Splendour in the Glass
Despite a long history of exclusivity, good wine is now more accessible and affordable to the general public than ever before. But with hundreds of options available, it can be difficult knowing where to get started. Here's a brief description of some of the most popular varieties.
Red wine is made from grapes that are red, purple or blue. During the fermenting process the grape skin provides the colouration and also releases tannin* which gives red wine its distinctive flavour. Most often served at room temperature, red wine is popular for its complex taste. *Tannin: organic compounds found in grapes and apple seeds that causes a mouth puckering sensation when you bite into them.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Characterized by black currant and vanilla flavours, Cabernets can range in intensity from mellow to bold. An ideal match for flavourful meats and poultry as well as cheese and chocolate.
Merlot: Tends to be softer than many other reds, with flavours of plum and black cherry. Try it with beef dishes, zesty pastas or boldly flavoured chicken entrées.
Zinfandel: Known as an "American Classic" wine, red Zinfandel is distinguished by a deep red colour and spicy, intense flavours - terrific with steaks, burgers or thick red pasta sauces.
Syrah or Shiraz: A hearty spicy red wine made from the syrah grape. Currently a favourite with Australian wine makers. Excellent when paired with steak, beef, wild game or stew.
Pinot Noir: Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon it is quite fruity. Works well with grilled salmon and lamb.
Also called rosé wine. This wine is made from red grapes and during the fermentation process the juice remains with the skin for a few hours (instead of days) resulting in a pink colour as opposed to a darker red colour found in red wine. Most often sweet in taste, white Zinfandel is the most popular blush wine.
White wines are made from white grape juice or skinned red grapes and the resulting wine is actually yellow in colour. White wine is most often served chilled.
Chardonnay: The world's most popular white wine, Chardonnay offers flavours ranging from crisp citrus to hearty apple. Perfect with seafood as well as lighter chicken and pork dishes.
Sauvignon Blanc: Sometimes called "Fumé Blanc," Sauvignon Blanc is characterized by light herbal flavours. Try it with cheese, prosciutto or grilled fish.
Riesling: A dry white wine that goes well with fish, chicken and pork. Much lighter than a Chardonnay and often exudes a fresh apple aroma.
Muscat: Muscat grapes are grown in warmer climates and produce a fruity sweet wine that has a musky aroma.
Sparking wines contain bubbles of carbon dioxide that are created during the fermentation process. Although traditionally reserved to toast special occasions, sparkling wines are actually a highly versatile dinner wine, matching particularly well with shellfish and Asian cuisine.
Champagne: A sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France.
First produced in Germany in the late 1700's, ice wine is cultivated using grapes that have experienced a frost while still on the vine (no artificial freezing allowed!) Germany still produces ice wine, though Canadian ice wine is highly prized among wine lovers. Ice wine is very sweet and is often served as a dessert wine.
Port: A best selling sweet wine, this rich full-bodied wine is usually served at room temperature. For centuries no meal was considered complete until port was taken after the meal to aid digestion.
Sherry: Can be served before, during and after a meal, this sweet wine is never served chilled. It is often sipped by wine aficionados.