Wine

Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of fruit, usually grapes. There are four broad categories: table wines, sparkling wines, fortified wines, and fruit wines. Table wines are the most common, and they're grouped by color--red, white, and blush, which is sometimes called rosé. A red wine should be served at room temperature, and it goes well with hearty, meat-based dishes like steak and spaghetti. White and blush wines should be served chilled, and they go best with lighter fare, like fish and chicken. Many wines, called varietals, are named after the variety of grape used to make them. Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir are popular red varietals, while Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Johannisberg Riesling are popular white ones. In Europe, some wines, often blends of different varietals, are named after the place where the wine is produced, like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Rhine, and Rhône. These European wines are often superb, but American wines that have borrowed these regional names, like California Chablis, are almost always mediocre. If you're buying a domestic wine, it's often better to go with a varietal, like a California Cabernet Sauvignon.
aromatized wine
These are wines, like vermouth and retsina, that have been flavored, usually with herbs and spices.
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Banyuls
This is a red dessert wine that's produced in France. It's one of the few wines that's good with chocolate.
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Barbera
Barbera
This is a hearty red wine that's usually blended into jug wines, but sometimes sold as an inexpensive varietal wine
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Beaujolais
Beaujolais
This is a region in Eastern France that produces light, fruity, fresh-tasting red wines that are relatively low in alcohol. Beaujolais wines should be drunk while young.
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berry wine
berry wine
These wines are made from berries, including blackberries, loganberries, cranberries, elderberries, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi fruit, boysenberries, and currants. They tend to be very sweet, and some are fortified to raise the alcohol level. They're usually served chilled as a beverage, or poured on ice cream or fruit as a dessert.
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black muscat wine
black muscat wine
This is a late harvest dessert wine made with black muscat grapes and sometimes fortified with brandy. Unlike many dessert wines, it goes well with chocolate.
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blush Wine, pink wine, rose wine, rosé wine
blush Wine
"Blush" is displacing "rosé" as the name given to pink wines, though some people use the name rosé to describe darker pink wines. Whatever name you give them, they're usually made from red grapes that are only allowed to ferment a few days--too short a time for the grape skins to impart a deeper color to the wine. The result is a pink, fruity wine that's best served chilled and goes best with poultry, seafood, and spicy dishes. These wines are quite popular, but wine snobs think they're boring. Don't cook with these wines--they aren't flavorful enough.
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Bordeaux wine (red), claret
Bordeaux wine (red)
The Bordeaux region in France produces excellent red wines, especially in the districts of Médoc, Haut-Médoc, and St. Emilion. These wines are rich and complex, and usually made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes. Bordeaux wines with the generic label "Bordeaux Wine" usually aren't as good as those with more specific appellations, like "St. Emilion Wine." Red Bordeaux wines go especially well with lamb and poultry.
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Bordeaux wine (white)
Bordeaux wine (white)
The Bordeaux region in France is renown for its red wines, but it also produces excellent white wines, made with Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes.
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Burgundy wine (red)
Burgundy wine (red)
Burgundy is a region in eastern France that produces excellent red wines, but the Burgundy wines produced in the United States are usually inexpensive jug wines made from different grape varieties.
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Burgundy wine (white)
Burgundy wine (white)
Burgundy is a region in eastern France that produces excellent red and white wines. Some of the better wine-producing areas in Burgundy are Chablis and Pouilly-Fuissé, both of which produce exquisite white wines from Chardonnay grapes. Burgundy wines produced in the United States are usually inexpensive blends of different grape varieties.
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Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc grapes are related to Cabernet Sauvignon, but they make for a lighter, fruitier wine. The wine is often blended with others, but sometimes sold as a varietal wine.
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Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes make a hearty, complex red wine that's especially good with roasted meats and heavy stews. Domestic Cabernets are often excellent.
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Chablis
Chablis
If made in France, this is a very dry, delicately flavored white wine that's made with Chardonnay grapes. It's great with seafood, especially oysters. If made domestically, like a California Chablis, it's a sweet and cheap jug wine.
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Chardonnay, Pinot Chardonnay
Chardonnay
This elegant white varietal wine is crisp and dry, and great with seafood, poultry, ham, egg dishes, salads, and any dish with a rich cream sauce. California Chardonnays are often excellent.
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Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This is a village in Provence that's known for its excellent red wines, which are blended from as many as 13 grape varieties. These wines tend to be pricey.
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Chenin blanc, White Pinot
Chenin blanc
This is a grape variety that's often blended with others to make inexpensive white jug wines and domestic Chablis. It's relatively inexpensive and goes well with salads, seafood, poultry, ham, and spicy foods.
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Chianti
Chianti
A lot of cheap domestic red wines go by this name, but the real thing comes from Tuscany and has a seal of authenticity on the neck. Italian Chianti is a hearty wine that's great with Italian food
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cold duck
cold duck
This is a sweetened blend of sparkling wines. It's cheap and tastes like it.
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cooking wine
cooking wine
You should never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink, but some "cooking wines" sold at stores violate this maxim. Avoid them and instead cook with inexpensive, but drinkable, table wines. Avoid putting wine in aluminum or iron pans for prolonged periods.
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de-alcoholized wine, dealcoholized wine
de-alcoholized wine
These aren't as flavorful as ordinary wine, but they're a good choice for people who want to drink wine without consuming alcohol. Sparkling wines are the most popular de-alcoholized wines, but other varieties are also available. Many brands contain small amounts of alcohol.
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Dessert Wine
Dessert Wine
These are sweet wines that are served with (or instead of) dessert. Examples include fortified wines like port and sherry, and late harvest wines, which are made from grapes that have shriveled a bit, concentrating their sweetness. As a rule of thumb, a dessert wine should always be sweeter than the dessert it accompanies.
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dry vermouth, French vermouth, white vermouth
dry vermouth
Dry means "not sweet", and this popular style of vermouth is used to make many cocktails, including the martini.
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Fortified Wine
Fortified Wine
These are wines that have been fortified with brandy and sometimes flavored with herbs, roots, peels, and spices. The most popular examples are sherry, Madeira, Marsala, port, and vermouth. Fortified wines are often used in cooking, or they're served as apéritifs or dessert wines.
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French Colombard
This is a variety of grape that's often made into white jug wine.
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fruit wine
fruit wine
This is wine made from fruit other than grapes.
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Gamay, Gamay Noir
Gamay
This name is given to American red wines made mostly from Pinot Noir and Valdiguie grapes. It's an unexceptional fruity wine that goes best with hearty dishes that have rich sauces. Don't confuse this wine with Gamay or Napa Gamay, both of which are superior. The name Gamay Beaujolais is scheduled to be phased out by 2007.
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Gamay Beaujolais
Gamay Beaujolais
This name is given to American red wines made mostly from Pinot Noir and Valdiguie grapes. It's an unexceptional fruity wine that goes best with hearty dishes that have rich sauces. Don't confuse this wine with Gamay or Napa Gamay, both of which are superior. The name Gamay Beaujolais is scheduled to be phased out by 2007.
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Gewürztraminer, Gewurztraminer, Traminer
Gewürztraminer
German and domestic versions of this white wine are somewhat sweet, flowery, and relatively low in alcohol. They're very good with curry and spicy Asian food. Imports from Alsace tend to be drier and are excellent with seafood and poultry.
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hard cider
hard cider
This is low-alcohol wine that's made from apples. It's fairly sweet, and especially popular in Normandy.
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Johannisberg Riesling, White Riesling
Johannisberg Riesling
This is a grape variety that produces a fragrant, fresh-tasting white wine that's great with ham, sausages, smoked fish, shellfish, or spicy Asian food. It's the grape that's used to make excellent Rhine wines in Germany. Don't confuse these excellent wines with domestic Riesling wines, which are usually made with inferior cousins of the Johanissberg Riesling grape. Late harvest Johannisberg Rieslings are very sweet, and make excellent dessert wines.
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Kosher wine, Passover wine
Kosher wine
This is wine that's been made in accordance with Rabbinical law. Most people think of them as syrupy-sweet screw-top wines made with Concord grapes, but some kosher wines are now being produced that are indistinguishable from quality non-kosher wines. Unless pasteurized, a wine can only remain kosher if it's poured by an observant Jew. Bottles of pasteurized wine sport the label "mevushal."
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late harvest wine, eiswein, Ice wine, icewine
late harvest wine
These pricey wines are produced from grapes that are picked late in the season, after they've shriveled a bit on the vine. This concentrates the sugar and allows producers to turn the grapes into sweet, rich dessert wines. Some of the best late harvest wines are made from grapes that have become moldy with the Botrytis cinerea fungus (also known as "noble rot"). The fungus pokes holes in the grape skins, allowing more water to evaporate. Ice wine = icewine = eiswein is an especially sweet and expensive kind of late harvest wine in which the dehydrated grapes are allowed to freeze on the vine, resulting in a very sweet wine. These and other late harvest wines are often sold in half-bottles, and are best drunk by themselves or with fruit or light desserts. Don't serve them with chocolate or very sweet desserts.
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Madeira, Boal Madeira, Bual Madeira, Malmsey Madeira, Malvasia Madeira
Madeira
This fortified wine is named for its birthplace, an island off the coast of Africa. Madeira wines first became popular back in the days of cross-Atlantic sailing ships, because they were able to survive long, hot trips in rolling ships. And they didn't just survive, they actually improved, so much so that sending them off on long round-trip sea voyages eventually became an integral part of their production, though the practice has since been abandoned. Madeiras are used both for cooking, and as after-dinner drinks. Varieties of Madeira (in order from driest to sweetest) include the Sercial Madeira, Rainwater Madeira, Verdelho Madeira, Bual Madeira = Boal Madeira, and Malvasia Madeira = Malmsey Madeira. "Reserve" Madeiras are aged at least five years, "special reserve" for at least ten, and "extra reserve" for at least fifteen. Madeiras from Portugal are considered to be far superior to domestic brands. Once opened, Madeira should be consumed within a week or so and stored in the refrigerator.
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Malbec
Malbec
This red wine is similar to Merlot. It's a good choice if you want a decent but inexpensive red wine to serve with red meat and pasta.
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Marsala
Marsala
This popular Sicilian fortified wine is Italy's answer to sherry and Madeira. It's mostly used as a cooking wine and is a key ingredient in many Italian dishes, including zabaglione, tiramisu, and veal scaloppini. Marsalas are graded according to their sweetness and age. The sweetest Marsalas are called "dolce," followed by "demisecco," and then "secco," which are the driest. Ranked from youngest to oldest, the age grades are "fine," "superiore," "superiore riserva," "vergine," and "stravecchio."
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mead, honey wine
mead
Made from fermented honey, mead is one of mankind's oldest alcoholic beverages.
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Merlot
Merlot
This is a hearty red wine that's similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon, but softer and less tannic. It goes especially well with pork, turkey, and pasta dishes.
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mirin, sweet rice wine, sweet sake
mirin
This is a very sweet Japanese rice wine that's used to flavor rice and sauces. It's not usually consumed as a beverage. Aji mirin is salted, so adjust the recipe accordingly.
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Muscadet
Muscadet
This is a district in Brittany, France, that produces a crisp, light white wine that's especially good with seafood. Always serve it chilled. Don't confuse this with Muscatel or Muscat, which are both dessert wines.
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Muscat, Moscatel, Moscato, Muscadel, Muscatel
Muscat
This is a sweet and fruity dessert wine made from Muscat grapes. Don't confuse it with Muscadet, which is a dry white wine.
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perry
This is wine that's made from pears. It's usually somewhat sweet, and with a low alcohol content.
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Petite Syrah, Petite Sirah
Petite Syrah
This is a grape variety which produces an excellent red wine that's very dark and often described as "peppery." Don't confuse Petite Syrah with Syrah, another red varietal wine.
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Pinot blanc
Pinot blanc
This is a good, but unexceptional, dry white wine that's good with seafood and poultry.
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Pinot Grigio, Pinot gris
Pinot Grigio
This is a dry white wine that goes especially well with seafood. Pinot Grigio is the Italian name, Pinot Gris the French.
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Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir
This earthy red varietal wine goes best with beef, ham, poultry, salmon, or tuna. Unfortunately, making it is tricky business, so the quality varies tremendously. A good one will be expensive and sublime.
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plum wine
plum wine
These are wines that are made from plums. Some producers leave the stones in while the plums are fermenting, giving the wine a bit of almond flavoring as well.
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port, port wine, ruby ports, tawny ports, Vintage ports, wood ports
port
This is a sweet Portuguese fortified wine that's sipped as an after-dinner drink, or used as a cooking ingredient. Vintage ports are the best, but they are very expensive. The sediment at the bottom of the bottle is a sign of quality. Crusted or late-bottled vintage ports are both less expensive and less elegant. Cheaper yet are the lighter and fruitier wood ports, which include the tawny ports and the lowly ruby ports. Wood ports don't age well in the bottle, so try to drink them within a year or two of purchase. Once opened, port should be consumed within a week or so and stored in the refrigerator.
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Pouilly-Fuissé
Pouilly-Fuissé
This is an area in the Burgundy region of France that's renown for its exquisite white wines. Made with Chardonnay grapes, these wines are great with seafood and hors d'oeuvres.
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