One of the problems I encountered when I began to seriously explore wine was that I would jump around from one wine variety to another, in an attempt to taste a little bit of everything, and this caused massive confusion. I had no real concept of what types of wine had what characteristics, so I was at a loss to make intelligent choices about what wine to buy next. Early on, I was not a big fan of heavy, dense reds, but I picked up a Syrah and was (at the time) repulsed by it.

So I offer this listing (which was assembled from information gleaned at winespectator.com, though I could probably have built it de novo) as a rough guide. The early ones are generally light-tasting and easy to drink; as you proceed down the list, the wines become progressively more dense and full bodied. Use this list to choose wines to explore around taste areas you like. This can also be a useful guide in choosing what wine to go with what food--use a lower-numbered wine for light meals, or a big one for those occasions on which you go for the big steak.

  1. Beaujolais
  2. Dolcetto
  3. Rioja
  4. Chianti (not Riserva chiantis, which see less aging)
  5. Oregon Pinot Noirs
  6. Non-Italian Sangiovese varietals
  7. Cotes du Rhone
  8. Burgundy
  9. California Pinot Noir
  10. Merlots from Chile or Italy
  11. Barbera
  12. Merlots from CA or Washington state
  13. Chianti Riserva
  14. Bordeaux
  15. Ribera del Duero
  16. Brunello di Montalcino
  17. Zinfandel
  18. Cabernet Sauvignon
  19. Rhone wines (other than Cotes du Rhone)
  20. The so-called Super Tuscan blends
  21. Barolo/Barbaresco
  22. Australian Shiraz
  23. Petite Sirah

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