Let’s face it. Choosing wine can be a bit confusing and intimidating, so we’ve decided to take some of the guesswork out of the equation! Here, you’ll find wine descriptions and food pairings for the most popular wines. All theses wines are delicious on their own or paired with food.
Note: Most whites taste best if chilled to approximately 50-55 degrees. An hour in the refrigerator should do it!
Chardonnay is the most common white grape, and produces a wine with a rich, appealing aroma that is at the same time, delicate. Some are aged in oak barrels and others are fermented in stainless steel tanks (“unoaked”). The most common aromas and tastes are stone fruits, citrus, tropical fruits, minerals, butter, oak and vanilla.
FOOD: vegetables, poultry, seafood with rich and creamy sauces, grilled (white) fish), Thai chicken dishes, melon, artichoke dip and cheeses such as brie, gruyere, feta and mozzarella.
Pinot Grigio is one of the most popular wines in the U.S. Italy produces the most; in France, it is called “Pinot Gris.” (A to Z Pinot Gris is from Oregon and is similar to the French varieties.) The Italian wines are a bit more delicately fragrant with light lemon/citrus flavors, while the French/Oregon Pinot Gris is richer and more full-bodied and can stand up to heavier foods. Aromas/flavors are pear, apple, citrus, light oak, vanilla and toast.
FOOD: This is a light wine and should be paired with similar foods, such as vegetables, poultry, light seafood dishes, or pasta with a light white sauce.
Sauvignon Blanc has aromas and tastes of olives, grass, bell pepper, grapefruit, vanilla and toast. It is a fairly complex wine, and is sometimes combined with 15-20 percent Semillion, which adds richness. California, France (Sancerre, Pouilly Fume), Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa produce this wine. (It is the signature wine of New Zealand and South Africa.) It’s always tangy, tart and zesty.
FOOD: It is probably the best dry white wine to accommodate the greatest range of foods–tomatoes, peppers, garlic, smoked cheeses, meats, poultry–that would clash with any other white.
Chenin Blanc has zesty acidity, honeyed character, and fruity aromas of honeydew and grass, with hints of light oak, smoke and vanilla. (Drink this one young!) Also, called Vouvray, it can be crisp and light, sparkling or sweet, depending on the vinter’s intent.
FOOD: Fresh fruit with cream, egg rolls, spinach dip, ham, BBQ pork, chicken, citrusy salads, Camembert or Brie cheeses.
Riesling is bright, zesty and somewhat sweet with peaches and white flowers on the nose and fruitiness, a hint of mineral, spice and apricot on the finish. Good acidity keeps the sweetness from being cloying. (Seebrich Riesling is the exception, as it is a dry wine, much less sweet than its siblings.)
FOOD: Great by itself, it pairs well with chicken, pork, spicy Asian foods, eggs and ham, and pear or apple crisp.
(Note: “Tannin” and “acidity” are not evil words; both are necessary to produce a good and balanced wine. Open reds a little before serving to “breathe.” As for the serving temperature, if the bottle is cool to the touch, what’s inside will be ideal (usually 60-64 degrees.)
Merlot may be the most popular red, dry and medium-bodied with smooth tannins. On the palate, there is a blend of dark fruits as well as overtones of vanilla, peppercorns, cedar and spice. Merlot aged in oak and has more of a woodsy, earthy flavor and aroma. Lower in tannins than most other reds.
FOOD: Pasta, pizza, veal, meatloaf, lamb/beef stew, salmon, tuna and cheeses including Parmesan, Gouda, cheddar, Jarlsberg, blue and provolone.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted black grape in the world, rich and robust and dense with tannins, it has a distinctive black currant aroma, with nuances of bell pepper, cedar, violet and a touch of spice. If it’s lightly oaked, there will be hinds of coconut and vanilla. If heavily oaked, expect flavors of toast and smoke.
FOOD: Pair with hearty dishes such as grilled meats and veggies, stews, tomato-based pasta, dry cheeses and even dark chocolate.
Malbec is primarily from Argentina and to a lesser degree, France. It’s a dark red, intense (but not heavy) wine with notes of cherry, plum, chocolate, raspberry, dried fruit, vanilla and spice.
Food: It’s versatile because it pairs well with many foods, especially red meats, BBQ, pot roasts, etc. (The enzymes in meat soften the tannins of the wine and bring out even more of its fruit flavor.) Also good with venison, stroganoff, lamb, pork chops, grilled veggies, grilled salmon, portobello mushrooms and roasted chicken. Complements Mexican and Indian food and cheeses such as manchego, blue, chevre and cheddar.
Pinot Noir is lighter in color than most other red wines, but not light on taste. With good acidity and low tannins, it has aromas and flavors of fruits such as berries, currant and cherry; it is well-balanced and easy-drinking.
FOOD: Pinot Noir pairs well with most grilled/roasted meats, especially turkey and with Mexican and Italian cuisine. Compatible cheeses include cheddar, Edam and Gouda.
Shiraz hails mostly from South Africa and Australia (“Shiraz”), France (“Syrah”) and more recently, Oregon. It has big bold flavors of blackberry, plum, chocolate and spice. Drink while it’s young (within five years of bottling), and serve slightly chilled.
FOOD: Ideal for beef, grilled/roasted veggies, Mexican and Indian food.
Chianti/Sangiovese/Valpolicella are all Italian wines with many of the same characteristics: medium-bodied with crisp acidity and dry tannins. Valpolicella is a little more “herby” and is a blend of three wines. Chianti always has some of the Sangiovese grape in it.
FOOD: Pizza, grilled veggies, fried chicken, lasagna, ham and provolone, Parmesan, fontina, asiago and Jarlsberg cheeses.
Red Zinfandel is a true chameleon in that it can be soft and sweet, or a dry, full-of-tannins wine. The strong, heady flavors of blackberry and plum are characteristic of this wine; the Wine Cellar’s selections tend to be dry and bold.
FOOD: Pairs well with substantial foods, such as chicken wings, stews, sausages and goat cheese.
We also have a good selection of sparkling wines, some sweet, some dry; they tend to pair well with most cuisines.