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    Wine Basics - A Beginner's Guide to Wine
Understanding the basics of wine types, selections, storage and tasting will add new dimensions to your wine experience.
A perfect introduction in choosing the right wine to suit both your budget and your tastes.

The three "P"s of selecting wines are Price, Preference and Pairing. Keep these in mind when visiting your local wine merchant and you will likely come away with a winning wine.

The 3 P's of Selecting Wines
Price
The price you are willing to pay (or not pay) for a bottle of wine is a key determining factor in selecting a wine that is right for you. Gone are the days when you could only buy a "good" bottle of wine for over $30. In today's market there are plenty of great wines available for around $15, some for considerably less. So rest assured that you won't have to drop a bundle of money to experiment with various wines. A decent wine merchant will be able to give you plenty of suggestions in your stated price range.

Preference
Ahh, preferences. We all have them and they often change in a moments notice, but with wine preferences let them be swayed by what you will be drinking them with or who you will be sharing them with. For example, if you are hosting a happy hour get together, your preferences might lean towards "safe" reds and whites. For people that may not be accustomed to heavier-bodied, heartier wines, give them a break - buy a softer Merlot or Pinot Noir (sometimes referred to as "Starter Reds"). For a white, who doesn't enjoy a refreshing Gewurztraminer? If you are seeking to experiment with a new varietal, then talking to your local wine merchant about wines, styles and labels, that you have enjoyed in the past and asking for specific recommendations should provide sufficient direction for another great find. If you are new to wines and are looking for a few suggestions - try a Riesling , Gewurztraminer, or a Muscat dessert wine if sweeter wines suit your fancy. If you prefer a dry white wine then look for a Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. As for reds, starting with a Gamay, Pinot Noir, or Merlot if you do not want anything too complex or full-bodied. If you are looking to turn up the complexity meter, then go with a great California Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (or Shiraz if its from Australia) or a Zinfandel.

Pairing
If you are looking for a wine specifically to pair with dinner tonight, then take into account what the key ingredients will be. Will it be white or red meat? Will you be using fresh or dried herbs and what types? Will the dish be spicy or fruit-filled? These questions can play a key role in deciding which wines will pair well with specific entrees. In general, white wines accent lighter flavored meals really well; while, red wines often compliment heartier meals a bit better. Keep in mind that pairing foods and wines is 99% personal preference and 1% science.

How To Read a Wine Label
How to Read a New World Wine Label
New World wine labels are pretty user friendly, offering consumers a few key pieces of wine buying information. The varietal is listed on the label, making for less guesswork than many Old World labels. The producer, varietal, vintage year, region where grapes are grown, and alcohol content typically appear on the front label. The back label sports the government warning, "According to the Surgeon General..." and the sulfite statement along with some witty wine wisdom and pairing preferences for the particular wine.

How to Read an Alsatian Wine Label
Alsatian wine labels tend to be easier on the New World consumer, as they are the one French wine region that habitually states the wineís grape varietal directly on the front label. These labels are a good place to start easing into Old World label decoding, because they provide a "hybrid" of Old World and New World labeling strategies. The detective work is significantly reduced as consumers conquer the label offerings in record time, but easy label deciphering aside, the majority of Alsatian Rieslings need little help in convincing consumers to give them a go. Alsace has an international reputation for producing tip top Rieslings at consumer-friendly price points - this particular Lucien Albrecht Riesling is no exception.

How to Read a French Wine Label: Burgundy
This label is from Burgundy (right corner ìVin de Bourgogne,î meaning ìWine of Burgundyî). In Burgundy there are two wines to know: Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and White Burgundy (Chardonnay). This label represents a white wine from Burgundy, which we figure out from bottle and label clues. The bottle will have the sloped shoulder style that is typically found in white wines. Next, the appellation in Burgundy is Macon-Villages (known for white Burgundy wines, aka Chardonnay). The estate where the grapes are from is "Domaine Champ de Brulee." The wine's producer is Vincent and the bottling information is at the label's bottom. So, we know this wine is a Chardonnay from Burgundy produced by JJ Vincent in 2003 with an alcohol content of 12.5%.
How to Read a German Wine Label
The vast majority of German wines are Rieslings, and for good reason. Germany has been setting the traditional standard for the Riesling grape for centuries. The German wine label includes the basic information found on most other labels: producer, region, vintage, vineyard, varietal, and the like, but they throw a curve when the ripeness levels, sugar levels and quality classifications also grace the label. The quality classification starts off with the basic table wine, "Tafelwein" and proceeds to a level 5 designation of "Qualit‰tsweine mit Pr‰dikat" (QmP) - translated to "Quality wine with attributes."
How to Read an Italian Wine Label
For those that don't speak Italian, wine labels from Italy can be daunting, until you know a few essential label clues. The primary pieces of information that Italian wines want to communicate to you, their celebrated consumer, are the wine's: Name, Growing Region (There are 37 designated wine growing regions in Italy), Grape Type (Italy has over 2,000!), Estate and Producer Names, Alcohol Content, Vintage Year and Classification (Vdt, IGT, DOC, DOCG - government appellation designations related to volume, location and quality). If you can grab these key pieces of information off of an Italian wine label then you are good to go. The three "P"s of selecting wines are Price, Preference and Pairing. Keep these in mind when visiting your local wine merchant and you will likely come away with a winning wine.

 
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