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Snooth User: nanashisan

Dislike for alcohol. What's the best wine to get started?

Posted by nanashisan, May 16, 2012.

I've always been interested in wine and wished to enjoy its taste but never found any that I liked. To me alcohol always leaves a bad taste and a burn which prevents me from enjoying them. Even dessert wines make me wince.

Is there a wine that may open my eyes to the world of wine for a beginner like me? Something to help me get used to the taste and begin liking it.


Reply by dmcker, May 16, 2012.

Do you like sweet wines other than that alcohol-induced 'wince', or are you lookng for somethng dry?

Reply by nanashisan, May 16, 2012.

Hmm... It's just I'm not used to the taste of alcohol in general. I don't like sweet wines so would prefer dry.

Reply by Becs2008, May 16, 2012.

How about something low alcohol? That might be a good place to start as the flavour it less intense than wines with high ABV.

Reply by EMark, May 16, 2012.

Following Becs' suggestion of a low-alcohol wine, and hearing your preference for dry I might suggest a Vinho Verde from Portugal.  This is a very light-bodied, dry white wine that matches well with lighter seafood dishes--or is just a great summer sipping wine.  The other really nice thing about Vinho Verde is that it is very reasonably priced.  In the U.S. it is easy to find samples for under $10.  I say easy, but I'd better be careful.  I live in a large metropolitan area, and, so, if I really want t something, even something rare, then I can get in my car and find it.  However, if you live someplace like Eads, CO, it may be a tad harder to find.

The other obvious thing for you to look at is a non-alcoholic wine.  I have never had one.  So, I do not have a recommendation.  Years ago, when they first started appearing, there was criticism about the quality of non-alcoholic wines.  I have no idea, whether that has changed. 

Reply by Terence Pang, May 16, 2012.

How about a Moscato d'Asti (~6% alc) or German Rieslings (~8-10.5% alc)? You shouldn't get the alcohol wince from these I reckon.

Reply by GregT, May 17, 2012.

Actually I don't like alcohol either. Can't stand anything like whiskey, vodka, rum, or any of the "spirits" and while I like the idea of Port, I rarely drink it. If you don't like alcohol, you may just decide you don't need wine in your life at all. That's a perfectly rational, normal decision.

I happen to like wine but I don't like to smell or taste alcohol.  I like fruit too, and some of the riper wines can cover up the alcohol pretty well.  I wouldn't buy something "non-alcoholic" because wine by definition has alcohol. Those manufactured drinks aren't worth drinking IMO. May as well drink Pepsi.

So you have a problem. You either go for the low-alcohol wines, which are low-alcohol because the grapes were picked at levels that some people would call green and unripe and there wasn't sufficient sugar in the grapes to make more alcohol, or you go for the high-alcohol wines, which typically will come from riper and sweeter fruit. The bigger flavor and higher sugar levels of the latter may, but don't always, hide the alcohol. The former can often seem overly sour and acidic. Tough spot!

If you like acidity, I'd explore some whites. Some of them really have 1/2 the alcohol of some reds. If you're not a fan of searing acidity, you might want to look at some un-oaked reds from grapes such as Garnacha and Carinena.  Sometimes those can be fruity as opposed to hot. I'm tasting a wine right now that's a Shiraz from Langhorne Creek in Australia.  It tastes like juice.  Not brilliant in any way, and certainly not something I'd guess was a Cabernet Sauvignon, but it's not an unpleasant wine and although I'm sure the alcohol level is pretty high, it's not burning.

Good luck!

Reply by JonDerry, May 17, 2012.

Maybe some old school bordeaux, or certain modern vintages like 2000, 01, 06, 08 would be nice. Of course 05 was great, though maybe a little higher alcohol than the others.

Reply by Casey84, May 18, 2012.

I 2nd the Moscato and Rieslings recomendation also i have had good experiences with Rose wines not being to promenent on the alcohol. in addition, although its not wine you might want to look into Belgium Lambic as you can hardly tast any alcohol and it comes of as more of a dry cider then a beer i'd recomend a Kriek(cheery) lambic or Framboise (raspberry) lambic

Reply by nanashisan, May 18, 2012.

Some amazing suggestions from everyone! I'm really thankful for these recommendations!

I shall start out with the low alcohol ones first since it seems to be a common agreement with most people.

I do live in New Zealand so if anyone has a New Zealand Wine to suggest I would be very happy to try! Also as a Uni student I love suggestions that are within the budget. I'll start looking for the recommonded wines soon, suggestions are always welcome!

Reply by GregT, May 18, 2012.

nanashisan - all of the wines mentioned will have alcohol. What I think people are pointing out is that sometimes the alcohol is masked, and for some of the wines mentioned, the percentage alcohol is lower than in others. But don't randomly pick up a bottle of some grape variety and imagine that it will be "low" alcohol. For example, a rosé is usually made by not letting the grape juice from red wine spend much time, if any time, with skin contact. The most common method is to crush the grapes and drain the juice out right away, and since the juice is almost always white, you get very little skin color.

But the alcohol level has to do with how much sugar is in the grape when it's picked and then with how much of that sugar gets fermented to alcohol. So you can very easily, and frequently do, have a rosé with as much alcohol as the red wine that might be made from the grapes. Sometimes rosé is made with some remaining sugar and not all of it is fermented; that's done to leave a sweeter wine, but generally those are the cheaper wines and better rosés are not made that way. Same with any other grape really.

Riesling from Germany can have some residual sugar left and therefore it may have a slight sweetness. Riesling from other places too obviously, but not always. For example, Australians typically ferment their Riesling completly "dry", which means no residual sugar, whereas that's not necessarily always the case in other countries. Fermented dry, you'll likely get around 12% alcohol; off-dry you may get around 10-11%. Typical whites these days are around 14%.  One suggestion is that you look at the stated alcohol level on the bottle. If it's German Riesling, the lower alcohol wines are more likely to be sweeter. So not knowing a wine, if I picked it up and it said 10.5%, I'd expect a touch of residiual sugar, whereas if it said 12.5 or 13%, I'd expect it to be drier.  That's NOT a hard and fast rule however!

A hugely popular white these days is Muscat or Moscato or Moscatel. That's a very old and very fragrant grape that smells of flowers and people think it should be sweet and low alcohol. That all depends on how it's made, once again. It's very often fermented completely dry and will have maybe 12-13% alcohol. From Italy, if it's Moscato d'Asti, it may be left with a little residual sugar and may even have some sparkles. Normally a cheap, forgettable wine, it's suddenly hugely popular. Similar, but rosé instead of white, is Brachetto d'Acqui - a slightly sparkling pink wine that smells and tastes of strawberries and comes in around 7% alcohol.

Some regions have rules regarding the minimum level of alcohol - they don't think the wine will be characteristic of the area if it's slightly sweet or not in complicity with the rule, so in Bordeaux for example, you generally have to have at least 10% alcohol for the reds and typically they would be 12-13% anyway but today many are 14.5 or so because they're picking the fruit riper when it has more sugar. It can be pretty austere wine however.

In New Zealand, you have lots of Sauvignon Blanc - it's often reminiscent of grass and grapefruit and even cat pee but some people love it. Usually not sweet at all and rarely over 14% alcohol; often lower. They also do Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris or Grigio, depending on whether they use the French or Italian spelling, and those are usually quite dry too, and roughly the same alcohol level. And of course Chardonnay, which is often in barrels to give it a smoother quality in the mouth - not so acidic. Doesn't affect the alcohol tho.

For reds, they have plenty although they're mostly known in the US for Pinot Noir. Still, they do better Syrah IMO and they also make Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and less well-known grapes. All of those are usually 13-15%, none that I've had tend to be sweet and jammy, and you don't really get an alcoholic burn, but you don't always get a lot of pleasure either! If you like those, fine, but if you don't try to pick up something from Australia's Barossa Valley - you might find it a lot more enjoyable as the stereotype of those wines for better or worse is "fruity".

Price range is all over the map - Moscato and Brachetto tend to be cheap - like $10 US, most of the other wines a few dollars more and some ranging quite high. Not that they're worth the extra money, but price is also a way to signify that they think the wine is "important".

Anyhow, again, you need not fall in love with wine ever.  But if you object to alcohol, know that sometimes it's less apparent than others, and now you have some guidelines to consider.

Good luck with your searches.

Reply by Nathan Ophardt, May 18, 2012.

I say take a class where you get to try various wines, or visit a winery where you can start to see differences in wines. A winery is a lost-cost option to experimenting. A class is more expensive but you have the one-on-one attention that sometimes a very busy winery can't give.

Also, I wonder whether it's the alcohol (some wines do have ethanol smells and tastes) that you don't like or whether it's tannins and the tastes that linger on the sides of your tongue? That's usually what made me *wince* when I first started trying wine.

Reply by lakenvelder, May 21, 2012.

Find a wine bar or even a group of people  in your area to try some wines. The meet up group I belong to has some wine tasting that are really unstructured and trying what others like. My suggestion is trying Riesling or Moscato.

Reply by mcguirechristy477, May 22, 2012.

It's a good idea to try a wine that represents a variety or style that you already know you like. Wine is a living and breathing thing and it is rarely the same from one day to the next. It evolves, it has been handled and stored in different environment, and all of these factors play a part in how the wine ages and develops.

Reply by superab, Jun 6, 2012.

I never had a palate for wine when I started drinkign it a few years ago. I started with dessert wines (sweeter style wines) as my palate didnt say "this is disgusting". Then once I got used to drinking wine my palate started changing more rapidly. So for me part of my journey was to get over the unknown subconscious mental block of "I dont like wine". Once I found one I liked and realised there is wine out there I like I found it easier to taste and appreciate other styles.

So there's another option for you - try wines that are sweeter. Late harvest rieslings are common in NZ and Australia as our other dessert style wines.

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