A few months ago, the Navigator and I were out and about doing what we normally do. The tasting room was a bit crowded and the lady in front of me asked the hostess if she could taste the “rose” wine. Yes, she said rose, as in rose bush. I winced, but rather than sounding like a wine snob, instead I commented on the color of the “roh-ZAY. I told her I was a big fan of “roh-ZAYS,” and at that point, I think she got it. It wasn’t her fault – with hundreds of different wines, knowing how to pronounce them is like learning a foreign language.
The five most popular wines in the U.S. today are: chardonnay (shar-duh-NAY), cabernet sauvignon (kab-er-NAY SAW-vin-yawn), pinot grigio (pee-noh GREE-jhee-oh), merlot (mer-LOW) and pinot noir (PEE-noe NWAR). Since our climate and growing conditions are much like those of the Mediterranean, California vintners are now growing and producing many Old World wines. Here are a few new wines you might want to add to your wine vocabulary.
White wines: Albariño (al-buh-REE-nyo), Spain’s most popular white; gruner veltliner (GROO-ner VELT-lee-ner) from Austria; viognier (vee-ohn-YAY), marsanne (MAR-san) and rousanne (ROO-san), three white grapes from the Rhone region of France; torrontes (tore-ohn-TACE), a floral white grape from Argentina; semillon (sem-e-YONE), a grape from the Bordeaux region in France. Many of these grapes are used a single varietal wines, while others are more often used as blending grapes,
Red wines: Grenache (gre-NOSH), syrah (sih-RAH) and mourvedre (moor-VED-ruh), all from the Rhone region; tempranillo (tem-pra-NEE-yo), Spain’s most popular red; cinsault (sin-SO), a blending grape, excellent for rosés; nebbiolo (neb-ee-OH-low), from the Piedmont region in Italy; carmenere (CAR-men-err), a merlot-like wine from Chile.
That is just the start – there are many, many more. I suggest you do a bit of homework (HOME-werk) and buy a few of these wines. Invite some friends over (have them bring snacks), open the wine, pour the wine, pronounce the wine and then taste the wine. Repeat, repeat and then repeat again. Soon, you’ll be spouting out wine words like mon-teh-pul-chee-AH-noh (montepulciano). Chin chin!
What’s on our table: Three red wines from the 2013 vintage made our table this week. They all took best-of-class awards in the recent S.F. Chronicle competition. We enjoyed Cline Cellars Contra Costa County Ancient Vines Zinfandel ($17), the Columbia Winery Columbia Valley Merlot ($14) and the Rosso & Bianco California Rosso ($11). Costco in Merced had the Cline Zinfandel for under $12, SaveMart had the Columbia Merlot for about $12 and the red blend Rosso for about $9. All three were excellent. We’re waiting for an encore. Cheers!
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