Must Have Wines

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by Wendy Kielar

Whether you make your own wine, collect wine or just are a weekend wine warrior, it is important to have at least four “must have” staple wines in your collection.

The first wine everyone should have on hand is a Riesling. This white wine is a must because of its popularity and familiarity. People are comfortable with wines they have heard of before and can easily pronounce (rees’-ling). Riesling grapes originated in Germany but are grown all over the world. Riesling wines don’t have a lot of strict “standards” placed on them. This allows the wine maker a bit more liberty when it comes to color and sweetness. Rieslings can range from a light pale straw to a golden color. They can be semi-sweet, off-dry or dry. For your collection be sure to find one that is a lighter body off-dry. This style will usually boast great flavor and please a wide range of people.

Now that we have a white in our collection, lets balance it with a nice red. Cabernet Sauvignon (aka “Cab”) is a required wine for anyone who wants to do some serious entertaining. A good Cab’s taste should be well-defined and recognizable. It is a nicely structured red medium-to-full bodied. The taste should remind you of berries, black currants with a nice lingering finish. Cabernet is the top growing grape in California. Therefore, whether you are purchasing a bottle, a case or the juice to make your own be sure to look at the available options from California.

If you can only afford a couple of choices, I would be very comfortable serving a Riesling and a Cab at a dinner party. If you want to build on your selection, a heavier more flavorful white would be in order. A Chardonnay is a very robust white and even in a pinch, red wine lovers will gravitate toward this well structured vino. It’s a white that won’t please everyone but that’s why you have the Riesling. Chardonnays are typically dry and have a very unique flavor profile ranging from buttery to oaky. They are one of the few whites that due well being aged in oak. Typically reds are aged in oak barrels. Chardonnay grapes grow nicely in California as well as France and Australia.

The fourth and final staple wine is a Pinot Noir. A Pinot is a red wine that is light in body but not light in taste. It is a very aromatic wine and will round out your collection nicely. Its intense aroma will remind you of red berries, black cherries and a slight hint of spice. Pinot grapes are not easily grown. They are very delicate and only survive in certain specific climates. Many parts of the West Coast including California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia grow very nice Pinot Grapes. New Zealand boasts one of the best Pinot grape growing region.

With these four great choices you will have a nice balanced collection of wine that will be sure to delight the palates of your friends and family regardless of their wine experience and knowledge. A few other common wines to consider adding would be Merlot, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio.

About the Author

Wendy Kielar is owner and founder of Let’s Do Wine!, LLC. Wendy is a former winery owner and now spends her time teaching people how to make their own wine. Wendy shares her vast knowledge of wine and winemaking in numerous online articles, videos and on website

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