WHITE WINES

Chardonnay (Shar-doe-nay)

Taste: Often wider-bodied (and more velvety) than other types of dry whites, with rich citrus flavors. Fermenting in new oak barrels adds a buttery tone (vanilla, toast, coconut, toffee).

Food Pairings: Good choice for fish and chicken dishes.

Muscat (Moos-cat)

Taste: Often sweet and always fruity, with characteristic grapefruit and musk aroma.

Food Pairings: Shows best without food.

Pinot Grigio (Pee-no gree-zo)

Taste: Pinot gris can produce crisp, dry wines with good acid “bite”.

Food Pairings: Versatile.

Riesling (Rees-ling)

Taste: Riesling wines are much lighter than Chardonnay wines. The aromas generally include fresh apples. The riesling variety expresses itself very differently depending on the district and the winemaking. California varieties are usually sweeter and less dry.

Food Pairings: Dry versions go well with fish, chicken and pork dishes.

Sauvignon Blanc (So-veen-yawn Blah)

Taste: Normally shows a herbal character suggesting bell pepper or freshly mown grass. The dominating flavors range from sour green fruits of apples, pears and gooseberries through to tropical fruits of melon, mango and blackcurrant. Quality unoaked Sauvignon Blancs will display smokey qualities; they require bright aromas and a strong acid finish and are best grown in cool climates.

Food Pairings: Versatile food wine for seafood, poultry and salads.

RED WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon (Ca-burr-nay so-veen-yaw)

Taste: Full-bodied, but firm and gripping when young. Widely accepted as one of the world’s best varieties. Vanilla notes come from the oak treatment.

Food Pairings: Best with simply prepared red meat.

Merlot (Mare-lo)

Taste: Typical scents include blackcherry, plums and herbal flavors. The texture is round but a middle palate gap is common. Easy to drink. The softness of Merlot has made it an “introduction” wine for new red-wine drinkers.

Food Pairings: Any will do.

Pinot Noir (Pee-know na-wahr)

Taste: Very unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, in that the structure is delicate and fresh.The aromatics are very fruity (cherry, strawberry, plum), often with notes of tea-leaf, damp earth, or worn leather.

Food Pairings: Excellent with grilled salmon, chicken and lamb.

Syrah/Shiraz (Sah-ra or Shi-raz)

Taste: Aromas and flavours of wild black-fruit (such as blackcurrant), with overtones of black pepper spice and roasting meat. The abundance of fruit sensations is often complemented by warm alcohol and gripping tannins.

Food Pairings: Meat (steak, beef, wild game, stews, etc).

Zinfandel (Zin-fan-dell)

Taste: Often a zesty flavor with berry and pepper. The world’s most versatile wine grape, making everything from blush wine (White Zinfandel), to rich, heavy reds.

Food Pairings: Depends on the freshness/heaviness of the wine; everything from tomato-sauce pastas, pizza, to grilled/barbecued meat.