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Taste Progression - Your Next Wine

This information will likely be useful to you if you are beginning to drink wine or have not consumed wine very frequently.

There is a normal progression in taste preferences among most Americans when it comes to wine.  This may be uniquely American because we usually grow up drinking soft drinks and not much (if any) wine through our youth.  This information does hold true for a population or group of people but may vary for any specific individual.  If you are relatively new to wine, it should provide a good roadmap for your journey.

The basic progression of most people's wine preference is

sweet and served chilled
semi-dry and served chilled
dry, white and served chilled
dry, more flavorful and served slightly chilled
dry, rich flavored and served at cellar temperature
dry, complex and served at cellar temperature

Sweet and served chilled

This is often the first type of wine that you ever had and liked.  This category of wines is light, sweet and served cold.  Wines in this group sometimes have a little spritz or carbonation.  Pop wines, some blush wines, and fruit wines fall into this first wine category.  Think of these wines like soft drinks with a kick (cold, sweet and sometimes with bubbles).

After a while, you'll start to find to find these a little sweet like coolers did. You're ready for the next step.

Semi-dry and served chilled

These are very agreeable wines and can be food friendly as well.  Some of the cloying sweetness and any trace of carbonation that existed in the first group of wines is gone.  Higher acid levels in these wines balance the remaining sweetness.  Vouvray, most German wines and many blush wines fall into this category. 

At some point, you'll prefer wines with little or no sweetness. When that happens, move to the dry whites.

Dry, white and served chilled

Wines in this category have no sweetness, and are served chilled.  Chardonnay is the most popular grape variety in this category.  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) are also favorites in this taste range.  It is common for a person to enjoy wines in this category for many years before moving on to the fuller flavored, light red wines.  These wines go especially well with fowl and seafood.

Dry, more flavorful and served slightly chilled

Light red wines such as Beaujolais and inexpensive Pinot Noir are found in this group of wines.  They are dry wines and have stronger flavors than the white wines in the previous category.  They are served slightly chilled but not cold.  These wines do not have the tannins that are to be found in the next group.  They match up well with grilled fish and poultry because they often have higher acid levels than most red wines. 

Dry, rich flavored and served at cellar temperature

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the dominant grape varieties from which these wines are made.  They are richly flavored, medium bodied, dry red wines and they often have very high levels of tannin in their youth.  They should be served at very cool room temperature (upper 60`s F.) and allowed to warm in the glass.  These wines often require aging to show their best.

Dry, complex and served at cellar temperature

These are selected wines from the previous categories that have been aged to their peak.  With that age comes subtlety and complexity in the smells and tastes.  These wines are have lost the forward fruit of their youth and the tannin levels have subsided.  These wines require special handling including decanting before being served.