Jay-Z name checks a champagne brand and it starts appearing in VIP sections across the nation. Drake raps about moscato and suddenly, it’s the drink of choice for pre-games and “classy” club goers everywhere. If you are interested in getting started with wine appreciation, go beyond what mixtapes hath taught you. Here are a few of the most common wines out there and a few things you should know about them as you enter a world beyond Arbor Mist.

Moscato: While most wine enthusiasts wouldn’t begin with it, we’ll just start here since it has been the introduction to wine for so many young people as of late. Moscato, made from Muscat grapes and available in sparkling  and non-sparkling varieties, is a very sweet white wine, with a peach-like flavor. It was typically served with dessert, until Colored people decided to order it at the bar.  Feel free to enjoy it as you see fit, but don’t try to impress someone who is schooled in wine by ordering it as if it’s some sort of  delicacy known only to the well-versed. Consider serving moscato with sorbet at your next dinner party for a tasty dessert. Oh, and I hope your cousins are happy that they have inspired Seagrams to make a moscato-inspired vodka. Someone taste it and let us know what it’s hitting for.

White Zinafandel: Before Moscato became the default sugary wine for folks who didn’t know anything about wine, there was White Zinafandel. The sweet, blush colored wine is popular largely due to it’s relatively low-cost and low alchohol content, which make it easy to drink for even those who don’t “like” wine. Sutter Home discovered White Zin almost on accident, which lead to their explosion as a retailer of modestly priced and accessible wines.  A friend of mine theorizes that the popularity of Coca-Cola on dinner tables during our parents’ childhoods is what brought many of them to enjoy the sweet pink wine so. Like moscato, this is not the vino you order when you are out with a bunch of older sophisticates; it is the red Kool-Aid of wines and is best enjoyed with your homegirls, as you watch Wating To Exhale on cable.  I repeat: this is NOT the wine you order when you are trying to impress someone. You can also use it to make an easy, inexpensive sangria. Don’t keep a 2010 bottle around for years trying to age it; White Zinfandel, like most mass produced wines, is meant to be enjoyed shortly after it hits shelves.

Chardonnay: One of the most popular and recognizable wine varieties hands down, chardonnay is a great entry into wine for new drinkers; it was also the subject of backlash from wine afficiandos, who launched the ABC (‘Anything But Chardonnay’) movement  in the 1990s in response to its widespread popularity. It is produced all across the world and you can find a nice bottle for well under $20.  The number one selling white wine in America, it is not particularly sweet and often times has a buttery, oaky taste. Some varieties have hints of apple, pear, citrus or even melon flavor. Chardonnay goes well with rich, creamy foods as well as grilled poultry and seafood dishes; however, it is very malleable in paring and can be served with pretty much any meal you can imagine.

Pinot Grigio: The most recognizable Italian wine amongst American consumers, Pinot Grigio is also produced in California. Its high in acidity, which gives it a crisp taste and a clean finish. Don’t pair it with acidic foods such as citrus food and tomato dishes; instead, balance it with seafood and creamy/buttery sauces. This is another variety that is intended to drink ‘young’, shortly after its production.

All of today’s varieties are the subject to disdain from wine snobs, but we’re crawling before we walk. Don’t take my snarkiness above to heart; I’m craving a nice cold glass of Moscato as we speak!  Next time, we’ll move away from the super-predictable whites and have fun with a few more ‘sophisticated’ varieties, along with an introduction to the language of wine.

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  • jo

    We were having a discussion about Muscatel or Moscato and how good it was, etc. I heard Moscato was a full bodied wine with sweet flavors and aroma (almost died laughing) and that it was hip to drink. That people look fly with a full glass and that it was endorsed by “wine connoisseurs”…
    Oh YES! The same people were also endorsing “Boone’s Farm” and “MD 20/20”. While you’re at it, please do a review on those “fine” peach and strawberry flavored cigars they sell at the corner convenience store. A class act all the way! I’m not a wine connoisseur . . . um, I have trouble pairing wines with food, you know, but I’ve acquired some taste over the years and while not an expert I agree that Moscato (for me is a step up from White Zin) seems an odd choice, but anything that broadens the appeal of wine is a good thing in my book. In the words of the immortal Benjamin Franklin, wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. And we could all do with some of that.