Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW), created by Lenn Thompson from The New York Cork Report, encourages bloggers to write a post based on a selected theme of the month chosen by a rotating host. This month marks WBW #67, but the sixth I have participated in, and is hosted by Joe Roberts at 1 Wine Dude, who asked us to “pick a red wine that you would use to introduce a white wine drinker to red wines for the first time”.
This is something I have actually encountered many times, especially back when I used to work at wineries. I love introducing folks who “think” they don't like red wine to pleasures of the glorious juice (of course they like red wine, they just haven’t found the right one)! In fact, I decided to test it out again this week while my mother and sister are visiting, both of which are not big wine drinkers at all, let alone red wine… (seriously, was I adopted or what???)
Now you may think a smooth transition from white wine would be the way to go, rosé perhaps, or maybe a light bodied Pinot Noir. But no. I still know plenty of wine enthusiasts who are still not “that” into Pinot Noir (true story), and perhaps our red wine novice may be thrown off by some of the common earthy flavors of said beverage. Instead, I think the way to go is BIG. Full on big flavored rich fruit bombs. I’m talking Syrah or Zinfandel! For this weeks experiment I decided to surprise my mom and sis with a gorgeous Zinfandel from Seghesio Family Vineyards.
Why Zinfandel? When I am trying to convert non-red wine drinkers to the beauty of red wine I avoid wines that are too earthy, funky, alcoholic, or too tannic. These flavors can easily throw someone off and inadvertently scare him or her back to white wine forever. In fact, I will typically avoid most old world wines all together and instead chose something big, yet still high quality, with balanced rich fruit flavors, minus any gripping tannins (a turnoff for a newbie red wine drinker). Don't get me wrong, I can think of some fabulous Italian wines that would work, but again, I'm thinking simplicity on our decision, don't over think it.
Zin, especially a good Sonoma Valley, or even more specific Dry Creek Zin from California, is usually one you can’t go wrong with. I find the up front forwardness of the fruit to be seductive, very approachable, and friendly to most palates. Plus, they are delicious with a wide variety of food, great to drink year round, and fairly easy on the pocketbook. One of the worst things you could do is introduce someone to a wine too expensive for him or her to enjoy on a regular basis (you tease!), thus creating a myth that they can only like expensive wines (sigh). Some of my favorite Zins range from $15-$35/bottle.
So for my mom and sister, I introduced them to one of my favorite Zinfandel producers in California, Seghesio. I chose Seghesio because they consistently produce a wide variety of full-flavored, yet very balanced Zins, many of which are single vineyards showcasing different characteristics, and are typically without ridiculously high alcohol levels. For this experiment I decided on the ’08 Sonoma County because it is their most widely available, and most everyday priced Zin (I found it on sale for $21), and wanted to find something to fit the bill above. Their ’07 Sonoma County definitely fit the bill I was looking for (big, fruit forward, lush and delicious), but I ran out of it a few months ago… ’08 it is.
The judges (mom and sis) however, weren’t as enthused with the wine I opened. Granted, the ’08 vintage of this wine was definitely much tamer compared to its previous vintage, but it still had great fruit, but more red and blue berry fruit rather than the richer ’07 version full of lush blackberry fruits. I still loved it, but it fell a bit short with the judges who didn’t think it was “sweet enough” (aka fruity), and that it “tingled too much on the back of their tongues” (high acidity). The judges, I must add, are a tough crowd. It’s hard to find any wine my mom will love without needing to add sprite to it (and yes, she did add sprite to this Zin ) <mary shakes her head in disappointment>, and my sister did say she liked it, so I still think it was a successful choice for her.
I still stand firm to my choice of varietal and would still have chosen Zin or perhaps even Shiraz or Syrah. I could have gone with something bigger and more jammy perhaps for this particular crowd. But it was my first time trying the ’08, so I took a chance on the new vintage, and was admittedly wrong to assume it would be as big as its previous vintage. I still loved the wine, so did the husband, and we gladly finished the bottle without help from my mother or sister.
I still recommend a lush fruit bomb if you are trying to convert a white wine drinker to red. Everybody likes fruit in the beginning, and I think more complex flavors, including earthy flavors, are more acquired flavors that wine enthusiasts look for and learn to love!