Help for a raw wine newbie

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Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Mike Chiodo » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:12 pm

I've recently decided to begin trying wine, however I'm having difficulty finding wine that I actually like. I'd like to learn some of the differences in wines so I can make intelligent purchases. I just want something that I can have a glass of in the evening and enjoy it.

What I liked:
Columbia Winery 2002 Cellarmasters Riesling
Seemed to have a nice smooth flavor with no bitterness or after taste.

What I didn't like:
Wine that leaves a bitter aftertaste.
There were a couple wines that my wife and I tried that quite frankly tasted like drain cleaner-one was Gallo Family brand, 2 were "Bridgewater" brand. There was a Merlot (that was the Gallo I think), and one of the Bridgewaters was a Chardonnay.

Trying to do research on the Internet just adds to the confusion. Comments about the wines flavor don't seem to reflect what the wine actually tastes like.

One of the bottles that we purchased was touted as having a "rich, buttery flavor" (the Chardonnay I think). Only if you call oven cleaner "rich and buttery".

A good rule of thumb for me-if I scrunch my face up after the first sip I probably don't like it.

Can anyone steer me in the right direction? What should I look for? Are there any sites that review wines that will present an actual idea of the taste?

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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Bob Ross » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:35 pm

Welcome, Mike. You've come to a great place to learn about wine, and I'm sure you'll get lots of good advice.

I urge beginners to get a copy of Andrea Immer Robinson's Great Wine Made Simple: Straight Talk from a Master Sommelier. She sets forth a very simple way to learn about the three most common red and the three most common white wines. Her book also provides a great way to expand your horizons.

And it's really fun, especially if you have someone to do the exercises with.

Welcome to WLDG.

Regards, Bob
Last edited by Bob Ross on Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Glenn Mackles » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:44 pm

Although I have been drinking wine a long time, compared to many others here on the site, I feel like a raw newbie as well. Still my advice would be to not rely on anyone's reviews. Everyone has different taste. Everyone uses different words to describe their taste. Over time you could try different reviewers and hopefully find one whose taste and wording matches yours but that could take time and be a bit expensive. Rather, what I would recommend is contact your local wine stores. Almost every wine store has regular tastings... small samplings of featured wines. Many small wine stores do them on weekends. There you will get a chance to actually taste a wide variety of different wines and decide what you like either for free or a nominal charge. I once you find something you like you can compare that to similar wines with similar characteristics. Like if you really like reisling you probably like some sweetness in wine. But tasting for yourself beats the heck out of anyone's reviews.

Good Luck,
"If you can find something everyone agrees on, it's wrong." Mo Udall
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby JC (NC) » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:53 pm

Welcome, Mike. The Columbia Cellarmasters Riesling (which I happen to like also) comes across with a touch of sweetness. At this stage you probably prefer sweet wines or wines so fruity that they suggest sweetness even if they are vinified without residual sugar. (In time you may come to prefer dryer wines--or not.) I would suggest trying a German Riesling at the Spatlese level--perhaps a Wehlener Sonnenuhr or Piesporter Goldtropchen. You might also try Saintsbury Garnet Pinot Noir, Mark West Pinot Noir, or Castle Rock Pinot Noir, or an Italian red wine, Lambrusco (see if you can find one other than Riunite--Riunite has wide distribution but is not the best example of this grape). Arrowood (California) makes a nice Riesling if you can find that. You might also like a Snoqualmie Rose (Washington State) called Cirque du Rose. Louis Latour has a white wine called Duet that combines Chardonnay with Viognier. You make like that one. Report back on what you try and we may have other suggestions.
I agree with Bob Ross that "Great Wines Made Simple" is a good book for beginners. I also like "Wine for Dummies" and still refer to it sometimes for info even though I have been enjoying wines for many years.
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Joel Sprague » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:54 pm

Another good resource, along lines of book that Bob suggested, is the Food network special Wine for the Confused. Hosted by John Cleese, was a great introduction to wine for the new drinker, or review for those who've been drinking for years. He hits on 3 of the most common white and red varietals, at least here in America, as well as words for descrbiing taste, how to buy, how to store, and how just to enjoy wine. Plus just fun to watch, as you'd expect with said host. ... B0009NZ6P2

"Don't let anyone ever try to tell you what wine you like, because people have different tastes and we shall honor that," he heralds at the start.

I figure that quote sums up attitude he takes for the show pretty well, and I think you'll be able to identify with it too, based on what you've posted here. :)
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Steve Kirsch » Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:58 pm

I agree with Glenn. The best advice anyone can give you is to find a "good" wine store in your area (where is that, btw?), introduce yourself to an experienced salesperson, and start to taste.

Most of the regulars here enjoy wines that come from small wineries and less well known regions, whereas most of the wine you'll see at mainstream wine shops and supermarkets comes from large-scale operations. Nothing wrong with low priced wine, or even large wine producers, per se, but things really get interesting when you get off the beaten track. Since these small-market wines aren't advertised, and they taste different, you need to get to know them bottle by bottle. Not really a terrible fate, when you think about it.
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Oct 24, 2006 2:19 pm

Hi Mike and Welcome!
Since you like the Columbia Winery 2002 Cellarmasters Riesling, I'd suggest you branch out and try other Rieslings. They can range from bone dry and acidic to very, very sweet and the Riesling grape is grown successfully in many regions, the most renowned are form Germany, but good ones come from Alscace, Australia, Washington State, NY Finger Lakes and Ontario's Niagara Peninsula. One thing to keep in mind regarding many wines is that a large number of them are best when paired with food and a food match may be something to be aware of. Dry Riesling, for instance pairs well with fish. Off-dry or semi-sweet Riesling pairs well with spicy Asian cuisine. It will be a learing experience to taste the similarities and differences in the different Rieslings. Then you could try other white varieties, such as Gewurtztraminer or Chardonnay. Keep in mind that Chardonnay can be made in many styles and is also grown around the world, so don't reject it based on a couple. If there are wineries within a short drive of you home take the time to visit them and taste what they have to offer. Also, find a knowledgeable retailer and explain what you've tried and liked and disliked. Keep us posted on your progress!
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby OW Holmes » Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:09 pm

Welcome, Mike.
I'm guessing based on reactions to the wine you have tried that you will like the sweeter wines rather than dry tannic wines. Depending on where you live, I am sure you will get great recommendations for local wines, in addition to the rieslings from all over the world, mentioned above. You might also check around to see if you can find Dr. L - a riesling made by Loosen in Germany.
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Thomas » Tue Oct 24, 2006 5:15 pm


Rather than getting hung up on the words "dry" and "sweet" as opposites get hung up on the taste that you like, which may start out sweet but is likely to evolve over time to less sweet maybe more complex--it's a common progression for new wine drinkers. With the exception of relatively expensive wines, most sweet wines aren't too complex.

One way to really appreciate wine, in my view, is to pair it with food. In this, sweeter wines often don't work as well and this is the area that can get you interested in the nuances and complexities of less sweet or non-sweet wines.
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby DebA » Tue Oct 24, 2006 6:47 pm

Welcome Mike!

You have definitely come to the right place if you want to learn and share. I am a relative newbie myself and have learned so much since my arrival on the scene only 2 months ago. No question will be considered "silly" here and most everyone I've encountered has been helpful and gracious. I, too, like the book Wine for Dummiesand have found it to be helpful and written in straight-forward language for the neophyte. I agree that in-store wine tastings are a great way to experience many new wines and discover what tickles your particular palate. Also, learning how to read a label on a wine bottle, if you don't already know how, directs your understanding, is empowering and does help one make a more informed purchase. You will find a great deal of "basic" wine info (including the label tutorial) on this site. Before you know it, you will have an understanding of what you prefer and be purchasing wine with confidence. Most of all, always have fun with wine, Mike!
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Mike Chiodo » Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:07 am

Wow. Thanks for all of the quick replys.

I'm in Central Iowa-there are a couple pretty good wine stores in the Des Moines area. I'm also not too far from the Amana Colonies with a number of wineries. There is also a winery just south of Des Moines that I might swing into this weekend.

I appreciate all of the help and advice-I look forward to asking a lot more questions as I travel this path.
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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby John Greef » Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:30 am

Welcome Mike.

I am a newbie here myself, but a wine lover for many years.

A few tips from me...

1: A good Riesling is not hard to find. Keep trying..
2: A good Chardonnay is hard to find. (I am now "ABC" = Anything But Chardonnay") Some less scrupulous wine makers just add oak chips to a mix of poor quality juice, and call it Chardonnay.

3: If you do find the first taste makes you frown or grimace, try again. Sometimes a second sip can work SO Much better. And, have some complementary food available.

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Re: Help for a raw wine newbie

Postby Bob Ross » Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:31 am

Mike, I grew up in southern Wisconsin and have kept up to a certain extent with the wine scene in the general area. Berry wines -- strawberry, raspberry, etc. can be quite good, although sweet.

There's a local winery event on November 5 you might want to check out:

Again, welcome. Bob
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