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How, What, Wine?

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Now that the holiday season is upon us, there will be numerous occasions for which you will need to bring a gift.  For dinner parties and the proverbial foodies in our lives, the gift of a bottle of wine is the most obvious choice.  My problem is that I don’t drink.  I know nothing about wine.  I stand confused and intimidated in front of the bottles in the supermarket or the fromagerie scratching my head at what to choose.  Pinot, Cabernet, Riesling, Merlot – what do those words on the bottle mean?  What is the difference between the many black bottles?  For the answers, I sought out my friend Linda Wiseman.  Her family owns the award winning Linville Falls Winery and she is the go-to girl for all things wine.

The Linville Falls Winery is a family owned 40 acre farm.  They grow several different varieties of grapes as well as blueberries, raspberries, and apples that can be found in their wines and ciders.  It is the perfect destination for a rustic mountain wedding and a great place to relax and enjoy a great bottle of wine.

Linda Wiseman

I had so many questions that I wasn’t sure where to start.  First I asked about the difference in the names of the wine – what is in the name?  Linda explained that the different names of the bottles come from the different varieties (or species for those of us less wine savvy) of grapes that the wine is made from.  Ah, I thought, now that makes more sense.  So, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, etc. are different varieties of grapes.  Each variety has a distinctive taste and certain varieties grow better in particular climates or regions.  Soils can make a difference but the Terra is important.   There are thousands of grape varieties; too many to cover in this article.  So I narrowed down my questions.   I asked about the taste differences in three commonly recognized white grapes and three red grapes that most people will find somewhat familiar. 


Linda explained first about white grapes.  Chardonnay is probably the most recognized white wine.  It often has a dry oak flavor because of the way it is aged.  Chardonnay is often used in Champagne as a sparkling wine.  Sauvignon Blanc is citrusy, fruity light body wine.  Riesling grapes are aromatic and fruity in taste.  Typically a bottle of Riesling is sweeter than other white varieties.  White wines pair well with light dishes like seafood, pasta, and salads.  

Moving on to the red varieties…Merlot is a popular, light to medium body wine that can be sweet or acidic depending on its blend.  Cabernet Sauvignon is a thicker skinned grape with a bold flavor that can be medium to heavy.  Syrah is a dark skinned grape with a medium to full body flavor with a heavy fruit influence.  Red Wines pair well with heavier dishes like red meats, spicy foods, and earthy flavored cheese dishes.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Adding one more wine that is a popular combination of both white and red grapes is the Rose.  Rose‘ is a white wine that uses some of the color from the red skins to form a light red wine.  It is a fruity and light wine.  Also, some of the names on the bottles at Linville Falls Winery are fun names created for the “blend” of the varieties. For example, a blend of three varieties at Linville Falls is labeled Trillium. 

Award Winning Rose
Next I asked about taste and taste preferences.  Linda told me taste is entirely subjective.  Just because a bottle of wine is expensive, doesn’t mean it will appeal to the consumer.   It’s all in the palate.  And an experienced palate, unlike mine, knows a good wine when he or she brings it to their nose. The “nose” on a wine gives you the best insight to how it will taste.  Wine is can be more expensive if the crop of grapes in that particular vintage (year) is smaller than in another year.  Remember there are good wines in all different price points – don’t think splashing out extra cash on a bottle of wine necessarily means you will purchase the best – the taste is entire subjective to the connoisseur.  

Award Winning Wines

So this brings me back to my original quandary – which bottle should I select at the market?  It depends on the guest list at your event.  Novice wine drinkers often should start with a sweet, fruity bottle to acclimate their palate to wine.  Rose, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Riesling are light fruity choices that most new wine drinkers enjoy.  Stereotypically women like lighter more fruity wines and men like darker, fuller bodied wines.  This is only a generalization that may or may not apply to you.  Don’t hesitate to ask a sommelier or a wine professional in your local shop about which bottle may best suit you.  There is so much to learn to really grasp a working knowledge of wine and I barely scratched the surface.  I hope I did provide a basic lesson in wine for those of you, like me, that are wine newbies.  

Linville Falls signature Blueberry Wine

For more information and a terrific place to spend the day, check out the Linville Falls Winery.  Say hi to Linda while you’re there!


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Julie, The Effortless Girl, is from a small (teeny tiny) community in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. The Effortless Girl was born out of a desire to challenge herself to find accessible, unique lifestyle ideas with cost savings in mind. LEARN MORE >

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