Whether you are new to wine or just want to keep your wine buying simple, quick and easy, we can help by picking out wines that will suit your taste, lifestyle and budget. This is our guide to finding your style of wine. A wine’s flavour is determined by a combination of the grape variety it’s made from, where the vines are grown and what the winemaker does with the grapes once they are harvested. Because there are so many different grape varieties planted in a great many countries being made by winemakers with such different techniques the world of wine is extremely diverse and colourful.
So when you want to drink a glass of wine, how do you decide which one you want? By thinking about wines in terms of styles, answering this question becomes much simpler. Once you have discovered the styles that suit you, the task of finding a satisfying drink of wine becomes easier and much more interesting.
Wine styles are simply a way of describing the general character of a wine. To make a comparison with other drinks, you could categorise lemonade and sparkling water as 1 style, tropical fruit juices as a different style, and tea and coffee as yet another style. Within each group there are differences, but they share a common character. Lemonade and sparkling water are light and refreshing, tropical juices are sweeter and have a weightier, thicker texture, tea and coffee are dark, warming and savoury. Wines can be categorised in a similar way.
The most important determinant of how a wine will taste is the grape variety or varieties it is made from. In the same way that there are many different varieties of apples from Bramley and Granny Smiths at one end of the spectrum to Cox’s or McIntosh at the other, each has its own character, as do grape varieties. To explore the styles of wine these grape varieties belong to, read on…
White Wine Styles:
Light and Fresh Whites:
These may be closest to the lemonade and sparkling water category of soft drinks; they are light and refreshing and usually have citrus, green apple, cut grass or gooseberry flavours. They are uncomplicated with lovely fruit flavours and are very easy to like. Sauvignon Blanc is a classic example of this style of wine and for those who like something more delicate, a Pinot Grigio or Soave from Italy would be worth investigating. For more wines in this style, check out our Fresh Spring Whites case. These wines are great for drinking on their own – they make perfect party wines - or go brilliantly with light foods such as salads, soft cheese, white fish or shellfish. Some great examples of this style are shown below.
Domaine Saint-Denis Macon-Lugny 2010
Forrest Pinot Gris 2011
Nadal Xarello 2011
Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon 2012
Pra Soave Doc Classico 2010
Tour St Martin Menetou Salon 2010
As the name would suggest, the distinguishing character of these wines is their aroma. All wines have an aroma but these are particularly fragrant, and don’t simply smell of fruit like the light and fresh wines do. These pretty wines can have aromas of white flowers, roses, lychees, Turkish delight, peaches and all manner of exotic and interesting things. Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are all names to look out for – Gewurztraminer being the most extreme example of this style. The more pungently aromatic wines go brilliantly with fragrant Thai dishes incorporating coconut milk, ginger and coriander. The more delicate wines go with light fish dishes and salads. These wines would be an excellent place to start.
Castro Martin Albarino 2011
Loosen Estate Riesling 2011
Duca Calanica Grillo/Viognier 2011
Forrest Gewurztraminer 2009
Bott Geyl Pinot D'Alsace Metiss 2010
Hopler Gruner Veltliner 2011
These might fit in the tropical juice category in our analogy. Whereas a lemon drink is zingy and refreshing, a glass of pineapple juice is satisfying, rich and somehow decadent. The wines in this style often have ripe, tropical fruit flavours but also have a weightier texture – they feel fatter in the mouth. Wines in this style also sometimes have other interesting flavours as well as fruit, such as vanilla, toast or a creamy flavour. Chardonnay is a great example of the wines of this genre, but there are many more in our warming winter whites case. Because of their richer, more full-bodied nature these wines go brilliantly with foods such as pork, chicken and creamy foods and cheese. A great place to start would be our Warming Spring Whites case which includes the delicious wines shown below.
Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2011
Bott Geyl Pinot D'Alsace Metiss 2010
Chateau D'Agel Les Bonnes Blanc 2010
Kilikanoon Semillon 2011
Rives-Blanques L'Odyssee Chardonnay 2009
Sainte Rose Select Roussanne 2009
Red Wine Styles:
Soft and Fruity Reds:
These wines are along the lines of blackcurrant cordial in our analogy – they’re fruity and flavoursome but soft and juicy. These wines are easy going without any hard edges, they’re smooth and fruity and very easy drinking. In terms of flavour they may include strawberry, raspberry, plum and blackberry. This style is great for drinking without food, or with cold meats or mid week pasta. They’re also great with those delicious, slow cooked stews and casseroles where the meat is so tender you could pull it apart with a spoon. Grape varieties to watch out for include Merlot and Pinot Noir; also look out for red wines that are a little older as wines soften as they mature. The wines in our Soft and Fruity Spring Reds case are all worth investigating.
Artadi Artazuri Garnacha 2011
Chateau Vieux Parc L'Air De Rien 2009
Cline Cashmere 2010
Girardin Moulin A Vent Tour Du Bief 2009
Morisfarms Mandriolo 2011
Pigeoulet Red 2010
The term ‘full bodied’ refers to the concentration and strength of flavour of the wine, so this style is at the tea and coffee end of the spectrum. These are savoury wines with black-skinned fruit flavours usually intermingled with some spicy, mocha, chocolate or vanilla flavours. These wines are made from the denser black grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz that give generous flavours. These wines are likely to have more noticeable tannins which are substances that come from the skins and stalk of grapes and leave a drying sensation in the mouth (the same sensation you get if you drink very strong tea). These tannins actually break down the protein in food hence they make fabulous food partners and work extremely well with red meat, game and any number of full flavoured dishes. The wine in our Hearty Spring Reds case are typical of this style.
Bests Cabernet/Merlot 09
Biberius Ribera Del Duero Tempranillo 2011
Casablanca Nimbus Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2010
Domaine Modat Comme Avant 2010
Umani Ronchi San Lorenzo 2010
In terms of sparkling wine, the styles vary from light and fruity, to toasty and biscuity. For that delicious biscuity/brioche flavour, look no further than champagne. Roederer is a classic example of this style. Billecart Salmon is a lighter style and Forget Brimont is somewhere in the middle.
For something fresh and fruity with a fresh, crisp finish try one of the sparkling wines from elsewhere in France such as the Loire valley or the Limoux region. JN Sparkling and Rives Blanques Blanquette de Limoux are great examples of this style. Spanish Cavas are also dry and elegant; the Nadal sparkling wines are well worth investigating.
For a fruitier sparkling wine, Prosecco is currently very fashionable as it’s so soft and bubbly with a delicate white pear flavour. The quality is variable but the wines from the Valdobbiadene area are the best (e.g. Prosecco Rustico). For a more intensely fruity wine, try something from New Zealand or California such as Pelorus or Quartet.
A sparkling rosé wine is even more fruity again with a strawberry and raspberry flavour. Try JN Sparkling Rosé or Billecart Salmon Rosé Champagne in summer with fruit pudding for a decadent treat.
Before and After Dinner:
These are often the dusty bottles lurking at the back of the cupboard, undrunk and unloved because we have no idea what lies inside them. Sherry, Port, Marsala and sweet wines all have a place in our world and can greatly enhance an occasion when used carefully.
A dry sherry such as Manzanilla La Gitana makes a great aperitif as it’s bone dry with a slight salty tang that gets the tastebuds going. A sweet, nutty sherry such as Olorosso is better with pudding.
Vintage ports are the benchmark and will sit quietly in the cellar for decades and not go off. Enjoy on their own after a meal, or with hard cheese. Port and stilton is a classic combination. Tawny port has a signature dried fruit and caramel flavour making it better with puddings – chocolate in particular. If chocolate puddings are your thing, your may want to investigate some of the sweet red wines such as the Fagayra Rouge Maury, from Roc des Anges. You won’t believe how good it is until you try it.
For anyone with a sweet tooth, dessert wines can give enormous pleasure. For a honey flavoured wine, look for a Sauternes such as Ch Filhot or a wine from Barsac like Cypres de Climens and pair with blue cheese or a rich pate (Sauternes with foie gras is another classic combo). Sometimes a glass of dessert wine will make a fabulous substitute for pudding, a small glass goes a long way.
For a dessert wine with more of a fruity flavour (think dried apricots, figs and marmalade) look for a sweet Riesling (e.g. Von Bulh Auslese or Loosen Beerenauslese) or one of the delicious wines from the Jurançon such as Domaine Cauhapé Symphonie de Novembre.