Presented by your UK Whole Foods Market stores.
Wine is good. Check. And a little intimidating? Check! Sure, it's a deep and complex subject, but unless you're a philosopher with a vineyard, wine is simply about enjoying what's in your glass. In fact, we've built our entire wine department on this philosophy.
A formidable group of Team Members — think of them as your very own wine superheroes — scour the world's vineyards to bring you the fruits of the most talented winemakers' labors. They're always on the lookout for sustainable vineyard practices and organic and biodynamic wines, too.
So the next time you're in our wine department, stop one of our Team Members, many of whom are full-fledged sommeliers, and hit them up for answers. Are they snobbish about wine? No way! Whether you're a novice or a seasoned sipper, they'll love you just the same. In fact, nearly all of our UK Whole Foods Market stores offer wine classes where grapes, tastings and pairings are discussed — over a glass of wine, of course.
If you're the kind that likes to forge your own path instead, that's cool. You know we respect a little personal exploration, so look for abundant signage in the aisles of the wine department to help you make a great selection on your own. Kindly note that Whole Foods Market is prohibited by law from sampling and sales of alcohol to anyone under 18, and will request verification for proof of age in store.
Wine Trivia to Make You Thirsty
True or false? Tannins are uber-comfy tanning beds you can nap in. True — they're all the rage in Finland! OK, OK, it's false. Tannins actually refer to the bitter astringency that wine picks up from its contact with grapes' skins. (See Grapes 101 below for details on which wines have powerful tannins and what foods to pair them with.)
When playing pin-the-tail-on-the-wine, where would you find its nose? A wine's "nose" is in fact its smell. It just sounds fancier when you call it a "nose".
People swirl wine in their glasses before tasting it in order to:
A) tell the wine's fortune
B) demonstrate their wrist dexterity to a crowd
C) give themselves that dizzy, light-headed buzz
D) none of the above
The answer is D. Swirling wine in a glass introduces oxygen and broadens its aroma. (Though we'll admit that sometimes we do it because of C, too.)
The last time we checked, wine was wet. So why are so many wines called "dry"? Dry wines are the opposite of sweet wines; they have low levels of residual sugar and so are more pucker-inducing. For the record, both dry and sweet wines are very, very wet.
On most wine labels you'll find the name of the grape used to make them or the district (also called the "appellation") in which they're produced. Head spinning? Don't panic!
To simplify things, here's a list of popular grapes along with their flavor descriptions and tasty pairings. And to make sure you never blush at a dinner party again, we've included a few tips on how to pronounce everything, too.
Chardonnay [shar-doh-NAY]: These dry wines are bold, ripe and rich. Their apple, fig, lemon and honey undertones are out-of-sight with cream sauces, shellfish, poultry, pork, veal, salmon and full-flavoured cheeses.
Chenin Blanc [SHENIN BLAHNK]: Close your eyes and you'll think you're eating a slice of ripe melon. Peach, spice and citrus flavors also float through these wines, so serve them with Asian food, roasted chicken, shellfish (clams and mussels are a stellar match) or mild cheeses and you can't go wrong.
Gewürztraminer [geh-VOORTZ-trah-MEE-ner]: This one may be a tongue-twister, but trust us, you won't regret learning how to say it right. This grape makes for wines full of spicy peach and apricot notes. Sip them — no, wait, guzzle them — with Asian seafood or noodle dishes, pork, veal, poultry or even mild cheeses.
Pinot Grigio [PEE-no GREE-zho]: These wines, also called pinot gris (PEE-no GREE), are full of citrus, spice and toasted almond flavor. Pour them generously when you're serving rich cream or red sauces napped over pasta or veal and poultry dishes like grilled chicken. Full-flavored cheeses hold their own with these wines, too.
Riesling [REES–ling]: Since these wines come in dry, off-dry and sweet styles, if you've tasted one you definitely haven't tasted them all. Redolent of apricots and green apples, pair these with Asian food, grilled seafood (fish, shrimp, crab and lobster are all stand-outs), smoked salmon or fresh fruit and mild cheeses.
Sauvignon Blanc [SO-vin-yon BLAHNK]: You're barefoot on a beach in Hawaii. The smell of tropical fruit wafts through the air. Just as the sun goes down, you're thinking about having a bright salad with a dollop of soft goat cheese and a plate of seafood for dinner. This is the wine you're looking for.
Cabernet Sauvignon [cab-er-NAY SO-vin-yon]: You wouldn't want to run into these wines in a dark alley. Marked with firm tannins and flavors like currant, plum, black cherry, spice and dark jam, they're big and tough. Pair them with hearty meals of roasted red meat, game, lamb, pasta with red sauce, full-flavored cheeses or rich chocolate desserts.
Merlot [mur-LO]: Because Merlot's style can range, some offerings may be softer, suppler and less tannic, but they're no slouches. These well-loved wines are full of currant and cherry flavors. Pair them with roasted red meats, duck, goose, lamb and full-flavored cheeses.
Pinot Noir [PEE-no NWA]: These grapes have classic black cherry, spice and raspberry flavors with an aroma that can resemble, well, wilted roses of all things. Since these chaps are earthy, pair them with turkey, beef, game, lamb, pork, veal, pheasant, duck or goose.
Sangiovese [san-geeo-VEHS-eh]: Wines made from this grape are spicy and taste a bit like raspberry or anise. Pair them with beef, veal, pork, pasta with red sauces, poultry and rich, powerful cheeses.
Shiraz [shih-RAHZ]: Also called syrah (sir-RAH), these grapes can be very rich and complex with pepper, spice and leather and tar flavors (in a good way, we promise). Pair them with beef, game and chicken or turkey.
Zinfandel [ZHIN-fan-del]: These guys can be a little tannic, but don't hold it against them! They're rich cherry overtones are perfect for everything from pizza and hamburgers to barbecued ribs and tomato sauces.
The Skinny on Bubbly
Think you're the only one romanced by those dancing bubbles? We admit to getting a little starry-eyed when we're offered a glass of sparkling wine. Call us crazy, but we think bubbly should be enjoyed on occasions as special as, well, a Wednesday night. With a selection as delicious and affordable as any other wine, why save the bubbles?
To learn more about these wines that drive us wild, let's get business out of the way first:
Only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France can be labeled "Champagne."
Each country has a different name for the sparkling wines they produce: Spain makes Cava, Germany makes Sekt and Italy makes Prosecco, Asti and Spumante. Bubblies from the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are simply called sparkling wines or sparklers. Bottom line? They all have bubbles.
Champagnes and sparkling wines are generally made from three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
The telltale bubbles in sparkling wines form during a secondary fermentation, when wine is re-fermented using yeast left in the bottle (which is filtered out later).
When you're picking out sparkling wines, keep in mind that you can serve them in much the same way you would any other white wine. Keep these bubbly terms in mind, too, and you're as good as gold:
Brut: These food-friendly sparkling wines are the driest ones available. Pair them with everything from potato latkes to salty snacks. Wanna splurge? This is the gold standard to serve with caviar.
Extra Dry: With "extra dry" on the label, you're guaranteed a touch of fruity sweetness and a dry finish. These are versatile so don't hesitate to serve them as an aperitif or after-dinner drink.
Sec: You won't see this term very often, but if you do, it marks sparkling wines that are a bit higher in sugar content than those labeled "extra dry."
Demi-Sec: This term is used for sparkling wines that are perfect with dessert because of their non-cloying sweetness and caramelized flavor. Avoid pairing them with foodstuffs that are sweeter than the wine, though; fresh fruit works beautifully. Romantic evening, anyone?
Blanc de Blanc: This terms just means that the bubbly you're drinking has been made with 100% Chardonnay grapes; it'll be toasty, nutty and rich.
Blanc de Noir: This bubbly is made from mostly Pinot Noir grapes. It's sure to be refreshing, fruit driven and full of citrus flavors.
The Perfect Temperature
To store wines: For regular storage, keep your unopened wine bottles in a cool, dark place — something under 80°F, say, inside a cabinet. For long-term wine storage, wine is best when kept in a cool, dark place ideally 55°F to 65°F.
To serve wines: Red wine is at its best when served at room temperature, but that's all relative. In most parts of the U.S. in summertime, for instance, room temperature is way too hot!
Aim to serve red wines around 65°F. (Place a bottle in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes just before serving and it should be perfect.) This will bring out the wine's fruit flavors and tame its alcohol. On the flip side, chill white wines well, then pull them out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.