A neophyte’s guide to wines they can rely upon to impress their guests
Grapes: Fifty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 45 percent Merlot.
Location: Twenty kilometers northwest of Bordeaux
Desired taste: Full bodied and very dry with strong tannins. The nose will initially have the scent of horse hair but this should develop into aromas of cherry and strawberry.
Best food: Cheese.
Important fact: A wonderful wine but often ranked fourth in quality after Margaux, Paulliac and Saint Julien.
Interesting tidbit: Winemakers here were the first to use eggs as an agent to clarify wine. The whites bind with insoluble components making them easy to remove. Prices begin at $40.
Grapes: Shiraz with a small percentage of cabernet sauvignon.
Location: Adelaide, Australia.
Desired taste: Abundant notes of black plum, fig and mushrooms with a nose full of flowers and spices.
Best food: Venison
Important fact: First made in 1951. A bottle from the 1951 vintage sold last year for $62,000.
Interesting tidbit: Grange was invented by Max Schubert. His bosses told him to stop making it in 1957 but he kept producing in secret. In 1960 he was told to re-start production and was able to release three perfect vintages that all won top prizes. Prices begin at $250.
Grapes: Cabernet sauvignon makes up about 75 percent, merlot 20 percent with traces of cabernet franc.
Location: Margaux, Bordeaux, France.
Desired taste: Opulent and rich. The nose should include the fragrance of black currants, spicy vanilla, oak and violets.
Best food: Lamb, pheasant.
Important fact: The vines are always harvested by hand. After two years in vats the wine is transferred to barrels made from oak grown in Troncais forest.
Tasting note: First grown in the 12th century and rated the best in France by both Thomas Jefferson and Napolean III. Prices begin at $450.
Grapes: Mostly grenache but there are up to 13 other varietals used.
Location: Provence, France, close to Avignon.
Desired taste: Dry, with balanced acidity. The nose should include plums, strawberries and thyme.
Best food: Steak.
Important fact: The name means “new castle of the pope” and refers to Pope John XXII, who had the structure built when the papacy ruled from Avignon. Wine has been made here since the 14th century.
Tasting note: Favorite wine of the American wine critic Robert Parker. Prices begin at $70.
Grapes: Predominantly merlot and cabernet franc
Location: 35 kilometers northeast of Bordeaux.
Best food: Mushrooms, game and Tomme de Savoie cheese
Important fact: Vineyards surrounding the historic village of Saint-Emilion were originally planted by the Romans.
Interesting tidbit: The village has a Romanesque church where local people hid wine from the Nazis during World War II. Prices begin at $25 but can range up to over $1,000 for top vintages.