Embarking on your wine journey should be an enjoyable and enriching experience. But in a world of hundreds of varieties of wine and thousands of types of grapes, knowing where to begin is an adventure all by itself. But fear not, future oenophile – in this guide you’ll explore a selection of approachable wines that will help develop your palate and ignite a passion for the humble grape.
Best White Wines for Beginners
Whether you begin your foray into the world of wine with a white or a red is entirely up to you. However, white wines have a lighter body and are easier on the palate than reds, making them a good place to start.
Sauvignon Blanc is a refreshing white wine that offers a vibrant and zesty profile. Hailing from many places in the world, New Zealand, France’s Loire Valley, and California are known for showcasing it especially well.This wine boasts flavors of citrus, green apple, and tropical fruits.Its lively acidity and aromatic nature make it an excellent starting point for those new to wine.
One of my favorites from New Zealand that is very accessible for a beginner is Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc: https://www.totalwine.com/wine/white-wine/sauvignon-blanc/oyster-bay-sauvignon-blanc/p/96009750
Chardonnay is one of the world’s most widely planted white grape varieties, offering a diverse range of tastes to suit any preference. Beginners may find it helpful to start with “unoaked” or “lightly oaked” varieties, which emphasize the flavors of fruit and minerality without an overwhelming oak influence. Look forbottles from Chablis inBurgundy, Franceto experience an un-oaked Chardonnay, which will be crisp, light, and have minerality. Chardonnay from California may feature notes of ripe apple and tropical fruit with a hint of vanilla from the oak barrels it’s typically aged in.
For an un-oaked style of Chardonnay, try a Chablis by William Fevre: https://www.wine.com/product/william-fevre-chablis-domaine-2020/1157864
Riesling comes in a variety of styles ranging from bone-dry to lusciously sweet. Originating from Germany, France, and Australia, this white wine boasts a distinct profile of floral aromas with a vibrant acidity. Notes of green apple, peach and citrus deliver a refreshing and bright drinking experience.
Experience a slightly sweet style from the Mosel in Germany when you try Dr. Loosen’s Blue Slate Kabinett Riesling: https://www.wine.com/product/dr-loosen-blue-slate-riesling-kabinett-2021/1034574
Known for its versatility, light-body, and refreshing characteristics, Pinot Grigio appeals to connoisseurs and beginners alike. With flavors of vibrant citrus and underlying hints of green apple, pear, and a touch of minerality, its high acidity and clean finish make it a perfect choice for those seeking an easy-drinking white wine. (Can you say, “Patio Season?”)
Get a taste of Northern Italy with this Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio: https://www.wine.com/product/ecco-domani-pinot-grigio-2021/1034597
With its low alcohol content, luscious flavors, and delicate effervescence, Moscato has captured the hearts of wine lovers with a penchant for sweetness and touch of indulgence. Showcasing aromas of fresh flowers, ripe peaches, apricots, and citrus zest, this sweet white wine is well-balanced by a vibrant acidity for a harmonious, refreshing taste.
I really enjoy thisMoscatod’Asti by Vietti winery in Northern Italy! https://www.wine.com/product/vietti-moscato-dasti-2022/1225943
No wine list for beginners would be complete without one that sparkles. Prosecco, from the Veneto region of Italy, is a fantastic intro into the world of bubbly. Its bubbly character and crisp flavors of green apple, pear, and florals make it a crowd-pleasing option for celebrations and brunches alike. Prosecco also tends to be more affordable than champagne, offering a delicious and accessible choice for beginners.
Try this accessible Prosecco by Bisol: https://www.wine.com/product/bisol-jeio-prosecco-brut/92412
Best Red Wines for Beginners
As you develop your palate, I recommend starting with simple, fruit-forward red wines that are easy to drink. Once you know what you like (and what you don’t) you’ll come to better appreciate more complex, full-bodied varieties.
Often called the “heartbreak grape” due to its delicate nature, Pinot Noir is a light-bodied red wine loved for its elegance and versatility. With flavors of red berries, cherry, and earthy undertones, Pinot Noir offers a delightful balance between fruitiness and complexity. Its smooth tannins make it a great starting point for future red wine lovers. Pinot Noir is grown all over the world in a wide range of styles, but a bottle from the Sonoma Coast in California is a great place to start.
I love Failla’s Pinot Noirs from Sonoma Coast: https://www.wine.com/product/failla-sonoma-coast-pinot-noir-2021/1011150
Merlot, a grape variety known for its softness and approachability, offers a velvety mouthfeel paired with flavors of plum, black cherry and blackberry. Notes of chocolate, vanilla, and herbs add complexity, but moderate tannins and lower acidity make Merlot an accessible choice for both novices and enthusiasts. Look for bottles from Bordeaux, France or US regions like Napa Valley and Washington State.
Sip on this Merlot from Washington State, a very affordable option for beginners: https://www.wine.com/product/14-hands-merlot-2020/1365481
Zinfandel is a versatile and distinctive red wine featuring a wide range of styles, from light and fruity to bold and robust. Its medium to full body, moderate tannins, and balanced acidity contribute to the overall approachability and enjoyable nature of this wine. Known for juicy flavors of ripe berries and plum accompanied by notes of spice, pepper, and a hint of jammy sweetness, Zinfandel offers a diverse wine experience that showcases the bold flavors of California winemaking.
This Zinfandel from Sonoma is an excellent option by Seghesio: https://www.wine.com/product/seghesio-sonoma-zinfandel-2021/1184011
This delightful pink-hued wine deserves its own special mention in the realm of wine appreciation. Blending the crispness of a white wine and the fruitiness of a red, Rosé captures the essence of summer in a bottle. Ranging from bone-dry to slightly sweet, Rosé offers a spectrum of flavors, including ripe strawberries, watermelon, citrus zest, and floral undertones. Its lively and approachable nature make it an excellent choice for anyone seeking a vibrant and elegant sip. The Côtes de Provence styles are dry (not sweet), and are widely accessible for beginners, although quality rosé is made all over the world.
I encourage you to try out one of my favorite provencial rosés by Chateau Minuty: https://www.wine.com/product/chateau-minuty-m-rose-2022/1258323
Feeling a bit bolder? Originally from France, but now predominantly associated with Argentina, Malbec is a full-bodied red wine with a dark and intense color. With rich flavors of blackberry, plum, chocolate, and a hint of spice, Malbec’s velvety tannins and moderate acidity give this wine a smooth drinkability and well-rounded mouthfeel. An excellent option when you’re ready to sample a more complex profile.
I recommended starting with this Malbec from Mendoza by Catena: https://www.wine.com/product/catena-malbec-2020/1229688
And remember – taste is subjective, and your options are vast. Whether you explore beyond these recommendations or stick with what you love, there is no wrong way to enjoy a glass of wine.
Decided on a bottle and ready to taste? Check out our blog post with tips that will have you tasting wine like a pro in no time: https://theonlinewinecourse.com/how-to-taste-wine-like-a-pro/
Ready to go even deeper? Learn the basics of wine in one afternoon with my Online Wine course – featuring over 60 high-quality videos, 16 quizzes, and a comprehensive final exam to test your knowledge: https://theonlinewinecourse.com/wine-course/