5 Wines You Should Know

5 Wines You Should Know
5 Wines You Should Know

Discover the five wines you should know

There are a few things that every respectable man needs to know. One of these things is how to select an appropriate bottle of wine for any occasion. The AskMen.com editors recently attended the Montreal Wine and Spirits Show to investigate some of the more popular wine varietals, and we’ve come back with this primer on five wines you should know.

Bear in mind that we’re only scratching the surface here, and that true depth of knowledge will rest on your own exploration. Start your journey of wine-discovery by exploring the five wines you should know, tasting our recommendations and picking your favorites.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is touted as being one of the most popular red wine varietals to fill glass stemware. Originating in Bordeaux, France, in the 17th century, Cabernet Sauvignon is now found in every major wine-producing country in the world, including Canada, Australia, the U.S., Chile, and Italy.

This bold wine is made from a crossing of the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and once it has aged (at least 10 to 15 years) it boasts an oak-y aroma that often hides hints of coffee, chocolate, leather, and tobacco. Younger Cabernets (aged 3 to 7 years) have a lighter, fruitier smell and taste with aromas of cranberry, raspberry and plum swirling in the bowl of your glass. So, whether you like your red wine woody and earthy or fruity and floral, this oft-named “King of the Red Wines” will surely make a welcome addition to your wine rack.

Pair with:

Aged Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine that tends to overwhelm light dishes. It is best sipped with red meat dishes, like steak and lamb, heavy cream dishes, and dark chocolate desserts.

Lighter Cabernet Sauvignons are best paired with pork, veal, poultry, pasta, and light cheeses.

Recommended bottles:

2006 McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - Credit:  McWilliams.com
2006 McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia
2004 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon - Credit: ConoSur.com
2004 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile
2005 Janzen Estate Cloudy’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvigno - Credit:  BacioDivino.com
2005 Janzen Estate Cloudy’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, California


Red wines made from the dark-skinned grape known as Syrah are some of the most popular wines on the market today. Known as the man’s wine -- because like most men, Shiraz is steady, dependable and not a wine to be messed with -- both Shiraz varietals and blended wines have a distinct flavor that the general public has come to love. While we may know these wines as Shiraz, in its country of origin, France, these wines are labeled as Syrah wines, but still share the same robust and full-bodied experience.

While the history of the wine may originate from France, it’s the Australians who have really taken Shiraz to the top with numerous vineyards, most notably from South Eastern Australia, taking on the Syrah grape and producing aromatic red wines. Labels like Penfolds, Wolfblass and Wyndham Estate have Shiraz table wines that are so enormously different, you’d be shocked to know they came from the same grape. However, that’s the beauty of Shiraz; while each wine may originate from a single family of grapes, the methods used, climate, and even the soils in which the grapes are grown can change the final taste and aroma so dramatically that each producer’s personal Shiraz has its own personality and qualities to enjoy.

Pair with:
Most Shiraz wines are best enjoyed with red and/or game meats as well as full-bodied cheeses. So, if you’re planning on cooking up a mean steak, make sure you check out these Shiraz varietals to complement the meal to perfection.

Recommended bottles:

2005 Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz - Credit: WyndhamEstate.com
2005 Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz, Australia
2006 Sebeka Shiraz - Credit: SebekaWines.com
2006 Sebeka, South Africa
2004 Vina la Rosa Don Reca Shiraz - Credit: LaRosa.cl
2004 Vina la Rosa Don Reca Shiraz, Chile


Gewurztraminer is a white wine that is easy on the palate, which makes it enjoyable for the beginner, yet its complexity will envelope your mouth in a silky finish that’s both long and rapturous. As a grape, Gewurztraminer performs best in cooler climates, and although it’s grown in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Italy, Germany, and Israel, you’ll find the best varietals coming from Alsace, France. If you opt for a German varietal, expect a dryer wine, while those from Alsace will be slightly sweeter.

The wine itself is medium-dry and often accompanied by a bouquet of lychees, but not always. Gewurztraminer is, however, typically full-bodied, sweet, straw yellow in tint, floral with exotic fruity notes, and rich with spices, such as ginger. Breathe deep, as Gewurztraminer is soft on the nose, but once it hits your mouth indulge yourself and savor all this spectacular wine has to offer.

Pair with:
Serve Gewurztraminer as an accompaniment to a meal or directly afterward, but we like it so much that we suggest you drink it as an aperitif too. Gewurztraminer is ideal for cutting through a greasy meal, but not any kind of grease; serve it with grilled seafood or shellfish with a mayonnaise sauce, sushi, and fatty fish (salmon or tuna). The recommended serving temperature: 50F to 53.6F.

If you’ve ever tasted had and enjoyed Riesling, you’ll be swept away by your new mistress -- Gewurztraminer.

Recommended bottle:

2006 Riefle Gewurztraminer Bonheur Exceptionnel - Credit:  Riefle.com
2006 Riefle Gewurztraminer Bonheur Exceptionnel, France
2006 Pfaffenheim Cuvee Bacchus - Credit: Pfaffenheim.com
2006 Pfaffenheim Cuvee Bacchus, France

2003 Ruhlmann Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Frankstein - Credit:  Ruhlmann-Schutz.com

2003 Ruhlmann Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Frankstein, France


Chardonnay is amongst America’s top-selling white wines, and it’s probably because of the wide selection of Chardonnays available. Its popularity is due in large part to the versatility of the grapes that are used to make it; Chardonnay grapes are fairly low-maintenance and can adapt to a range of climates. Because of its adaptability, Chardonnay quickly became an easy segue for developing wineries to enter into the growing international wine market. It translated into a huge variety of Chardonnay white wines being produced across the globe, from England to Chile to Australia.

Chardonnay is believed to have first originated in the Burgundy wine region of France; however, its success there and in the Champagne region helped it become a wine with a growing reputation. This, coupled with its versatility, meant that a huge selection of unique Chardonnay wines began popping up in the most unexpected places. The Chardonnay market became one that constantly grew and evolved, and continues to do so today. This diversity is also reflected in the price of a bottle of Chardonnay, which can be as low as $8-$17, but can also be one of the more expensive varieties on the shelf.

Pair with:
The taste of a good Chardonnay wine varies from buttered, oak overtones to refreshing fruit flavors like pear, apple, lemons, peaches, and citrus. Given this, Chardonnay wines can be paired with poultry, pork and seafood dishes, and anything with a lot of butter or a heavy cream base. Serve Chardonnay chilled slightly with Roast Chicken 1.0 or Tartiflette.

Recommended bottles:
2006 Deakin Estate Chardonnay - Credit: DeakinEstate.com
2006 Deakin Estate Chardonnay, Australia
2005 Pierre Andre Bourgogne Chardonnay Reserve - Credit:  Pierre-Andre.com
2006 Vina La Rosa La Capitana Chardonnay, Chile

2006 Vina La Rosa La Capitana Chardonnay - Credit: LaRosa.cl

2005 Pierre Andre Bourgogne Chardonnay Reserve, France


Merlot is a rather late bloomer in terms of popularity; it did not appear as a Californian varietal label until the late 1970s, and was not a big seller until the late 1980s. These days, however, its flexibility and ultimate drinkability have made it one of the most popular reds around.

The medium-bodied grape, which originated in the Bordeaux region of France, is used both as a blending grape and for varietal wines. Its softness, combined with the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than many other grapes, make Merlot an ideal grape to blend with its cousin, the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon. The major difference between the two is that the Merlot grape has a much thinner skin.

With a slightly lower natural acidity than Cabernet Sauvignon, and generally less astringency, Merlot is an easy table wine, but it is sometimes snubbed by wine connoisseurs as a “women’s wine,” perhaps because it can lack complexity in comparison with varietals like Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Expect to taste fruity notes, such as blueberry, cherry, blackberry and plum, with tones of blackpepper, licorice and even vanilla. You will be more likely to detect herbaceous flavors, such as green pepper and olive, in a Merlot than you will in a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Depending on the cask in which it was aged, you may also taste hints of oak, vanilla, and smoke. Note that these flavors will balance nicely with others in a good bottle, but if the wood notes overpower other tastes, it may indicate a less-than-perfect batch that the vintner is attempting to mask with the flavor of the cask.

Pair with:
As it is a medium-bodied wine, Merlot pairs best with earthy, hearty dishes. Lighter dishes, including many types of fish, will clash with the bold flavor of this wine. Try it with medium-weight foods, such as veal, Italian-style sausages, roast lamb, duck with fruit sauce, salmon, tuna, bean dishes, lentils and vegetables, cheese dips, and semi-hard cheeses like an aged Gouda or Cheddar.

Recommended bottles:
2003 Calvet Reserve Merlot - Credit: MDV.ca
2003 Calvet Reserve, France
2004 Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Series Merlot Blue Label -  Credit: FFCPresent.com
2004 Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Series Merlot Blue Label, California
2005 Chateau Pey La Tour, Reserve du Chateau, Bordeaux Superieur -  Credit: ChateauPeyLaTour.com
2005 Chateau Pey La Tour, Reserve du Chateau 2005, Bordeaux Superieur, France

Prime wines

Whether you’re a fan of red wine or white wine, there’s a varietal for you. From the oak-y taste of a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon to the fruity flavoring of a sparkling Chardonnay, wine comes in all colors, scents and flavors to please your palate and satisfy your senses.

From: http://uk.askmen.com/fine_living/keywords/wine.html


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