But the truth is that no other drink pairs so exceptionally with food as wine does, and then, the drink has romance and mystery, too; it carries a certain tradition and importance that’s undeniable, indeed, biblical; it has fun pastimes like stomping grapes, sabering bottles and having important conversations about literature. So we’ve done what we should have done all along: created a guide to everything there is to know about wine, an extensive flight of wine knowledge. It begins with a layman’s guide to understanding the varietals.
The Varietal Matrix GP Wines: 101
Tasting Notes Flavor characteristics
Ideal Regions Growth areas
Pairings Ideal foods (slow and fast)
Suggested Wines Affordable and splurge options
Cabernet King of the Reds
Intense, dark fruits like currants, plums and black cherries. Spicy and herbaceous. Woody and toasty thanks to aging in oak.
All over the world, but especially Napa Valley, Boreaux, Tuscany, Australia and South Africa.
Merlot The Comeback Kid
When blended with Cabernet, it shares some of that wine's characteristics. On its own, lighter red fruits like strawberries, cherries and raspberries, as well as earthy notes and chocolate.
Bordeaux, Languedoc Roussillon, Tuscany, Chile, Argentina.
A great wine with burgers, whether fancy homemade varieties or a four-by-four from In-N-Out. Also goes nicely with duck and tomato-based pasta dishes.
Pinot Noir Tiny Dancer
Classically, black cherry, spices, raspberry and currant. In some growing regions, it can also be mushroomy, earthy and smoky.
Burgundy and Champagne, famously. Also grown with superb results in California's Russian River Valley, Oregon's Willamette Valley and Alsace.
Zinfandel The California Beast
Like all wines it varies by region, but Zin is almost exclusively a Cali wine; the classic style is is bomb of ripe berries, spice and sometimes smoke or leather.
All over California, from LA County on up to Napa and Sonoma.
Zin's a great wine for bbq, like smoked pork shoulder or grilled rack of lamb.
Syrah Or Shiraz for Aussies
Deep, dark jammy berries: blueberry, current, blackberry. Syrah usually also has a spicy or peppery component.
Languedoc Roussillon, Australia's Barossa Valley, Napa Valley, South Africa, Tuscany, central Chile and Mendoza in Argentina.
Syrah pairs well with many of the same foods as Zin, especially lamb and bbq. It also does well with Chinese take-out.
Chardonnay Oh haay!
Apple, pear, pineapple, lemon, grapefruit and banana. With oak aging, they take on a creamy, buttery quality.
Burgundy and Champagne in France, all over California, and Australia, Washington, Chile and Argentina.
Seafood, smoked or grilled white meats, creamy sauces, hors d'ouvres.
Sauvignon Blanc The White Horse
This grape yields a dry white wine that tastes of citrus fruit, melon, herbs and sometimes oak or grass.
Bordeaux and Loire regions of France, Marlborough and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, Sonoma and Napa, Stellenbosch in South Africa, and some of the cooler parts of Chile.
Each of the three distinct flavor profiles -- fruity, grassy and creamy -- lends itself to different food: fruity goes with seafood; grassy goes with vegetables; and creamy goes with chicken or swordfish.
Riesling The Rise of Sweet
Diverse, versatile wines, rieslings are generally crisp and contain notes of citrus, honey, apricot and pineapple.
Germany, Alsace, California, Oregon, Washington and New York's Finger Lakes region.
The sweeter German Rieslings go well with desserts, while the drier Alsatian Rieslings go well with cheese, Asian cuisine, chicken and seafood.
Grüner Veltliner Snap, Crackle, Pop, Delicious!
The grüner veltliner possesses a singular set of flavors, including celery, lentils, white pepper, and tobacco.
Primarily grown in Austria, but also popular in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary.
A versatile wine that goes well with shellfish, pork loin, chicken, and vegetables.
Pinot Gris The Grey Lady
Though varied in body, pinot gris contain common flavor profiles: pear, apple and lemon, often with a crispy spiciness akin to pepper or arugula.
All over Italy, with the most expensive being produced in the north. Grapes grown in Alsace, the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Arroyo Seco in California produce full-bodied, aromatic wines.
In Vino We Trust
Uncorked, Part One: A Guide to Wine Varietals
For a long time we’ve been put off by wine — its rules and regulations, its esoteric language, its arcane, Old-World naming regimes. Then the floodgates opened and there was two-dollar wine, highbrow boxed wine, wines that could be chilled and others that could be warmed. And guess what? It was all still pretty confusing. Gravitating toward beer, spirits and cocktails remained easier.