Tuesday Tools and Tricks #13: Wine 101!

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Hello and happy Tuesday, readers!

As you have likely gathered at this point, when it comes to alcohol we here at The Woman At The Bar prefer liquor of the hard variety. But on occasion, we do appreciate a nice glass of wine, and so today we thought we would break down some of the basics about wine varietals for you!

Mind you, wine is an area that gets extremely complicated very quickly, and we are not Master Sommeliers about to give you specifics on the precise plot of land where various grapes come from, but really, you don’t need to know that.

As a casual wine drinker there are a some basic elements to each of the most popular varieties of wine that can be useful to know, so that will be our focus here.

To be clear: the below list is not complete. There are many, MANY different types of wine, but our focus is only on the most widely recognizable and popular.

Ready? Lets do this!



A soft and light red, Merlot has bright fruit flavors like plum and blackberries. They are generally easier and faster to produce than some other red varieties, which generally need to age for a few more years in order to be appropriately drinkable. Merlot is produced around Europe as well as California, Washington state, and Chile.

Cabernet Sauvignon:

Heavier and stronger than Merlot, Cabernet has blackberry and plum flavors along with cassis, black currant, vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. Like Merlot, it is most often served with meat dishes like beef or lamb. Originally produced in the Bordeaux region of France, it is now more widely made around Europe, Napa Valley in California, Washington State, Chile, and Australia.

Pinot Noir:

A delicate red, Pinot Noir is generally categorized as having red fruit flavors like raspberries, cherries, and strawberries–and with age it is known to take on very earthy notes. Pinot Noir grapes are notoriously difficult to grow, and originally the wine was produced in Burgundy, France. You can now find Pinot Noirs from areas of Oregon, California, and New Zealand as well. Pinot is very versatile, and can be paired with chicken, fish, or heavier meats.


Our personal favorite, Malbec is a very robust, inky red mostly produced in Argentina. It has a very smokey, full quality and is most often served with heavier foods.

Shiraz & Syrah:

This is where things get a tad confusing. Shiraz and Syrah are both produced from the same type of grape, but depending on the region where they are grown they produce relatively different types of wine. Shiraz is found in Australia and South Africa and is characterized by dark fruit flavors and a bold, spicy aroma. Syrah comes from the Rhone area of France and tends to be a slightly dryer red, but also characterized by dark fruits and spice. You can also find Syrah from Washington state or California. Both Shiraz and Syrah are very versatile and can be paired with many different foods.




Chardonnay grapes are very versatile, and their flavor can vary widely depending on the region in which they are grown. In cooler areas Chardonnay can take on apple or lime flavors, and in warmer climates more tropical fruit notes can be more pronounced. The flavor is also greatly influenced by the types of barrels used in the aging process–if they are oak, chardonnay takes on a buttery quality, but if it is barreled in stainless steel the wine can have a more fresh, mineral flavor. Chardonnay is produced primarily in Burgundy, as well as coastal areas of California. It is most often paired with seafood.

Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio:

Like Chardonnay, Pinot can differ greatly depending on the region. Those made in the Alsace region of France as well as New Zealand and Oregon (Pinot Gris) are rich and spicy. Those made in Italy (Pinot Grigio), or using the Italian style, are crisp, fresh, and light. Given the variety, different styles go best with different foods–but they are most often paired with pasta, seafood, or poultry.

Sauvignon Blanc:

A very fresh, bright, crisp, and aromatic wine characterized by grapefruit and grassy flavors. Sauvignon Blanc was originally made in the Loire region of France, but can also be found in Bordeaux, and New Zealand. This is a very food-friendly wine that pairs well with seafood, vegetables, and poultry.


A crisp, clean wine with flavors of green apple, lime, and pear. It often has a mineral quality, but with age can take on warm flavors like honey. Riesling is made predominantly in Germany, the Alsace region of France, Australia, New York, and Washington state. It pairs well with spicy foods, poultry, and pork.


As we said up top, wine can be complicated, and this is one of those complicated times. Rosé can be very diverse, and we are not going to get into the many different types, but instead will try to clear up some common misconceptions about this category.

Most importantly, Rosé is made using red wine grapes, and you can make it almost anywhere in the world, from almost any grape. The color comes from the grape skins, and depending on the type of grape (Merlot, Pinot Noir, Malbec etc) as well as how long they are left in with the wine as it ferments, the darker the color and the deeper the flavor.

It is most commonly made in France, Spain, and the U.S., and if you are looking to buy a bottle and are not sure what to get, try to find one that came from Provence. Rosé, as it’s name likely alerted you, was originally made in France, specifically Provence, and it is still where some of the best varieties can be found. French Rosés tend to be dryer than those from the U.S., but this is not a hard and fast rule.

Finally, unlike most other wines that tend to get better with age, Rosé does not improve over the years, and you are not likely to find a bottle dated more than a couple of years ago.


So there you have it! Your quick and dirty guide to the most popular wines. Drink a glass of the delicious adult grape juice today, and tomorrow we will get back to the real hard liquor deal, okay?

Cheers, everyone!


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