Wines for Beginners
If you're new to drinking wine, choosing a wine to buy can be an overwhelming experience and odds are, you may not like what you end up purchasing. I generally recommend that people start with something, fresh, fruity, and light, and then expand your tastes from here. I also recommend trying different styles of wine, to get a sense of the diverse selection that is available. Here are some awesome "gateway" wines that I recommend, organized by style:
I find this to be a great beginner sparkling because it tends to be very youthful, fresh, fruit-forward. The bubbles are also more spritzy and less aggressive than some sparklings. Some typical flavours from Prosecco are green apple, pear, apricot and honey, and it has a vibrant, refreshing acidity.
This is one of my absolute favourites. It's a very fun and approachable sparkling, with high fruit and acidity. Generally has beautiful, red fruit flavours, but can also be made in bolder, darker-berry styles. The styles that tend to be more red fruit (think strawberry, cherry, raspberry) are: Lambrusco Di Sorbara & Lambrusco Rosato (Rosé). If you want to try something a little more ripe and earthy, look for Lambrusco Grasparossa or Lambrusco Reggiano. The labels will also classify the wine by sweetness - Secco will be dry, semisecco is off-dry and Dolce or Amabile will be sweet.
There are of course popular/familiar varieties, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Blanc. These can be made in a huge range of styles, from high-volume, inexpensive, relatively neutral wines, to premium, rich and concentrated wines. There is so much more to explore in the world of whites, so just to be different, here are some whites I think you will love.
This is such a light, crisp wine - perfect for summer sipping. It tends to have a lot of citrusy flavours like lime, lemon, grapefruit, and can be lightly floral.
Another light, fresh and citrusy white, enjoyable as a still wine, but also goes into a delicious, spritzy wine called Vinho Verde! While the dominant flavours in this wine are fruit, there is also often some light minerality to the wine - try and see if you can detect some saline or crushed gravel notes.
If you're feeling daring, this is a fuller-bodied white, with high fruit. Very peachy, and tropical, sometimes floral... it can be made in a few different styles: some are zesty and floral, others more rich, or sweet. It can come from different areas of the world, so trying one from each country could be a fun experiment, and could help you better understand the effect of climate and winemaking styles on wine.
Said to be the drink of Cleopatra, this ancient grape grows in many different regions and can be made in a range of styles. It tends to be very fruity and low in alcohol, and is highly perfume-y. Common styles include sweet/dessert wine, sweet and spritzy, and my favourite is dry. For a dry Muscat, look to regions in Germany and Alsace, France.
Another wine that can vary in levels of sweetness, with a wide range of flavours and grown in many different regions and climates. It's a great wine to get to know and test the varying styles. Pro tip: German labels may contain confusing, long words which describe the level of sweetness/ripenss. Generally speaking, if it has a lower alcohol level - like 9% - it's probably a sweeter style.
Rosé is a perfect starter wine. Can be fruit-forward and light, or made in more rich and complex styles. It's made literally all over the world, so get sampling! Yay, Rosé!!
I've chosen some light to medium-bodied reds that I feel are most approachable, but can also be gateways into the world of bolder reds.
Gamay is the grape variety used to make Beaujolais. It can have lots of berry notes, some banana and even bubblegum. However, there are differing levels of quality that are used to classify Beaujolais. If you're new to this variety, then I recommend starting with its basic quality level (Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau), which are a little more youthful and fruit-forward, and are also the cheapest. From there, you can experiment with higher quality levels, which are bolder in style and more complex. Don't feel restricted to French Gamay, though. There are many other regions that are doing great things with the grape - including Canada!
This beautiful, elegant wine is one of my absolute favourites. It has a gorgeous range of aromas that can be expressed in many different ways. Typically has notes of red fruit (cranberry, cherry, raspberry, to name a few), but may also have notes of baking spice, vanilla, earth, wet stone, and truffle. Personal favourites have come from Burgundy (never fails), Oregon and Santa Barbara... it grows in so many different regions.
This is another red with a high fruit profile, however, its body can range quite a bit... I've had some that are definitely on the lighter side and some that are more on the full end of the spectrum. To begin, try a Spanish Garnacha. It tends to have a lot of berry flavours, some orange-y/grapefruit notes, and some spice - yum!
Can range in styles from off-dry to sweet, can be higher in alcohol. I really enjoy late-harvest wines; they can have very concentrated fruit flavours and be sweet, but also have some acidity to balance it out. A wonderful sweet wine is Sauternes. It has less alcohol than many dessert wines and higher acidity, giving it a lighter body. It is fruit forward with some notes of candied lemon, peach, honey, and hails from Bordeaux, France. You can expect to spend at least $30 for a quality bottle.
There is a vast selection of wines to explore and if you aren't yet fully-immersed into the world of wine, it can be intimidating to figure out where to begin. These wines that I have suggested are some that I've found most approachable, in that they probably won't be a complete shock to your palate. I find these wines very easy to get into and there are some great, affordable options -- so you don't have to worry about wasting money on something you may not like. Hopefully, these starters will only deepen your desire to branch out and explore more options!