Red or White Wine?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Wine can be very daunting, especially when you first start sampling it. There are so many to choose from! Where do you start? How will you know if you’ll like it? Does cost matter? When should you choose a white or a red? How are you supposed to discern these notes and flavors that are mentioned on the bottle and at tastings? Let us break it down to the basics.

First of all, don’t be afraid. Just start somewhere. Generally speaking, it’s easier to start with sweeter wines and build your palette up from there. If you have access to do a wine tasting at a winery, restaurant, or a store, go and do it. Read our blog on Wine Tasting Etiquette so you go in prepared for that experience. It will help you figure out what works best on your tongue and gives you a starting place to develop from. But let’s say you find yourself at a wine bar or nice restaurant and you want to be able to order a glass of wine, yet you have very little experience with it, what do you do? You can ask your friend what they are getting, or ask your server what they recommend, or you can just go for it. If you are just going to go for it, let’s consider these things:

Are you going to sip on this wine before dinner?

If so, let’s start you off with something off dry or semi-sweet. You don’t want one of your first glasses of wine you order for yourself to be so sweet it’s like having syrup in your mouth. Nor do you want it to be so dry that you feel like you slept with your mouth open just after one sip. Good choices to seek out are Rieslings, Chenin Blancs, and Gewurztraminers. Pay attention to the brands you order, because if you really like it, you’ll want to be able to order it again or buy a bottle to enjoy. Just keep in mind, every bottle will be different. Rieslings can be tricky, because sometimes they run sweet and sometimes dry, so it doesn’t hurt to read the label or ask questions.

Are you going to drink the wine with dinner?

Now you want to consider what you are eating before you order that glass of wine. Ultimately, you’ll want to drink what you like, but wine flavors and textures change with the food you eat. So, if you are going to order a salad, fish, chicken or a pasta with white sauce or pesto, go with a white. You might make a slightly bolder selection than mentioned above so that you can still taste it, and have it compliment the food. Good choices to seek out are: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, or Sauvignon Blanc. Just like with the off dries and semi-sweets, every bottle will be different. Chardonnay’s can be buttery, sometimes they are very citrusy and tart. Usually, they are somewhere in the middle. Make sure to keep track of what you try and like and don’t like. You don’t want to reorder something yucky.

If you are going to have beef, lamb or something with a red sauce, order a red wine. Pork can go either way, so you’ll just have to be bold and decide which route you want to go. Red wines are something most people must learn to drink, because it can be really dry and bitey if your palate isn’t accustomed to it. Since we are going with the thought of being new to wine, we are going to try and steer clear of those that will potentially be too much for a novice. Pinot Noirs, Merlots and Red Blends are great wines to experiment with when eating red meats and sauces.

Are you going to drink the wine with dessert?

This is when we want to go with that really sweet wine. Look for Ports, ice wines, late harvest wines, Moscatos or Malvasia Bianca. Even something labeled a sweet red would work. These are usually a blend of some sort.

Buying wine at the store.

Now you are at the store and you want to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy or take as a gift. What do you do? There is so much to choose from!! Don’t panic. The more details on the bottle, the better – don’t fall for fancy pictures. Don’t stress over the age. Don’t let price dictate what you buy. Plenty of $10 bottles of wine are award winners. Do consider the flavors you like and the occasion or meal it will be consumed with. If you are looking for a crowd pleaser, grab a bottle of red and a bottle of white. A Merlot and a Chardonnay are always safe to take as gifts.

The appreciation of wine comes with time and practice. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You won’t like it all, but you will uncover things that you love. You may never reach the point that you love a dry Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s ok. Not every wine was made for every palate. You will be surprised that you will be able to enjoy drier wines over time, if you keep trying new things.


Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.