Wine Talk

Snooth User: WineGeekJen

Wine for first timers

Posted by WineGeekJen, Feb 17, 2010.

If you are having someone over for dinner who is not an experienced wine drinker, what do you serve them? Do you get out your best wine, or do you serve them something that is sure to be pleasing?

What's the best wine to start a brand new palate on?


Reply by GregT, Feb 17, 2010.

I figure if my best wine isn't pleasing, it shouldn't be in my cellar!

People are all over the map with taste. It's really hard to tell. For example, if you pour a nice white that's got overtones of peaches and tangerines, some people will just love it and some will hate it. If the person likes fruity wines, garnacha, cru Beaujolais, and something ripe and round work for reds, and riesling works for whites. Barbera is always nice to have too, if it's a "modern" one.

But it's really hard to generalize. People surprise you sometimes. When I do tastings and I assume someone will like the obvious, fruity wine, often as not they dislike it and go for something else. So my suggestion is to have a few different wines around in different styles. Your friend will have a little discovery adventure and you'll still be having good wine.

Good luck.

Reply by TL NJ, Feb 17, 2010.

I would bet my life savings that if you told everyone here what "your best" wine is from your cellar - you would get dozens of people telling you that the year you mentioned was not as good as the vintage from the year before or after. Or they will tell you that from that region, the label you mentioned was good, but they prefer from the label on the other side of the hill, etc, etc, etc....

What NO ONE can argue is that those wines that you are referring to as "your best" are YOUR favorites, and they hold a special place for you.

What I am trying to say is that you will be severely disappointed if you pulled out your ace wine and your friend, who (bless their heart) wouldnt know the difference from a $250 Bordeaux from a $7 Carlos Rossi. Or worse - your friend could say, after you preperly decanted your ace, and poured it ever so gently into their glass ask you "do you have an ice cube that I can drop in here?" (I wouldnt have said that if it didnt already happen to me).

I guess what im trying to say is - start your friend out with basics, and slowly work their way up. My suggestion for any first timers are always the Berringers, Modavis, Chateau Ste. Michelle's, and Kendall Jacksons. As GregT suggested - these are all great wines (lucky for you) and I think perfect archetypes of the varietals (lucky for your friend).

I think if after a few experiments your friend will lean towards a favorite type, and once they do - then you can start moving up the scale, and get adventurous. He/she will soon be able to explain what they are looking for in a wine, and (even better for you) you can probably pick a good one out for them

In time - you will know if your friend will appreciate your "ace in the cellar", or, that your favorite wine might not be a varietal, or region that they like. In either case - you win - if they are willing to try your wine, the extra time in the cellar will do it some good, if they are not a fan of that type of wine - the bottle would not have ever been wasted at that first dinner.

I hope your friend soon develops a similar passion for wine that you have - its always fun to enjoy it with someone who does

Have fun

Reply by napagirl68, Feb 18, 2010.

I will have to agree with TL NJ. I would not pull out an expensive or special bottle for someone who is just beginning to develop a palate. I wholeheartedly agree that even the most "experienced" of wine drinkers can have entirely different palates and opinions. But I have to say that I have seen a trend wherein beginners start with sweeter, fruitier wines and then progress to drier, more complex wines. I know that is not written in stone, just a trend I have seen.

However, I would not want ANY beginner to be subjected to mass marketed "grocery store" wine, as I like to call it. Kinda like people who hate champagne cause they only tasted Cooks at a wedding or something. So I would pick a couple that aren't gonna break the bank, but ones that you have experience with, and find to be of quality, even though they may not be your particular style.

This is what I did: I have a few friends who like chardonnay. last summer, I had a get together wherein we had four types of Chards from here in California (I picked CA wines cause my friends and I tend to have CA palates, and also since there are literally THOUSANDS of CA wines available to locals.) I picked 4 from different regions: a Russian River chard- pear, apple, mineral (my fav); an oakey, slightly buttery but balanced Napa Chard (the one I thought would win my friends' judging); a HUGE malolactic butter bomb Chard from Livermore Valley, and a fruit forward, 100% SS ferm, coastal Santa Barbara chard. It was interesting to see the favorites. All my friends liked the butter bomb from livermore the best, but I liked the balanced minerality of the RRV chard. The napa came in second for all of us, but they placed the Santa Barbara third, and my fave was last for them.. Hmmm... But we enjoyed the tasting immensely, the food, and we learned something! All the wines were around $20.

For a dinner that is not a tasting party (or if you don't want to open several of the same varietal)-
if I have a friend over who I KNOW shares a similar taste to mine for a certain varietal, I would definitely pull out the special, expensive one... cause I know that friend will APPRECIATE it for what it is!!! If unsure, I will pull out something that pairs well with the courses, something mid-priced for me, yet something I am experienced with, that is of quality. This has actually worked very well in my experience..

Reply by amour, Feb 18, 2010.

Do not serve the finest wine or the best vintage.
It may not be appreciated and that is to my mind, a complete waste of everything.

Then again, it depends on how many are dining and how many can appreciate something fine.
It could be an opportunity for a novice, being in the company of cultured palates,
to experience the finest!
I would have no problem letting a complete novice taste a glass of my finest
and if they liked it, I would even present them with a bottle to take home!
Will return to this subject!

Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 18, 2010.

I pull out an easy drinking, light bodied pinot noir. I really only keep those in my cellar for guests to begin with.

Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 18, 2010.

I pull out a light bodied, easy drinking pinot noir. I only keep those in my cellar for guests, to begin with.

Reply by Michael759, Feb 18, 2010.

Tough call. But I would agree with most that pulling out the best wine is not the thing to do. It sounds like you are opening it with dinner so pairing it with the food is a first will definitely help the experience. From a red wine standpoint, I agree with GregT on the Barbera call. You can usually find really good juice for a reasonable price. A nice Shiraz or Zin would probably also be a good choice. I love Pinot Noir and Chianti but not sure that they would be tops on my list.

I've got a good friend who is not a big wine drinker and we were at a wine tasting place and told him to try Layer Cake Primitivo...juicy, flavorful..figured I couldn't go wrong. He loved it. But he has surprised me with some of his choices since then so it's always tough to guess!! Be curious to hear the outcome

Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 18, 2010.

Sorry for the double post. The first one didn't appear to show up.

I'm going to disagree with Michael. I don't think a big, powerful, high-alcohol, fruit bomb shiraz or zin would help a newb ease into wine. Plus, those wines are usually terrible with food, unless we're talking grilled red meat.

Reply by flavorofthevine, Feb 21, 2010.

Nothing expensive. For novices its best to start on the well knowns-chards, merlot, pinot noir, pinot grigio. As you move into the different grapes and blends, gets a bit confusing.
Its also a good idea to see how your friends like the wines you choose. I am sometimes amazed and appalled at peoples tastes- but cannot judge because everyone has their own taste.
I would spend $10 on entry level, mid range $15-25 and expensive would be $30-50.

Reply by amour, Feb 22, 2010.

I looked at prices yesterday and they were supposed to be good low prices.....
and...guess what !....even a novice or newbie should face reality......
YOU WILL NEED TO BE LOOKING TOWARDS $20. for something worth writing about.

I need to take back some of my very recent comments about finding wines for $5.- $10. dollars per bottle...because unless it is a lucky mark-down, in MIAMI, at any rate, you need $25.....SERIOUSLY...This year is different....I will continue to investigate....
perhaps I shop in too expensive areas...Well, I tell you..I am on a search!!

As I said before, I save for fine the cheaper I can find lovely wines for
general consumption...the better!

The $10. wines I saw yesterday ...WEll...I would not suggest them to newbies
as they are wishy-washy and would not be very encouraging....T


Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 22, 2010.

Miami is a major tourist area. Of course wine prices are significantly higher.

Reply by amour, Feb 22, 2010.

GirlDrinkDrunk....I am glad you jumped in because I was just about to say......
shopping on line is worth the effort and you are so very right!
But, what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts!

I suspect that the Chileans and the Argentines are very plentiful
and so affordable...... given our demographic blend here.
I am planning to explore more South American type restaurants this year!

I regularly go to a lovely one with the cuisine of PERU......amazing cuisine....with
everything from PERU and they have such diversity of seafood and fresh herbs.
I will give a review one day! The restaurant is on Collins Avenue and the staff
members are all so very caring !

Reply by napagirl68, Feb 24, 2010.

I agree with GDD.. a big red is not the way to go unless you have just slayed some huge animal to cook (that is, with first timers). Pinots are a good choice.. good call GDD. And for whites, I would do a sweeter Sauv Blanc or Viognier.

Reply by Champagne Ricky, Feb 24, 2010.

Make your friends feel comfortable and warm in your home. After all they are your guests! Serve them something easy to understand, uncomplicated, without the need for a foreign language translation dictionary, that doesn't need instructions. A little sleuthing to find out if they have a favorite varietal and/or if they prefer red to white or vice versa would be helpful. Stay simple with varietal names and vintners that may be commonly known. A light, off-dry, finesse and conversational wine should suffice. What is it they say, "KISS," Keep It Simple Stupid! (No insult intended.) Your guests should not have to jump through hoops, or feel inadeqate. Pull out your best quaffing wine that invites pleasant conversation and complements your dinner. Most of all enjoy one anothers company by putting everyone at ease.

Reply by schellbe, Feb 26, 2010.


Can you get a Muscadet or Vouvray or an acceptable NZ Sauvignon Blanc for less than $25 in Miami ? Certainly not wishy washy if you can.

I've never been to Miami, so I don't know about pricing there.

Reply by zufrieden, Feb 27, 2010.

Look, cut through all this crap and just do an informed tasting of wines in price groupings by style, region and/or varietal. Do this within the region you live in currently - according to the pricing you would expect there. Eventually, you will develop an appreciation of the relationship between price and quality. QED.

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