How to start a basic wine collection

As we edge towards the holidays, I’ve been pressed by more than a few private clients about what they should be stocking up on to imbibe during the festive season. This is an opportune time to stock up on a few party essentials, and wine is no exception. But the question I seem to be asking myself more and more these days is, “What about the rest of the year?” What should you keep around for a surprise celebration, a dismal day at the office, or something to wash down a delivery pizza?

In my home I always have on hand at least one of each: a dry rose, a dry white, a light, fruity red, and a sparkler. Changes in my personal taste, and the addition of a wife, have increased the selection a little. When you consider the suggested collection below, keep in mind your personal taste and situation, and then adjust accordingly.

Kramer

Rosé
Rosé gets a bit of a bad rap: “Rosé is for women.” “Rosé is for novice drinkers.” Phooey. A nice, crisp rose is just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer’s afternoon. And let’s face it, where we live, it’s always summer. Rosé is also quite food friendly, especially with local style seafood. If you prefer wine on the sweeter side, there are plenty of sweeter and offdry roses out there. Among them is the popular White Zinfandel from California, a sometimes sweet rosé version made from the Zinfandel grape. The rosé in my fridge is from Northern Italy, and just as good all by itself as it is paired with some yummy fresh spring rolls.

Sauvignon blanc_AcademicWino

Dry White
The hip dry white wine right now is Sauvignon Blanc. Generally the citrusyminerality and high acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc makes it a great choice for an aperitif or with simply prepared seafood (especially one with some fresh lime or other acidic accompaniment). I like a nice Sauvignon Blanc with fish and chips. An extra reason to keep a dry white wine on hand is that you need it for so many basic recipes (like pasta with clams, sautéed mushrooms, etc). A richer white (like an oaked Chardonnay) can leave an unpleasant taste when it reduces in the pan.

Light, Fruity Red
The keys to which red wine you want to stock are personal preference and flexibility. For me, the key is to find something that can go nicely with roasted chicken, just as easily as a burger or a lamb chop (or the stereotypical delivery pizza). You have a few choices out there. Look for a fruity Pinot Noir, or even a reasonably priced Chianti. Chianti (made predominantly from the Sangiovese grape) is light and earthy enough sip with some chicken sautéed with mushrooms, yet perfectly acceptable to enjoy with a slab of red meat. These lighter reds are also nice with many types of local food, try one with some beef la lot if you don’t believe me.

Windward

Sparkling
The sky’s the limit here. The market is full of sparklers. Most notably Champagne. Please be sure to buy your Champagne from a reputable stockiest (a good idea with all wines as they are not often faked here, but easily spoiled). A modest nonvintage Champagne from a prominent
house will set you back under USD100. But, if you’re on more of a budget, there are plenty of options. In my fridge is a bottle of Prosecco from Italy. This particular one is dry, but they come in other, sweeter styles. Some are even pink, if you’re feeling more festive. The Aussies like theirs red: sparkling Shiraz adds a bit of fun to almost any informal, or formal, gathering. Sparklers are also great with many types of food.

Bells and Whistles
In addition to the standard selections already outlined, you can outfit your personal cellar with other things that fit your taste. My wife likes off dry (read slightly sweet) Rieslings, so we always have one of these around. How about a port or a nice sherry? I am partial to Rioja (a Spanish wine made from mostly Tempranillo and Garancha) with a few slices of manchego cheese. But, no matter what bells and whistles you choose to add to your cellar, keeping a small supply of hard working wines on hand will round out almost any occasion. Cheers!

Bio: Michael Kloster grew up in the vineyard country west of Fresno, California. He has over 20 years of marketing, hospitality, and food and beverage experience. He is currently Senior Sales Executive for Magnum Wine Cellars. He can be contacted at michael@magnumwinecellars.com