Beginner Wine Selections

Beginner Wines or Wines for Non-Wine Drinkers

I don’t like calling anyone a “beginner” when it comes to something like food and drink, but there are plenty of people who don’t drink wine or may not enjoy it too much and want to expand their horizons.

What I find is people who first start drinking wine tend to veer toward the sweeter style whites, lighter style reds or the more full-bodied fruit-forward reds a.k.a. “Fruit Bombs.”

Calling them “wine for beginners” in no way implies these aren’t wines for experienced wine drinkers to enjoy; they’re just more palate-friendly for easy drinking.  I enjoy many of the wines for beginners I’m recommending.

Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato are great beginner wines.

Many of these recommendations are inexpensive wines(I hate saying cheap wine).  If you’re trying to start drinking wine, I hardly expect you empty your wallets.

RED WINES

Zinfandel
This is not to be confused with “White Zinfandel.” Red Zinfandel is full-bodied, high alcohol red wine with flavors of stewed cherries and blueberries, cola or root beer, cocoa and lots of spice. The fruit is sometimes compared to pie filling.  Zinfandel pairs VERY well with BBQ!

Sommelier Wine Recommendations

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2011
“An excellent wine from a challenging vintage, with aromas of black cherry and spice opening to rich wild berry, mineral and toasty sage flavors that wrap around a concentrated core of acidity and tannins.” – Robert Parker

Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel
This is a solid go-to affordable Zinfandel. Cherries, Plums, Cloves and Oak. Smooth, full-bodied and just an all-around easy drink.

Arimda “Poizin” Zinfandel 2009
This is an all-time favorite for me. It’s just a good wine. Plums, Cherries, Blueberries, Mint and Spice. This is a lush, opulent yet well-balanced wine.

Pinot Noir
There are many styles of Pinot Noir that range from the light and fruity California Pinot Noir and New Zealand Pinot Noir to the highly complex Red Burgundy. For the new drinkers, I recommend Pinot Noir from California and New Zealand.

Sommelier Wine Recommendations

Brancott Pinot Noir – New Zealand
Fairly consistent wine here in each vintage. Light to Medium bodied, fruit-driven with flavors of Strawberries, Raspberries and Vanilla.

Little Black Dress Pinot Noir –California
Light-bodied easy drinking wine. Pomegranate Tea and Juice ripe strawberries.

McManis Pinot Noir – California
Light to Medium bodied. Cherries, Strawberries and a touch of Vanilla and Cola. Very easy drinking wine.

Shiraz
Shiraz is the same grape as Syrah, but made in Australia. There is a wide range of styles, but what we find most in the U.S. are the opulent ripe juicy styles that are great easy drinking wines.

Sommelier Wine Recommendations

Molly Dooker “The Boxer”
Molly Dooker is a consistent producer. The Boxer is one of my staple wines; it’s always a crowd-pleaser when I have people over. Full-bodied ripe and juicy dark berries, chocolate, licorice, pepper and a hint of eucalyptus.

Penfolds Koonunga Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Simple and straight-forward wine. Blackberries, Blueberries and Licorice. Medium-Bodied and fruit-forward.

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz
This is also a very consistent wine. Cassis, Blackberry, Dark Fruits, Pepper, Licorice, Vanilla, Clove and Cedar. Ripe, Lush and full-bodied. Great easy drink!

WHITE WINE

Riesling
Riesling can range from dry to very sweet. For people starting to drink wine, I like to aim for the off-dry to medium-dry styles. Riesling is also a great food-pairing wine.

If you’re looking for the sweeter and more fruit forward styles, look for Riesling from Mosel, Germany. Riesling from Rheingau can be just as sweet, but these tend to have more elements of minerality and herbaceous qualities; they are lovely.

Sommelier Wine Recommendations

Dr. Heidemanns Riesling QbA
One of the more popular producers of Riesling and for good reason. Dr. Heidemanns is consistent and a plenty of affordable wines.  Off-Dry with flavors of Apples, Peaches, Lemon and subtle Minerality. Crisp and Refreshing.

Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling 2011
Another consistently solid and popular producers.
Off-Dry with flavors of Citrus, Peach, Minerality and even a touch of White Cherry.

Sauvignon Blanc
Again, this can range in style depending on the region, but for people starting out trying wine I recommend Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and California. Sauvignon Blanc is very crisp with lots of citrus, tropical fruit and green vegetal qualities.

Sommelier Wine Recommendations

Sterling Sauvignon Blanc – Napa Valley, California
Medium – Bodied. Grapefruits, Pineapple, Melon and great Minerality.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand
This is a staple Sauvignon Blanc and never disappoints. Ripe Grapefruit/Citrus, Pineapples, Jalapeno and fresh cut grass. Medium-Bodied and very crisp.

Conundrum White Blend – California
Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Muscat and Chardonnay.
A white wine for people who don’t like wine. Super easy-drinking white wine.
Ripe Peach, Pears, Grapefruit with a hint of cream.

Moscato D’asti
I’ll be honest: there’s not a lot of difference here when choosing a producer. Yes, there are higher quality wines that are a little more refined, but most are pretty similar here. The main difference is the sweetness, though most are medium-sweet and all are slightly carbonated. Peaches, Tangerines, Mandarin Orange and White Flowers are the common flavors/bouquets.

This is one wine in which you can really shop by price. Generally the cheaper Moscato D’asti will have that more canned syrupy fruit and the higher priced have the more fresh fruit. Here are two of my favorites:

Risata Moscato D’asti – Piemonte, Italy
Frizzy with ripe stone fruit, tangerines and honey.

Saracco Moscato D’asti – Piemonte, Italy
Frizzy with ripe Pear, Apricot and Honeysuckle.

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