The red-wine climb: How to go beyond the white zin

By Brittany Kress Gibson
From the May 2, 2013 edition

Sometimes, white zinfandel can be a gateway wine. But when it’s the wine you can’t get past, one of two things can happen: You’re perfectly fine with it, or you wish you could expand your palette just a bit.

Hills Market wine department managers Jan Wilson and Amanda Anderson (Worthington and Downtown locations, respectively) have coached many through such a predicament. No matter how hard you try, “you just won’t like it” if you jump from one extreme to the other, Wilson warned. Instead, start with wines that have in common what you like about white zinfandel (low alcohol content, fruity and sweet) following Wilson’s seven-step process:

Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling ($9)

It might not be syrupy sweet, but there’s plenty of apricot, apple and peach flavors in this bottle to woo the unfamiliar drinker (because late-harvest Riesling grapes are on the vine longer, they yield much sweeter wine).

New Age ($10)

The definition of easy drinking. Wilson and Anderson urged me to try this one, and it was exactly what they promised: a torrontes and sauvignon blanc blend that’s sweet, floral and just a bit bubbly. It hardly tasted like alcohol, and it would be enjoyed solo or with a fruit, cheese and cracker course.

Ferrari-Carano Bella Luce ($15)

A chardonnay-sauvignon blanc blend that’s a little drier, but still full of citrus and stone fruit flavors.

Tortoise Creek Le Verger viognier ($10)

Drier still, but honeysuckle and pear notes keep it from being too big and complex.

Tapiz malbec rose ($13)

The pinkish color of this wine should be familiar and welcome to white zinfandel drinkers. Because the red grape skins are removed from the process early, it has less of a tannic taste.

Bouchard Aine & Fils pinot noir ($12)

Finally, a red wine that’s far from heavy, with cherry, strawberry and raspberry fruits and a higher alcohol content.

Piemonte Brachetto ($15)

You made it! Celebrate with a dessert-type wine that’s floral, bubbly and full of strawberry flavors.

Photo by Meghan Ralston