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What are the Grape Varieties in French Wines?


hgolightly
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hello all, please forgive my posting if it has been covered previously--it is my first post here after lurking for a bit.

i am buying the new Windows on the World Complete Wine Course for my husband for Xmas and would like to add a few bottles of red wine. we love wine but are only beginning to learn about great wine and i would love some recommendations. could anyone please suggests some relative inexpensive bottles--we are only learning at the moment--that would be nice beginners for us to use with the book??

Many thanks,

Holly

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[Kind of an aside, but they're still calling it the "Windows on the World" kit? Isn't that a bit, er, tacky of the manufacturer? (No criticism leveled at you, h).]

If you're only beginning to learn, maybe get three bottles of distinctly different red vinos and compare say, a Cabernet, a Zinfandel and a Pino Noir taste.

One baby step up from that: pick a varietel and buy versions of it from three different countries. For example: a Rhone (ask your wine dude for one that's syrah-based), a Cali Syrah and an Aussie Shiraz.

Edited by Waitman
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[Kind of an aside, but they're still calling it the "Windows on the World" kit?  Isn't that a bit, er, tacky of the manufacturer? (No criticism leveled at you, h).]

If you're only beginning to learn, maybe get three bottles of distinctly different red vinos and compare say, a Cabernet, a Zinfandel and a Pino Noir taste.

One baby step up from that: pick a varietel and buy versions of it from three different countries. For example: a Rhone (ask your wine dude for one that's syrah-based), a Cali Syrah and an Aussie Shiraz.

Another example would be Pinot Noir: One from FR, one from CA, one from OR, one from AU, and one from NZ.

Still another is Cabernet: A Bordeaux, a California and a (who else has good Cab)

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Another great book to check out would be Karen MacNiel's The Wine Bible. This book is entertainting and chuck full of great information for a novice to begin to learn more about wine. I used to be a bit "snobby" about drinking white wines. After exploring French burgundy I know now that my palette is drawn to both red and white. The book has several gastronomic references that I found very helpful as well. It provides a backgroud in paring wines with regional foods.

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Can you tell us what you normally drink for red wine? That might help with suggestions.

sorry, completely forgot. lately our taste have focused on Spanish red but we also love pinot noir. he used to like merlot but i can't stand it...i think he's lost taste as well. cabernet is good, a former fav of mine, but i think if we had a really nice bottle???

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Where do you live? There are a few really fine wine shops, like MacArthur Beverages in DC, Arrowine in Arlington, Rick's in Alexandria, The Vineyard in McLean where you will find really good, friendly and patient wine consultants who will help you choose good wines based on your preferences and your budget.

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sorry, completely forgot.  lately our taste have focused on Spanish red but we also love pinot noir.  he used to like merlot but i can't stand it...i think he's lost taste as well.  cabernet is good, a former fav of mine, but i think if we had a really nice bottle???

Don't limit yourself to a single varietal in the bottle. I'm no fan of 100% merlot, but that grape can make a blend delicious. Jake Parrott was importing, I believe, a cab/merlot blend from South Africa, Monterosso? Quite nice.

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Where do you live? There are a few really fine wine shops, like MacArthur Beverages in DC, Arrowine in Arlington, Rick's in Alexandria, The Vineyard in McLean where you will find really good, friendly and patient wine consultants who will help you choose good wines based on your preferences and your budget.

MacArthur's is our regular haunt, we go in weekly as we live very close. i have found the service to be rather impatient and pompous so i try to go in with ideas since i never get much help from the staff...

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Don't limit yourself to a single varietal in the bottle. I'm no fan of 100% merlot, but that grape can make a blend delicious. Jake Parrott was importing, I believe, a cab/merlot blend from South Africa, Monterosso? Quite nice.

very true, i have found a merlot blend to be just fine, however, shouldn't i focus on 100% varietals in the beginning and then move on to blends?

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very true, i have found a merlot blend to be just fine, however, shouldn't i focus on 100% varietals in the beginning and then move on to blends?

Yes, that would be a wise move when trying to learn about wines. Granted some Old World wines are only blends, but don't worry about that.

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[Kind of an aside, but they're still calling it the "Windows on the World" kit? Isn't that a bit, er, tacky of the manufacturer? (No criticism leveled at you, h).]

It's not a kit, it's a book. For other post-2001 editions of the book, a portion of the sales was donated to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, a charity that helps families of Windows on the World employees who were killed on 9/11. I haven't seen the 2006 edition yet, but I'd be surprised if they've changed that practice, given Kevin Zraly's involvement with the charity. (www.windowsofhope.org)

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Your husband's a lucky man.

An excellent Chilean Cabernet is the Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas. 2003 is the current vintage and is very good. It should run you $12-15, depending on where you get it, and there are very few California Cabs that will compete in that price range.

For Syrah, MacArthur's should have some of Bobby Kacher's inexpensive varietal Syrahs from southern France. Though as you like Spanish reds (assuming Garnacha), you may want to explore southern Rhone blends that feature Grenache and Syrah. There are any number of good ones. Chapoutier has one from the Cote de Roussillon called Bila-Haut. It's $10 at Wide World of Wines.

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MacArthur's is our regular haunt, we go in weekly as we live very close.  i have found the service to be rather impatient and pompous so i try to go in with ideas since i never get much help from the staff...

At MacArthur, they can sometimes be really busy with phone and internet business and seem abrupt...

Talk to Tom, the older guy who runs the Italian section. Or Steve. I don't find either of them pompous. There's also a younger guy who works in the Italian/Spanish section whose name I can't recall, but he has red hair, and he is also very friendly and helpful.

If you live in the nabe, you're near me (I'm 2 blocks from MacArthur). Another place that has surprisingly good prices is Balducci (former Sutton Place Gourmet), and the new wine guy there who replaced Mike Dolinsky (who was a wine educator at heart) is nice and chatty. As long as you are on New Mexico Ave. you might as well go into Ace Beverage in the Foxhall Square building next door to Balducci, and see if Joe, who has been posting here a lot, is there.

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[Kind of an aside, but they're still calling it the "Windows on the World" kit? Isn't that a bit, er, tacky of the manufacturer? (No criticism leveled at you, h).]

It's not a kit, it's a book. For other post-2001 editions of the book, a portion of the sales was donated to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund, a charity that helps families of Windows on the World employees who were killed on 9/11. I haven't seen the 2006 edition yet, but I'd be surprised if they've changed that practice, given Kevin Zraly's involvement with the charity. (www.windowsofhope.org)

Ahh. Thought it was one of those little kits you get where you get a tiny bottle of "oak" and one of "tannin" and so on, rather than a book. They sound silly but I can see them being relatively useful.

The title still strikes me as unfortunate, but if he ran the place for a bit...

Edited by Waitman
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At MacArthur, they can sometimes be really busy with phone and internet business and seem abrupt...

Talk to Tom, the older guy who runs the Italian section. Or Steve. I don't find either of them pompous. There's also a younger guy who works in the Italian/Spanish section whose name I can't recall, but he has red hair, and he is also very friendly and helpful.

If you live in the nabe, you're near me (I'm 2 blocks from MacArthur). Another place that has surprisingly good prices is Balducci (former Sutton Place Gourmet), and the new wine guy there who replaced Mike Dolinsky (who was a wine educator at heart) is nice and chatty. As long as you are on New Mexico Ave. you might as well go into Ace Beverage in the Foxhall Square building next door to Balducci, and see if Joe, who has been posting here a lot, is there.

The guy in the Spanish section is very nice. he has helped us on many occassions, however, there are a couple who always look down their noses at us even when they aren't busy. we still love the store and go ofted, weekly actually, but like i said, we try to go prepared to avoid taking up anyone's time.

thanks for the recommendations on paces to go. i always forget about sutton. it is a little further up the hill from us but close enough to swing by.

over the weekend we ended up with the thousands of other last minute shoppers at Tysons and on the way home stopped by the Total Wine in McLean. they always seem to have a great selection but we just aren't that familiar with them. anyone have thoughts or suggestions on who to talk to there?

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over the weekend we ended up with the thousands of other last minute shoppers at Tysons and on the way home stopped by the Total Wine in McLean. they always seem to have a great selection but we just aren't that familiar with them. anyone have thoughts or suggestions on who to talk to there?

If you're in this neighborhood again, try to stop by The Vineyard. It's an easy-to-miss tiny storefront right at the intersection of Chain Bridge Rd and Old Dominion. Emphasis is on quality wines from small producers, and while this usually means pricey, they have some good value wines, too. Jim Arsenault is an excellent and knowledgable tourguide through the labels.

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over the weekend we ended up with the thousands of other last minute shoppers at Tysons and on the way home stopped by the Total Wine in McLean.  they always seem to have a great selection but we just aren't that familiar with them.  anyone have thoughts or suggestions on who to talk to there?

The Frenchman with the handlebar mustache is quite good (Jean-Pierre?)

The stout guy with the full beard and mustache whose name I can never remember is also quite good.

The younger employees can be hit or miss.

They carry a lot of Robert Kacher imports, which are usually dependable if you are just exploring.

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As long as you are on New Mexico Ave. you might as well go into Ace Beverage in the Foxhall Square building next door to Balducci, and see if Joe, who has been posting here a lot, is there.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Zora, I know that you meant no offense, and believe me I don't take any offense to your statement, but the way you phrased that had me laughing until I was teary-eyed. I LOVE it!

Believe me, I hardly think we're a destination, but we try, and I'd like for us to be a place where enthusiastic wine drinkers can go to find interesting selections and not be elbow-to-elbow with a noisy crowd.

Thanks for the mention :)

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As usual, I'm impressed by what my collegue in wine retail, David Raines, has to say. I've mentioned previously that he appreciates being reprinted as long as it is in it's entirety (of course)

The Gordon's Daily Flash: Monday January 30, 2006

I don't believe I've ever featured Richard's Wild Irish Rose, but in point of fact RWIR is the world's most successful wine. It was the kernal from which grew what is now known as Constellation Brands, the world's largest drinks company.

Constellation is the company that recently bought the Robert Mondavi Winery, so in a very real sense, Richard's Wild Irish Rose is now proprietor of the winery that put Napa Valley, and with it the entire American quality wine industry, on the map.

Oy!

Constellation has also been in the (trade) news lately for a survey they funded on the way consumers, American consumers at least, approach wine. What they found was that:

* 12% are knowlegeable about wine

* 20% feel wine enhances their image

* 15% are looking for value and are willing to work a little to find it

* 16% will only consider wines hallowed by long tradition

* 14% will drink any wine at all and be perfectly happy with it, and

* 23% are "completely overwhelmed"

You would think that knowing all that would be a great help to all of us in the trade.

But I think we've already been doing well with the knowlegable consumers, the value conscious consumers and the traditionalists.

And I'm not sure what we can do to attract the image conscious without alienating the value seekers.

Of course there are more OF the image conscious consumers than there are of value seekers. But since I've always been a value seeker myself, it's hard to imagine turning my back on my own tribe.

Which leaves us with the overwhelmed as a potential source of additional sales.

As I understand it these are people who have never cared about wine or bothered to learn anything about it. They don't go into a wine store except the day before Thanksgiving, the day before Christmas, and the day before they have dinner with the boss.

On second thought, I don't think their three bottles a year are going to make that much difference to us, either.

So I guess we'll have to continue catering to those of you already with us, those of you who know wine, know the relative values of different wines, and enjoy the thought that you're making a connection with a long and lovingly advanced tradition every time you drink a wine that honestly expresses its physical and cultural origins.

If you DO know someone who's overwhelmed by it all, though, send them our way.

We'll try to take care of them the same way we take care of you.

-David Raines

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I would invite Mr Raines to Dino for a night and let him talk to the 50% of my customers who fall into the overwealmed category. They like to love wine but they simply have too much going on to spend the hundreds of hours it needs to acquire the systematic knowlege necessary to have even a rudimentary grasp of what wine is all about.

If a retailer or restauranteur can find a way to make a connection with this group, their wine sales will go thru the roof! The bigger dilemma is how to cater to these folk without doing it in a way that will alienate those who do have the systematic knowlege. I mean how many grab their Parker scored and shop regularly at Best Cellars?

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(http://cracked.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=378)

Wine-tasting For Complete Lunatics

Articles /

May 05, 2006 - 01:00 AM

We all have the same questions about wine: "What's the difference between rose and blush?" "Is it normal to become so violent after only a half-dozen bottles?" "Does this make me look gay?"

To get to the bottom of things, we paid a grizzled old man down at the men's shelter to write the following profiles of today's most popular wines (he sure looked like he knew his way around a bottle). Now you too can be an expert!

SHIRAZ

Hi!!

Shiraz has a bit of kick to it—a little spice. It reminds you of that romantic night in Costa Rica with Gitana Dulcinea de Esperanza. You met her at the hotel bar where she was selling dead roses and chess pieces out of a wicker bag. You danced and danced and danced. It was so wrong but it felt so right. A handful of shirazes later and you’re alone with her on the beach. As you listen to the far off sounds of a young peasant boy fighting a monkey, she begins to undress. But it was getting late and you had to be up early for the accounting seminar, so you thanked her for a lovely evening and wished her and her gypsy village best of luck with the upcoming cholera epidemic.

CHARDONNAY

Chardonnay is a little fruity. Kind of like the tennis pro who ruined your marriage. He seemed so harmless. He read Oscar Wilde. Then one day you come home early and there’s a racket on the bedside table. You grab your shotgun—just to scare them—but you accidentally fire a shot and oh god are you alright this is bad this is bad this is not going to look good in the papers. Relax. Have a chardonnay. A chardonnay will take the edge off. That show you like is on.

PINOT NOIR

Your partner is dead. He had been playing both sides so it was only a question of when. No time for grief. Who was he working for and were you next? You take a deep drag and glance around the grocery store through a thick fog of smoke, and, confident that you will be alive for at least another hour, grab a bottle of Pinot Noir and drink down the sweet poison on the rickshaw ride to the station. Before walking in you draw your weapon and notice that the magazine is empty. Only bullet left is the one in the chamber, and it’s begging to dance with the Captain. Time to light this candle.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

You never know which Cabernet Sauvignon is going to show up. Will it be the dry, all-about-business sergeant who led you through basic training and your first tour, or the sweet, soft-spoken college boy from Vermont who replaced Sergeant Shank after he was murdered in his sleep by the medic whose personality did not reflect a flavor of cabernet sauvignon. One thing’s for sure: no matter what, enjoying this wine will not haunt your dreams the way that “just following orders” in My Lai did.

CHIANTI

Chianti is a red table wine made from a blend of grape varieties. It’s what you serve when the insufferable Mortensons come over for dinner and talk endlessly about their first grandchild. After a few dozen glasses you blurt out that you wish little Esther had been miscarried, and even though you apologize immediately, the next time they come over you won’t be able to serve them a four-dollar Gatorade cooler of Chianti. But, hey, at least you didn’t get caught stealing their Sunday newspaper. Or feeding their dog anti-freeze because it always wakes you up in the middle of the night. Ah, a peaceful night’s sleep.

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I really enjoy red wine. I pair it with things it was not meant to be paired with. I drink it to relax. It's very hard to find a red, no matter the price range, that I DON'T enjoy.

I don't know much of anything about wine. I don't know what body is. I have no taste-memory of the difference between chianti and merlot. I buy wine because I think the label is pretty, or based on what the grocery store tells me. When I get wine at a restaurant, I get the second most inexpensive bottle.

In short, I know very little about wine.

I want to be able to pour my fiancee a glass now and then. She says she doesn't like the wines I drink because they're too spicy - something like a gentle burning sensation as they go down.

For some reason, she always likes the wine we get at restaurants. I think it's all in her head - she assumes that a restaurant wine would be good, but one that I picked up at Harris Teeter is not. I do not, however, want to pay markup every time I want to enjoy a glass with her.

Outside a restaurant, I don't like paying more than $10 a bottle. I feel like my palette isn't discerning enough to appreciate a more expensive purchase. (nor do I want it to be! let me enjoy me cheap pleasures)

There was a type of chianti - Monsanto, from Italy - that she really enjoyed at a restaurant.

I hit up that wine place on Little River Turnpike and found myself a bottle for $19.99, which she enjoyed.

What confuses me is that this Monsanto seems to have all the characteristics she says she DOESN'T like in a wine.

My question, I suppose, would be: is anyone familiar with Monsanto, and could recommend something similar at a lower price?

Or I guess ANY red that you'd think would please the future Mrs. Cole, who prefers a very smooth, silky finish. Thanks!

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Sounds like a candidate for any of the twenty or so excellent, dry roses available in the area right now. Ace Beverage, Rick's in Alexandria, and Arrowine in North Arlington all have good selections about now.
Isn't a rose like a mixture of red and white? I'd rather stick with red.
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Isn't a rose like a mixture of red and white? I'd rather stick with red.

You just trying to stir things up? I guess the next thing you will post is that you hate white wines. Folks like Jake, Mark, Rooks, and a host of others are great resources for wine info on the board.

Check out a book like The Wine Bible or one of the books by Jancis Robinson for some great reading and intro knowledge.

Why don't you both take advantage of some of the free wine tastings around town (Curious Grape, Arrowwine, etc.) and take some notes on what you both like.

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Another French region to look for good value on the cheap-- Costieres de Nimes.

Spain is still somewhat cheap, you can pick up some good Riojas for <$10 a pop.

PS - Mark, if you can find me Gigondas for $10 a bottle, I'd be happy to pick up a case or 10. :unsure:

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Dan

I don't know a lot about wines, but I love to drink it, and drink well for cheap. It took my wife a few years before she started to enjoy red wines, which I love. I would suggest to try Arrow Wine in Arlington. I really love this shop! each month there is a six pack from a different Country or Region. You get three white wines and three reds for a pretty good price. The June Six-Pax were all wines from France. I beleive it was around $70. They even include a newsletter with information about who made the wine, tasting notes, and what food to pair with each wine. I have never had a bad bottle from this store, but I am not expert.

http://arrowine.com/news.html

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You just trying to stir things up? I guess the next thing you will post is that you hate white wines. Folks like Jake, Mark, Rooks, and a host of others are great resources for wine info on the board.

Check out a book like The Wine Bible or one of the books by Jancis Robinson for some great reading and intro knowledge.

Why don't you both take advantage of some of the free wine tastings around town (Curious Grape, Arrowwine, etc.) and take some notes on what you both like.

No, I'm not just trying to stir things up. And no, I don't particularly care for whites, either. :unsure:

Thanks for all the help everyone. The biggest challenge is keeping things affordable - it's the only way I can justify my addiction to the Mrs. ;)

That and smooth finish. Really, really smooth finish (assuming I know what I'm talking about when I say finish - for all I know the official definish of "finish" is what the last sip tastes like - either that or something about a Scandinavian wine).

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No, I'm not just trying to stir things up. And no, I don't particularly care for whites, either. :unsure:

Thanks for all the help everyone. The biggest challenge is keeping things affordable - it's the only way I can justify my addiction to the Mrs. ;)

That and smooth finish. Really, really smooth finish (assuming I know what I'm talking about when I say finish - for all I know the official definish of "finish" is what the last sip tastes like - either that or something about a Scandinavian wine).

Finish refers to the overall effect the wine leaves in your mouth after you swallow it, including the smoothness or harshness.

Body refers to the relative weight of the wine on your palate. For a graphic and easily recognizable demonstration of this try a Burgundian pinot noir and an Australian shiraz one after the other. Pinot is light bodied. Shiraz is usually massive and heavy. Pinot is garnet colored, shiraz is almost opaque and black-purple.

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Finish refers to the overall effect the wine leaves in your mouth after you swallow it, including the smoothness or harshness.

Body refers to the relative weight of the wine on your palate. For a graphic and easily recognizable demonstration of this try a Burgundian pinot noir and an Australian shiraz one after the other. Pinot is light bodied. Shiraz is usually massive and heavy. Pinot is garnet colored, shiraz is almost opaque and black-purple.

And when you are done tasting the $10 Shiraz save what is left over for pancake topping.
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No, I'm not just trying to stir things up. And no, I don't particularly care for whites, either. :unsure:

Too bad, you are missing out on many a bottle of great wines. And to be more serious, what whites have you had and why did you not like them?

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No, I'm not just trying to stir things up. And no, I don't particularly care for whites, either. :unsure:
Is it that your palete has suffered under the weight of over-oaked California Chardonnay? If this is the case, I would recommend that you branch out and explore the whites as you would reds. There are whites that are as big and bold as many reds (most white Rhones are like this), others are quite complex, rich and challenging (such as a well made Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or Meursault), and then there are whites that are far more elegant than almost any red you will ever drink (look to Burgundy for these). But they do not need to be expensive to be fun; there are many fabulous whites that break the mold of the rubbish that you can find at Harris Teeter or Safeway.
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Sign yourself up for Arrowwine's email list. Get yourself to their wine tasting events. When you taste something you like (or your fiancee likes), buy it! Let the folks at Arrowwine know you like it. Ask them to help you find similar wines.

They want to sell you wines that you enjoy. That's how they get you to come back for more (the crafty bastards!). They will guide you to wines you will enjoy. They stock a lot of different wines that are good for a reasonable price.

It's not great if you don't think it tastes good. Go out, taste, and enjoy.

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Dan,

Here's a few suggestions:

Cotes du Rhone (Guigal is the easiest to find)

Vacqueyras

Gigondas

Pinot noir from:

Firesteed

Bear Boat

Hartford Family

I agree with Mark's suggestion of a Cotes du Rhone. I would find it hard to find a $10 Pinot Noir that I really like, but that's me. I'd try one of Mark's suggestions though and see if you and your fiance enjoy one of them. I think that some other options open up if you're willing to stay closer to the $20-ish range though.

I also suggest the taste test someone suggested. First to show lots of different varietals compared to each other (not all in one sitting!), and then when you find a varietal you like, start exploring that varietal across regions. For example, let's say you end up liking Pinot Noir-based wines. You can get these wines from producers in Burgundy, California, Oregon, New Zealand and other places. Maybe you hate Burgundies. Maybe you think Oregon Pinots remind you of swamp gas. But you discover you really like NZ Pinots.

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Okay, for another wine dope, can you explain the term "structure"?
A much easier question to ask than to answer, but in a nutshell, it is those components of wine that are not water. But more specifically it is the tactile sensation of wine in your mouth, and it is made-up of acid, alcohol, glycerine (the same sweet stuff that is used in antifreeze and dynamite), and tannins.

Does that clear things up? I didn't think so. If you think about how a glass of water feels in your mouth, you know what a wine with no structure is like. Wines with structure will make your mouth feel like there is something of substance in it. There is a balance when it comes to structure, too much or too little is not a good thing. If you feel like you need to chew your wine it has too much structure.

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Okay, for another wine dope, can you explain the term "structure"?

This is a great question. Structure refers to how the wine is built. The hallmark of great wines is balance and elegance. If all the components of a wine are balanced, that means: the tannic acid, the fruit, the perfume, the body, the finish, then you have a delicious wine. Nothing sticks out. There is a satisfying equilibrium. Every component relates to the others in good measure. Elegance is a more elusive quality. Elegance is the component that provides the "Wow" factor.

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When you taste a wine, you are realling using your senses of taste, tactile and smell.

You only can taste 4 or 5 tastes (I don't want to start the Umami argument here). For wine, the major components of taste used are bitter (tanning and their composition: ripe vs unripe, wood vs grape), sweet & acidity. Your tactile sense is also involved (is the wine astringent or smooth, high in alcohol and theu hot or burning to your tongue etc). How does the wine feel on your tongue?--heavy or light (which are a combination of alcohol & the makeup of the alcohols such as glycerines etc already mentioned). I think of structure as the resultant impression from these elements. A big structured wine is one that is full bodied, leaves a mouthfilling impression with some tannins and some heft. A light structures wine barely leaves an impression on your tongue. There are wines that are quite fleeting in the tactile and taste impressions they leave and yet are full of flavor (ie smell elements).

Your sense of smell, with is incredibly complex and sensitive in most people) is brought into play when some of the wine evaporates and penetrates the roof of your mouth to you nose or when you stick your nose in the glass and inhale. You will often se wine geeks suck air thru their wine both in order to relive their youth when making disgusting noises with your food was quite a plesant passtime and to get more of the smell into their noses.

Flavor, on the other hand, is a complex reaction that happens in our brain. It is the interaction of all these electro-chemically driven responses above with our memory and experiences. Flavor can remind you of past times and experiences in your life. These are real connectins in our memory. Thus two people can examine the same wine and have vastly different reactions to it. Say that the wine has a lot of the smell and acidity structure reminiscent of red raspberries. If your memory of red raspberries is that of pleasant summers picking raspberries at your grandma's house then your reaction to that wine, and how you describe it, will be different than say, if your grandma beat the crap out of you for stealing her raspberries before dessert.

From your original description of your +1 liking Monsanto, I would go to a wine shop and fiind someone there who likes the Monsanto chianti. Then ask them to find you a few bottles that are somewhat similar in structure and start exploring. Take notes. Take the notes back and talk to that person. Build up a one on one relationship with that wine monger for a bit until yo get to know their palate and they get to know yours. Then branch out. Don't worry about wine geek speak. Just try to get across what about the wine you liked and didn't like. After a bit, other sales people in the wine shop will recognize you and from looking at what you are buying toss in a few suggestions of their own.

I have a freind who is an opera buff like I am. We both recognize that being an opera buff means that we ahve seen far more bad performances of Opera than we have sublime. Just be glad that there are no reasons why you cannot find really good wine for $10-20 a bottle. Bad opera or good costs far more!

I have not had Monsanto recently with the exception of one bottle in the initial tastings for my list. But given that, I would look at a few Sangiovese. Try to find a few Morellino di Scansano (Poggio Argentario or Erik Banti), Chianti (Il Cortile from Michael Downey Selections is one I like, Lucignano is also good and pretty easy to find), and above your price range a rosso di Montalcino from Argiano or Ciacci Piccolomini (both will be in the 20's but should be below $30). You should also liik for a rosso di Montepulciano (Avignonesi, Die, Valdipiatta) and then something from Marche like Rosso Conero (Le Terrazze, Boccadigabbia) which are from the Montepulciano grape, different grape but with similar characteristics. You should also try a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo as well.

Lastly, remember that there is too much good wine in the world for any one person to try all of it. What you are looking for are wines that fit both your and your +1's likes and dislikes. Your taste might change over time as you get more experience. There is no right or wrong in wine.

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dinwiddie's post reminded me to post this --

Take notes about what you enjoy (or not) everywhere. Ask your waitor to write down the label info for you on a scrap of paper and add some of your own notes. Any decent server will be happy to do this for you.

I had a lovely bottle of Corbieres this weekend and they removed the label from the bottle for me. I added it and the notes I joted down into my tasting notebook when I got home

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My $.02: Taste taste taste.

I wouldn't suggest a course of action without knowing how you learn. Some people get alot out of reading books on wine. There are a few good ones and many bad ones. Same with magazines, clubs, etc. Soem people don't. Goes with everything. Nothing can replace experience though.

I think you would learn a lot just from tasting and having people to talk about tasting with. Some clubs have good tastings. If you are in "the biz" , you can get into industry tastings free. You can also tell them you are in the biz, or go with someone who is. Those tastings, where you have access to anywhere from 20-200 wines, can be invaluable.

Find a good store where people don't push wine on you, where they actually care about you enjoying the wine. I don't know many of those places around here (or in general), since I'm new to DC, although I thought Schnieders was full of nice decent people who really like wine. I buy all my wine in Connecticut, being the true snob that I am.

But taste as much as you can. Then you may learn that roses and whites CAN be good when they are made from good grapes grown in good soil without massive adulteration (BTW: Rose is not made my mixing white and red, except maybe in this country. It is made either from bleeding off juice in early skin contact from red wines or removing the skins early. I think there is another way but I'm a lttle rusty on my theory). Taste stuff you don't like. Taste flawed wines, corked wines, gallo, RM wines. Taste what people consider great wines - chip in with friends and get a bottle of Bonnes Marres or whatever.

I used to belong to a private tasting group that did tasting once a month of different themes at peoples houses. It was for winos, and it was a great way to learn about different topics on wine. We did verticals, Regions, varietals (even did a Chambousin tasting once - I'll refrain from comment). You could start one of those, as the research you do into putting a tasting together will teach you a lot, as will attending others tastings and trying to figure out what the theme is if you are doing it blind.

Anyhow...good luck. when you are ready to get into Bonnes Marres and the like, Let me know. I'll gladly join you for some.

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Wow - getting free wine advice from Mark Slater - most people pay $150 a head for the same! Of course, some extraneous food comes with it ... :unsure:

There's plenty of good advice here, actually, but I'd like to expand on one: store tastings. In DC, most stores open a few wines each Saturday for customers to sample. Some are purely marketing (look out for the glam wine girls at Magruders, usually pushing Red Bicyclette ...) Some, however, are actually instructional. Bells on M St b/w 18 and 19 opens 10 bottles each Saturday at 12:15, the tasting goes to 2 pm. Their selection is somewhat idiosyncratic, but the emphasis is on CHEAP and good. The tastings often include wines they don't have yet, but they want to get some customer reaction. Anyone is welcome, and the group stands around and trashes the wines as they themselves get trashed. Well, not really, no one's drinking that much, but you get the idea. The only rule is that you have to taste in order - as Bob Luskin, one of the owners, says, "If I suffer, you suffer." So you will have to taste a white or two to get to the reds, but as you do so, and listen and discuss the wines with everyone else there, you will learn more about what you like and dislike in each sample. You will hear a lot of, "That's a good $10 wine - too bad it costs $20!"

Arrowine is indeed another good store. Look for their tastings that feature a particular importer. Get to know the importer's name and style of wine. ("Read the back label" is one of my mottoes for learning about imported wines - if you like one Robert Kacher Rhone, you may like another.)

As you focus on inexpensive wines, don't ignore stores that feature costly ones. The Vineyard in McLean, or Wide World of Wines on Wisconsin in Glover Heights, are both known for higher-end, quality wines, but they also have some bargains. Remember, if the $10 bottle impressed the guy who mostly sells $50 wines, it is probably pretty good.

Find some wine writings you like. This site is a good source for information, especially on what's good and available in this market and where to find it. At the risk of, ahem, shameless self-promotion, I try to highlight high-value, affordable wines in my writing on my Web site, dmwineline.com. Not systematic writing, just fun and idiosyncratic, and hopefully helpful.

And as you learn about wines, and which ones you like or don't, you may find yourself paying more attention to the world around you - at least in an olfactory sense. My other motto for learning about wine is "Smell everything, taste with discretion." You'll hear people talking about "barnyard" or "rosehips" or "cat's pee" in their wines. You won't be able to pick up the hint of violets in a good Rhone grenache if you don't enjoy your surroundings. And when you and your future wife have children, and your kid sticks his nose in your glass and says, "This smells like green beans and monkey farts," well, you'd better know at least half of what he's talking about.

Some practical advice for $10 reds:

Bonny Doon's Big House Red

Argentina (Alamos, Trumpeter - Malbec, Cab, Merlot and Pinot)

Chile (Cousino-Macul, Santa Rita 120, 2 Brothers - Cab, Merlot, Syrah)

Cheers!

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When I am in a store selecting wine to buy I generally stick to US wines because the varietal is always obvious. So, I know I like Sauvignon Blanc's and hey, maybe I'll try this new one to see if I like it. But when I wander over to the French bottles I get confused rather quickly. I've tried looking closely and patiently at the labels, but most of the time I don't know which to pick unless there is a description provided by the store or the staff member. I know that Bourdeaux's are generally blends, and that Burgundy's are made from Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. But my question is whether there is anything I should be able to recognize on the labels that would help me figure out which French wines I might enjoy? Cause at this point, I usually just stare with nary an idea of what I'm staring at.

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