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
Intense, dark fruits like currants, plums and black cherries. Herbaceous, especially notes of eucalyptus.
All over the world, but especially Napa Valley and Bordeaux.
Most famously blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux production, merlot have light notes of strawberries, cherries and raspberries, as well as rustic notes of herbs and forest floor.
Bordeaux, Chile and 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.
In Old World regions like Burgundy, notes of rosemary and black tea are common. In newer regions like California, warm spices and a somewhat infamous "cherry cola" aroma dominate.
Burgundy, famously. Also grown with superb results in California's Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast as well as Oregon's Willamette Valley.
Known as Primitivo in Italy, Zinfandel is almost exclusively a Cali wine, where its trademark expression 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.
Deep, roasted fruit: blueberry, plum, blackberry. When from France, Syrah can also have a black pepper and bacon fat component.
France's Rhône Valley, Australia's Barossa Valley, Napa Valley, Chile and Mendoza.
Syrah pairs well with many of the same foods as Zin, especially lamb and bbq. It also does well with Chinese take-out, especially Peking Duck.
Apple, pear, citrus and tropical fruits like pineapple and passionfruit. With aging in new oak, they can take on a toasty, buttery quality.
Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, but it's especially well-known coming from Burgundy, all over California, Australia, Chile and Argentina.
Seafood, roasted poultry, smoked or grilled pork, pastas with creamy sauces.
This grape yields an aromatic white wine that tastes of citrus fruit, melon, fresh-cut grass and gun flint.
Sauvignon Blanc is most famously from France's Loire Valley, particularly Sancerre. It's also the unsung white wine hero of Bordeaux. Abroad, it's planted with success in New Zealand, Chile and California.
Go for fresh vegetables, goat's milk cheeses, river fish and lighter chicken dishes for pairing with this vibrant white.
Diverse, versatile wines, the best rieslings strike the balance between aromatic floral, tropical and mineral. Some are sweet, some are bone-dry, all are a great value.
Germany, Alsace, Australia, Oregon, Washington, and New York's Finger Lakes region.
Riesling is versatility in a bottle. The sweeter expressions go well with desserts, while the drier ones are perfect with everything from Alpine cheeses to Asian cuisine, and pretty much everything in between.
Grüner veltliner possesses a singular set of flavors, including green apple, celery, lentils, white pepper, and tobacco.
Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
A versatile wine that goes well with shellfish, pork loin, chicken, and vegetables.
Dubbed the "Chameleon Grape" for its ability to manifest in many different ways depending on where it’s grown, its expression is dominated by orchard fruits, chamomile, honey and minerals.
France's Loire Valley (especially Vouvray), South Africa, Australia.
Patés and terrines, roasted poultry and game fowl, pork chops and root vegetables.
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.
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