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1. Merlot

Merlot is the second most widely-produced variety of wine in the world (just behind Cabernet Sauvignon). It is considered a “medium body” wine, containing hints of berry, plum, and currant. The wine is very versatile and can be accompanied with a wide variety of foods, making this a great choice for dinner if you don’t know what else to buy. It pairs well with a range of red meat and poultry to salads and appetizers.

In my experience, less-expensive Merlot’s generally taste pretty good as well. This is a major benefit if you don’t want to spend $30+ on a wine for dinner. On the other hand, this can be a major problem for other varieties of wine, especially Cabernet Sauvignon.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon

You guessed it, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular type of wine in the world. Most people just refer to it as “Cabernet” or “Cab,” but it’s all the same wine. Cabernet is dubbed as a very “drinkable” wine, and can also pair with a large variety of food. It also has a name that is well-known among wine enthusiasts and just regular people, so a good bottle of Cabernet can go a long way to impress as well.

One of the most distinct characteristics of Cabernet is the high level of “tannins” present. Think of when you bite into a grape seed and you get that “woody” taste in your mouth. Those are the tannins, and they come from the grape’s outer skin and from the oak barrel that the wine is aged in.

Cabernets are a lot like salt – they tend to bring out the flavors in food and balance the taste. Therefore, some of the best foods to pair Cabernets with are red meats, hearty pastas, and strong cheese. This wine is also great to pair with dark chocolate, making it a great wine for a date.

3. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir in my opinion is one of the best wines ever. It is a very “complex” wine, and also sounds really neat if you want to impress. Pinot Noir is also a very difficult grape to grow, and is found predominantly in the Burgundy region of France – just as a random piece of interesting knowledge.

For us men, this is a great red wine because it is best paired with a good steak, or with chicken or fish. Therefore, have some friends over, light up the grill and break out a bottle of pinot noir.

4. Zinfandel

Zinfandel is almost always grown in California, and contains spicy, jam-like flavors. In my experience, Zinfandels have varied from tasting like full-bodied Merlot’s to tasting like a Cabernet with an entire shaker of pepper dropped in. It really depends on which Zinfandel you try, and therefore I’d only recommend buying this wine for guests if you already know what it tastes like.

Zinfandel is also a versatile wine, and can be paired with a wide variety of foods. It does best however with spicy, ethnic foods such as cajun chicken or Asian cuisine.

5. Syrah/Shiraz

Confusing as it may be, Syrah and Shiraz are the same thing. The wine produced from these grapes is medium to full-bodied, and is low in acidity. This generally makes it a very “drinkable” wine, and can pair well with a variety of foods.

In my experience, Syrahs are normally pretty cheap at the store, and turn out to be good bottles of wine. I’d highly suggest them. Generally, this wine goes well with the meatier tastes such as grilled beef and wild game tastes. Next time you plan that hunting trip make sure to buy some Syrah beforehand.

On to the whites!Continue


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