Wine 101

The story of every wine begins with a grape – and grows from there.

Red Wines White Wines

Red Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon

Consistently excellent red: Cabernet Sauvignon wines are the classic complex red, with fruit, floral, spicy and sweet aromas layered on a bed of nicely balanced acidity and tannin. Their robust yet subtle flavors play well with rich meals, such as red meat or creamy pastas. Many get richer, subtler, and more elegant with time, sometimes for decades.

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Merlot

The world's favorite red: Merlot wine can cover a range of types and flavors, from a soft, fruity, smooth wine with few tannins, to a wine with a tidy balance of fruit and tannins, to a frankly Cabernet-style bruiser with a big tannic backbone. Mostly, its cup runneth over with dark fruit flavors like cherry, blackberry, mulberry and plum, alongside earthier flavors like leather, tobacco and olives. When aged in oak, you'll often find caramel, vanilla, and oak aromas as well.

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Pinot Noir

The diva vine of divine wine: Like the temperamental diva with the voice of an angel, Pinot Noir is always in demand, because a good vintage is so heavenly: velvety and soft, balanced and complex: subtle, brilliant, and yet not demanding. With less of the big tannic backbone of other reds and a more diplomatic approach to the palate, Pinot Noir pairs well with almost any food, from rich red meats and cheeses to duck, salmon, and even ribs. So it's a perfect bottle to share when everyone's having something different.

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Zinfandel

The red that's often white: Red, white, bold, sweet, spicy—Zinfandel wines cover a lot of territory. They're famous, in fact, for being responsive to both terroir and the techniques of winemaking, so that every Zinfandel is an expression of a very specific set of circumstances.

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Shiraz/Syrah

The deepest reds: Syrah is a big, bold, bruiser of a red. The wines are a nearly black purple, richly tannic, full-bodied, and packed with healthy antioxidants. Their dark fruit flavors range from sweet blueberry, blackberry, and plum to savory black olive surging to the front of the palate, then tapering to a spicy, peppery note in the aftertaste.

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Rhone

It is thought that vines were first planted in France’s prestigious Rhône Valley in 600 BC, making grape production and winemaking in this region thousands of years old. The Rhône River flows through the entire region where Syrah and Viognier were the premiere grapes, though Marsanne and Rousanne have emerged as two widely planted varieties here.


Red Blend / Other Reds

A wide world of wines: Red Blends cover a world of wine, from the toitiest Bordeaux (blended generally of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and a handful of other heritage grapes) to the plonkiest two-buck bottle on the bottom shelf. All it means is that the wine is made from two or more varieties of grape, blended together in cask or bottle.

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White Wines

Chardonnay

Wide-ranging wines from the world's top white grape: It's hard not to love a Chardonnay—at least one Chardonnay—because the grape offers such a wide and delicious variety of options. You love a buttery, vanilla-tinged mouthful? You'll love oak-aged Chardonnays. Prefer frisky, light and fresh? Go for the unoaked varieties. Like it bubbly? Chardonnay is the foundation of Blanc de Blancs Champagne as well.

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Sauvignon Blanc

The greener white: And now for the Great White Grape - Sauvignon Blanc- literally the "Wild White." Like its red cousin Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc is a solid, excellent performer across continents and styles, a grape that rarely goes wrong.

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Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris

French, Italian and delicious all over: Pinot Grigio or Gris (both mean "gray," to distinguish the grape from it's darker, noir cousin) is most often a zesty, refreshing, citrusy white, with green notes of apple and lime dominant, and a pale lemon color. You'll also find floral, mineral, and sometimes even saline notes in the wine. Most pinot gris/grigios are quite dry, with a high level of acid. (Although there are exceptions. More on that in a minute.)

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Riesling

Robust, complex and misunderstood: The Riesling grape was born in Germany, and, like the Christmas tree and Easter Bunny—both German originals—it's an unexpected surprise. Riesling is one of the 18 Noble Grapes, siring a variety of extraordinary white wines, mostly sweet German wines. (Riesling grapes are also grown in Austria, France and Washington state, but for the most part, when you think Riesling, you can think Germany.)

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Gewurztraminer

A rare and lovely white: Gewurztraminer (you can try to pronounce it, but after a few glasses it might not matter) is an aromatic white wine varietal grape. It comes mainly from the Alsace region of France, is considered one of the 18 Classic Noble Grapes, and produces delicious, affordable wines.

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Other Whites (Standard)

Teamwork that builds great wines: White wines are often more interesting, complex and challenging when blended than single grape (or "varietal") wines. Like teams, where each player contributes specific strengths, blended wines offer the opportunity to build, rather than grow, greatness. White blends and "other whites" can present fabulous synergy in a bottle, often at a great value.

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