of the best these vineyards have to offer.

I noticed Cotes de Rhone wines on the list, among my faves for a value wine. The wines are consistently good in my experience, and reasonably priced (and maybe that's why they're on the list also.) Loire white wines are another great value wine, IMO--the sauvignon blanc/sancerre wines, and also Italian pinot grigio white wines from the Alto Adige region.

I know you said you didn't like white wine. However, at your stage of winetasting, I recommend that you give white wines another chance. A good white burgundy/chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio may change your mind about white wines. They are essential if you ever plan to pair wines with certain foods, like seafood. If some years down the road you become addicted to the pricier kinds of white burgundy, as I am, you'll know who to blame for giving you this advice. :wink:

Wine-cheese pairings are very flexible. It all depends on the wine and the cheese. A big red wine with strong tannins can pair with a triple creme cheese--the fat in the cheese will temper the tannins. Again, I suggest you consult your wine vendor and name the cheese or the types of cheese you want to pair. Your vendor may suggest various wines to go with various cheeses, and before you know it, you'll have a wine and cheese tasting party ready to go.

IMO, wine goes best with food, and should be paired with food. It's not like the madeira and cognac you're more used to, that you can drink by itself. Wine is usually tart to enliven the palate while you're eating some fatty appetizers or a rich dinner. So keep that in mind. I wonder if this is the reason you haven't liked wine before.

Also, it sounds like you are not going to cellar these wines, but drink them within a year or so. Let your vendor know that--you want wines that are drinkable now.

Over the years I've learned about wine from my vendor's free email newsletter and the regular tastings he holds at his store for a reasonable fee. If you want to learn more about wine, I suggest you look for these opportunities in your area.

good luck with that case of wine!


Edited by djyee100, 20 September 2013 - 10:27 PM.

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#22 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 02:21 AM

Lots of very good advice above from Smithy &amp; djyee100. Don't know that I can add a lot.</p>

I would recommend that as you're in the UK you check out Marks &amp; Spencer's wine selections.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.marksands...Wine/b/44092030">http://www.marksands...Wine/b/44092030</a>. Good range at good prices and free delivery
Don't forget to have a look at South American wines, Argentina &amp; Chile especially make some great wines at great prices. I agree with Smithy that South African wines are really coming on strong. We had some super wines (and food) on our last visit. And, again, the prices are good.

Since I live in France I can hardly not recommend their wines. Currently some of best price/quality ratio French wines are coming from the South West. I'm not sure if M&amp;S are still stocking it, but the red Gaillian from Domaine de la Chadade is a very very nice wine indeed. Have a look. I have this wine in my 'cellar' (read; up in the garage). I checked and they do still have it. Just under&pound; 10 per bottle)

I also agree that not trying white wines would leave huge hole in your wine education. his suggestions are on the mark.


Above all have fun with it. Trying out wines that you don't know is part of the learning process. The only problem being that you sometimes have to drink your mistakes.


Edited by Dave Hatfield, 21 September 2013 - 02:31 AM.


#23 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 02:53 PM

Having gone on a similar journey myself some points come to mind.

 

Don't rule out whites as part of a blanket rule. No. I had the same attitude once. I didn't like whites. They were either too sweet (i.e. dessert wines) or too acidic. As with reds, it's important you think about your starting point. It's like ... you're a cocktail drinker, so you'd get this. Imagine you wanted to get someone into Amari. Would you start with something like Aperol over ice or would you start with Amaro Sibilia? Or, to put it in whisky terms, would you introduce someone to the brown stuff with something like Laphroaig or a gentler Speysides? With both amari and spirits you need to work up, right? A lot of wine writers/reviewers/forum participants drink a lot of wine. While some--a good sommelier, say--can easily dial their experience back and think 'accessibility', you'll often find their ideas of accessibility do not match your own. On the white front, I found gewuz would Alsace was a very easy starting point. Riesling from the same region was also pleasant. After that you can move onto drier, 'bigger' wines. I guess being in Australia my ability to recommend specific bottles is a little limited: I see they stock a lot of Australian and New Zealand wines but many are outside your budget.

 

As for reds, I wouldn't start with a Californian Zin or Australian shiraz. Maybe I've just had a bad run, but I wouldn't recommend starting with Bordeaux, either. I'd aim straight for pinot noir. It's also worth noting that you don't want a red that's only a couple of years old, particularly if you are buying Zin or Cab. Age mellows them. They're more accessible 4-5 years down the road (they don't need to be old--they should still be available for reasonable prices) than they are when only a year or so old.


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#24 djyee100

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 07:57 PM

I went on the Majestic website to check out California wines. For your price point, forget it. You'll get better value with European or other wines.

I also played around with some of the sorting options the website gives you under Main menu>Browse wines.

I checked out "Top-Rated" (customer reviews) and "Staff Reviewed." I sorted for Price (High-Low), found your price point of 15 pounds and started looking for maximum stars ratings. Not bad. I haven't tried these wines but they sounded intriguing. I noticed at least a couple South African wines with 5 stars and many reviews. South Africa must be the emerging "value wine" region in the world, and I should make more effort to try these wines myself.

I also noticed many sauvignon blancs from the Marlborough region of New Zealand at this price point. Watch out for those. The wines can have a musky cat pee smell that offends some people. Others seem to like it.


Edited by djyee100, 21 September 2013 - 08:01 PM.


#25 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 08:07 PM

Cheap South African wines--the ones at and just above the bottom of the market--are a mixed bag. One weighted in favour of the terrible. The good ones I've had would be priced at over $20AUD, which is close enough to 15GBP.


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#26 Smithy

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 09:57 PM

I haven't yet met a South African wine that I liked (it was not I who suggested them, farther upthread). That may just be the luck of the draw. The pinotage grape - a South African grape NOT to be confused with pinot noir - seems to have a really distinctive, wild, flavor and aroma suggestive of cat pee. I'd avoid it without knowing more. Also, I agree with Chris Taylor that you aren't likely to find a California wine of comparable quality to your more local selections without paying a lot more money. Similarly, someone noted above that a good chateauneuf de pape is likely to be a bank-buster, and that an affordable one (that is, at your price range) isn't likely to be representative of the genre. They're right. I wish I'd thought of that.

The suggestions upthread to talk to Majestic wine salespeople, or other salespeople, to get guidance on potential winners based on your present tastes and experience are excellent ideas. Tasting ahead of time is good if you can do it. I also think that the folks who are suggesting that you start with lighter wines may be onto something. When I first started drinking wine, it was the Rhinecastles (rather sweetish whites) and roses for me. I thought chianti and cabernet sauvignon were much too strong; I think it was a burgundy that first got my attention as a Good Thing. Now I like a good spicy zinfandel or Rioja, as noted above..but I also adore a Cotes du Rhone - it really is a lovely blend - or gamay beaujolais (there's the Georges DuBoef again) for its lighter notes. So I think, if you aren't able to do a tasting or a good consultation with a knowledgeable salesperson, you should try for a cross-section from light to robust wines. By the way - in the USA, at least, it's difficult to get a good pinot noir without spending a lot of money. Otherwise I agree that it's also a lovely grape.

Heck, I think they're all great - except the aforementioned pinotage. Are you thoroughly confused by now? :-)

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#27 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 22 September 2013 - 06:01 AM

I'd like to put in a word for the Argentines and Chileans, who produce some really outstanding reds.  Bear in mind that I like my wine to have quite a bit of character to it, and the South American grapes seem to provide this best.  What I'm listing below are spicier and more fruity/tannin-y, which are flavours that are more likely to be pleasant to you given your like of the distilled wines.

 

Viñalba Reserva Malbec, and Testimonio de Luigi Bosca are the best two Argentine wines at your site, for the shekels you want to spend.  It's a shame that they're focussing on single-grape wines, because the Merlot-Malbecs and Malbec-Sirahs are also lovely wines, particularly for those who like sherry and port.  On the Chilean side, the Medalla Real Carmenere is gorgeous.

 

I can't help much with the rosé, as I'm not at all fond of them; I will join in with the others though and ask you to reconsider the whites.


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#28 Smithy

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Posted 22 September 2013 - 06:54 AM

I too have found some great Argentine and Chilean reds, but hadn't seen any in the list that I recognized. Thanks, P.C. I'll be looking for those myself! By the way - I agree with you about the blends.

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#29 Yuri Asx

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Posted 25 September 2013 - 05:05 PM

Guys, first of all I'd like to thank you all for very interesting and thorough replies, I didn't expect that so many people would come to help me.

 

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take your advice on my first purchase, as I went out shopping later that night.

In the end I opted for:

 

Beaujolais 2011, Chateau de Pizay 
Rioja Reserva 2008, Marques de Riscal
Rioja Ardanza 2004
Sancerre Rose Domaine des Clairneaux 2012
2x La Casetta Valpolicella
 
Set me back total of £80 + they gave me a £10 voucher for next purchase. Not too bad I think.
 
But anyway, so far I've tried the Valpolicella, and that was pretty good. Very fruity and very smooth, I've enjoyed it quite a lot, was nice with pork and on its own. Honestly, didn't expect this wine to be so pleasant, it put a smile on my face :D
I've tried the Sancerre Rose too, and that was extremely dry, but well balanced and quite easy drinkable, however it felt more like a house wine you would get in a casual french restaurant. Good wine, but definitely wasn't worth the price point of £14. 
 
I am really looking forward to try others in the near future.
 
You guys gave me some really good information that I will certainly consider for next purchase, so thank you for that!


#30 Smithy

Smithy
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  • 3,441 posts
  • Location:North Shore of Lake Superior

Posted 25 September 2013 - 08:14 PM

Thanks for the report to date!  I must say, I overlooked the fact that Marques de Riscal was offering a Rioja...I'd have recommended it...I particularly appreciate their Riojas, and I hope you appreciate them as much as I do..

 

Keep us posted as you keep trying the rest of your purchase!


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown