Thirsty Newcomers | Curious Quaffers | Intrepid Connoisseurs Food writer Sheri Castle consulted with Angus Barn wine director and Certified Sommelier Henk Schuitemaker to create wine profiles that fit any
Food writer Sheri Castle consulted with Angus Barn wine director and Certified Sommelier Henk Schuitemaker to create wine profiles that fit any level of experience — and to find out which North Carolina bottles he recommends uncorking first.
Discover which of these profiles you fit by taking our quiz.
When asked what wine they like, people who don’t usually drink wine might not have an answer, but they can easily reel off a list of other things they like to drink. That’s useful information, and an excellent point of entry when ordering a glass or bottle of wine.
Established taste preferences are a reliable indicator of which wines a person will enjoy. For example, a person who prefers a frosty glass of sweet tea or ice-cold cola might enjoy a slightly sweet wine. Someone who craves a bitter espresso over a milky latte might prefer a more acidic wine. Those who opt for grapefruit juice instead of apple cider might like a dry white wine.
People who enjoy the fruity fizz of flavored bottled waters might find equal enjoyment in certain sparkling wines, although it would be different bubbles for those who go for slightly salty mineral water. As Henk reassures us, “There’s going to be a wine — and a North Carolina wine — that aligns with what they already enjoy drinking. It can be that simple and straightforward to get started.”
Another solid starting point, and perhaps the better one for beginners, is their menu choice. From there, the server or bartender can steer them toward the wine that’s a delicious partner for it. “People who are new to wine need to learn wine with food, not from staring down an empty glass.” Henk says. Over time, these successful pairings can lead to more specific starting points, such as generally preferring reds to whites, or having a taste for drier wines, or preferring chilled to room temperature.
Choosing a wine doesn’t have to be a big deal. It’s not a test, and it’s low risk. It’s just a beverage, and there are more right choices than wrong ones. If a wine suits the sipper’s tastes and enhances their meal, then it’s the right choice.
Henk chose these North Carolina wines for wine novices because, “These are easy drinking wines, well-balanced with nothing over the top in any direction. Nothing scary is going to scrape the taste out of their mouths. With all the delicious wine to be had, there’s no reason for anyone to come away feeling overwhelmed.”
Red: Rockford Red, RagApple Lassie, Boonville
Rockford Red is a semi-sweet blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, and a smidge of Zinfindel.
White: Reisling, RayLen Vineyards and Winery, Mocksville
This semi-dry Riesling smells like honeysuckle and tastes of ripe peaches and apricots with a bright, clean finish.
Rosé: Electric Pelican, Hinnant Family Vineyards, Pine Level
Electric Pelican is a light, semi-sweet blend of Noble and Blanc du Bois with a crisp, acidic finish.
Muscadine: Granddaddy’s Smokehouse Blend, Country Squire Winery, Kenansville
Granddaddy’s Smokehouse Blend is a traditional sweet wine that tastes like biting into fresh local grapes.
These wine drinkers have the benefit of a little common wine knowledge and understand basic tasting techniques. They can name or describe some wines they like and can say a few words about why, which means they’re ready to go a little deeper and broader. People who’ve enjoyed good wine are usually curious and open-minded about trying more good wine, whether through an educated guess, a little label-reading savvy, or the guidance of a sommelier. “It’s always fun to see wine drinkers step outside of their comfort zones,” Henk says. “I love to ask questions and help them explore our wine selection. Finding a ‘good wine’ comes down to finding one they’ll like.”
Curious Quaffers are learning that the trick to selecting the right wine is the ability to identify two things: the flavors they like and the characteristics of the wines they enjoy. Armed with that information, it’s much easier for them to find a wine that provides those features, whether making their own pick from a wine list, or in conversation with a wine pro. They’re also learning to trust their palates. All in all, if it’s a wine they like, then it’s the right wine, no matter the type or price point.
When shopping for a bottle of wine, it pays to know how to read a label. While it’s tempting to go for bottles with eye-catching artwork, it’s the words that matter most. The front label states the winery name, the type of grape(s), the year it was bottled, and the percentage of alcohol. Some back-of-the-bottle labels include brief descriptions of the wine and its main characteristics, such as sweetness, acidity, tannin, and body. As wine drinkers get a feel for their preferences in those categories, the easier it becomes to find wines they are likely to enjoy.
Some wine labels and lists describe the wine’s flavors and aromas, which make them like words on a dinner menu: the more the description sounds like something the drinker would like, the better the chances that they will.
Henk selected these North Carolina wines for Curious Quaffers because, “They are delicious choices for people who have some understanding of what types of wine they like, and why, and are ready to explore what our state’s wineries have to offer.”
Red: Chambourcin, FireClay Cellars, Siler City
Their full-bodied, dry Chambourcin is similar to cabernet. It’s well-balanced with notes of cherry, red fruit, and a subtle tobacco and vanilla finish.
White: Soft White, Elkin Creek Vineyard and Winery, Elkin
Soft White is an easy drinking table wine that’s fruity and floral with vibrant acidity.
Rosé: Roseneath, Cypress Bend Vineyards, Wagram
Roseneath is sweet and refreshing with flavors of citrus and sweet plum, and should be served well-chilled.
Native: Pilot Fog, JOLO Winery and Vineyards, Pilot Mountain
Pilot Fog is made from Cynthiana grapes. It’s full-bodied with layered aromas of cherry, blackberry, mocha, and baking spices. It has a velvety finish with balance tannins.
Intrepid Wine Connoisseurs are experts not only for what they know, but for what they’re willing to learn through tasting and sizing up as much wine as they can. Serious wine drinkers take note of the wines they try, often literally. As they accumulate tasting experiences and hone their palates, they build a sensory library they can refer to any time they try something new, as points of comparison.
Oenophiles often refer to a wine’s terroir, a term for describing that wine’s particular qualities imparted by the environment where the grapes grew and the wine was produced. Contributing factors include soil, climate, topography, elevation, growing seasons, and weather phenomena. To put it very simply, terroir is the wine’s sense of place. Sussing out those nuances is great fun for experienced wine drinkers.
The terroir of North Carolina wines can be the hook for people ready to dig deeper into them. Our state’s geography changes dramatically from the Blue Ridge Mountains through the Piedmont and on to the coast, and the grapes and winemaking follow suit. There are five distinct grape-growing regions that have earned the designation of American Viticulture Areas within the state. An AVA is a specific vineyard zone that distinguishes it from all other wine growing areas in the United States. For a bottle to be able to use an AVA name on its label (and claim the inherent bragging rights), at least 85 percent of the grapes used to make that wine much come from within the AVA boundaries. When experienced wine drinkers are ready to taste and size up new wines, an AVA can be an informative starting point.
Henk selected these wines for Intrepid Connoisseurs because, “They are complex, distinctive, memorable expressions of North Carolina terroir.”
Red: Petit Verdot Reserve, Jones Von Drehle Vineyards and Winery, Thurmond
This robust Petit Verdot Reserve ages in French Oak for 52 months. It’s smooth, yet bold, and has notes of dark plum, cedar, leather, dried blueberries, and blackberry jam. Petit Verdot grape is best known as a minor blending grape in various Bordeaux blends, but can make an intensely bold, fruity wine when standing on its own.
White: Rkatsiteli, Daveste Vineyards, Troutman
This pale Rkatsiteli is dry, lightly acidic, and full of flavor. An initial burst of citrus develops into light honey notes with a lingering floral finish. Rkatsiteli grapes are an ancient pale-skinned variety from the Republic of Georgia, the oldest wine-producing region on earth. Daveste is one of only a handful of U.S. vineyards that grow and produce Rkatsiteli.
Rosé: Rosé, Parker-Binns Vineyard, Mill Spring
This dry, Provençal-style Rosé has the color of dried pale pink rose petals. Made from Merlot grapes, the nose is very floral with hints of rose interlaced with honeysuckle and pear. The flavor is bright with an acidic beginning, delicate and complex mid-palate, and smooth mineral finish.
Native: Norton, Grove Winery, Gibsonville
Norton is a robust wine with big fruit flavors, hints of clove on the nose, and a nice, tart finish. It’s made from native Norton grapes, once considered among the best red wine grapes in the world. Destruction of Norton grapevines during prohibition nearly wiped it out, so it’s rare and relatively unknown these days, although it’s making a comeback in certain Southeastern states, including North Carolina.