By JoJo Pastors and Tom Lauria
When shopping for wine, we are inundated with choices, and each is an opportunity to go beyond our comfort zone … Here’s “Everyday Wine Strategies” by lifestylist JoJo Pastors to help us navigate! Listen to John Carter of Wine and Cheese Radio in Napa and Santa Clarita CA interview JoJo this Friday April 6 at 12 pm West Coast time … re-airs on XM Sirius Channel 105 Entertainment and Talk Radio
If you’re like us, when we enter a new wine shop, we quickly surveil the layout of the store and see a wide variety of signs for each wine-making region, country of origin, and grape varietal. The typical selection is overwhelming and our initial optimism may quickly launch us into “default mode.”
When this “default mode” kicks in, we just want to pay our way out of this “minefield” … or “wine field” … of a wine store, snag a familiar wine and head to the nearest register! Instead, we encourage you to use this as an opportunity to explore an entirely new label or grape varietal.
There are many grape varietals from which we can chose, each and every one of them can be quite good. So don’t feel that you have to get a Chardonnay if you want a white wine, or a Merlot if you want a red. Often selecting the right wine is more about how you intend to consume it.
If you’re off to a picnic or barbecue, an inexpensive rose will surely come in handy. If you’re looking for a nice white wine to go with fish, such as Salmon or Sea Bass, you may want to try a light red such as Pinot Noir, which is a very versatile grape. Pinot Noir doesn’t have much bitter tannins, which is so common in heavier reds such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. If you have a friend who only drinks white wine because of the bitter tannins in heavier reds, a nice Pinot Noir may just win them over. Another direction you may point them in could be a slightly more full-bodied Cabernet Franc, which is a Bordeaux-style blend of two grape varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
If you’re having a hearty steak dinner, a heavy red such as Cabernet Sauvignon will surely not be intimidated by the flavors in that incredible Filet Mignon or Cowboy Ribeye.
If you are going to your favorite BYOB restaurant with your favorite white wine, feel free to bring along a sparkler’ instead. Your fellow diners at the nearby tables will surely wonder what you’re celebrating when you pop that cork! If keeping a lower restaurant profile is more your style, a white wine from the Sancerre region of France may suit you for the occasion and are made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Besides having “trademark” vibrant acidity and “flinty notes,” the Sauvignon Blanc grape can be used pure and remain as a light white wine suitable for the most delicate of seafood. It’s perfectly suited to a dozen fresh oysters or lobster dinner! Speaking of which, we kind of wish we could join you over a few dozen oysters and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc right now!
To be sure, not all white wines from the Sancerres region are pure Sauvignon Blancs, but not all Sauvignon Blancs are from Sancerres. There are plenty of great Sauvignon Blancs produced right here in America. And we sometimes enjoy a good rose blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes when we’re in the mood for a bit more body.
Photo Credit: Salah Shbak
In addition to fine sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, there are many great sparkling wines from Spain (“Cava”), Italy (“Prosecco”), and United States.. And be sure that many sparkling white wines are indeed made from that same Chardonnay grape you know and love. There are even quite a few good sparkling red wines as well!
Be sure to have fun with your selection! Wine selection and conversation doesn’t have to become a serious and stuffy debate over wine regions, “smokey flavors,” and “hints of blackberry.” In the end, we purchase wine to enjoy it in moderation and to enhance our dining experience and the company we’re with.
And while there are many desert wines, those from the French region of Sauternes produces a sweet white wine that is sure to please. Grapes from the Sauternes region are harvested when over-ripe. The residual sugar makes for quite a smooth and enjoyable desert wine. You may also like to try a nice “fortified” red wine from Portugal — they’re fortified with brandy. They are perhaps the most common of desert wines available at your local restaurant.
Photo Credit : Salah Shbak
It is possible to get very enjoyable wines at reasonable prices, as production methods are highly scientific and producer quality control is generally quite high. However, each geographic region, climate, soil condition, and producer is different. Some producers have far higher quality vines and incredibly flavorful grapes.
As general advice, try to rule out the cheapest and most expensive wines early on, start exploring wines somewhat in a lower price range, and work your way up a bit in price and see which wines you truly enjoy. When you find them, those wines will be satisfying to both your wine palate and budget!
And please always remember to be responsible in your consumption.