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Bond Girl

Wine for Beginners

32 posts in this topic

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?


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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

Cheers,

Rob


"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.

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Andrea Immer's Great Wine Made Simple.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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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.


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

Cheers,

Rob

I'd agree completely.

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Ordered Andrea Immer's book and the Wine Avenger from BN.com. Will keep you posted.


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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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.

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.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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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).


Forget the house, forget the children. I want custody of the red and access to the port once a month.

KEVIN CHILDS.

Doesn't play well with others.

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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?

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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.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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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.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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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.co.uk/french-wine?fh_location=colour%3E%7Bred20wine%7D

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.co.uk/Beaujolais-Villages-zid07099?tracking=|searchterm:

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

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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!


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

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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 (log)
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Lots of very good advice above from Smithy & 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 & Spencer's wine selections. <a href="http://www.marksandspencer.com/Wine-Food-Wine/b/44092030">http://www.marksandspencer.com/Wine-Food-Wine/b/44092030</a>. Good range at good prices and free delivery
Don't forget to have a look at South American wines, Argentina & 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&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£ 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 (log)

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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.


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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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 (log)

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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.


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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