Pop. Pour. Swish. Sniff. Sip.
It’s safe to assume that most students don’t routinely go through the five steps necessary for a good wine tasting, especially since a cheap box of Franzia is the most experience some students have had with wine.[wine3] This college student’s guide to wine should help the wine-shy start to think outside the box.
“I think more people would be interested in wine if they tried a few of them,” said Kendra Wasilewski, a hospitality business senior. “I think people think there is one type of wine – red – when, really, there are so many different tasting wines.”
“Wine is a food group, really, and there’s an extreme amount of nutritional benefits,” said Gerard Logan, a teaching assistant for two wine classes at MSU. He is a firm believer in red wine for cardiovascular health.
For Wasilewski, wine is a healthy and moderated ritual. She drinks wine with meals or just to relax, rather than for the buzz. Wasilewski thinks wine is often forgotten because beer fits in more with how someone would stereotype the MSU drinking atmosphere. “I don’t think that many people know about wine, not because it is more classy, but because they are probably more concerned with picking up the case of Busch Light for thirsty Thursday,” she said. Wasilewski suggests tapping into something outside Busch.
“Part of focusing on quality is going outside of just the experience of the alcohol itself, particularly for wine,” said Becky Allen, the alcohol, tobacco and other drugs health educator at Olin Health Center. Take a chance, and you might actually discover you like it.
The basics:
Table wines–They’re on your table (and if they’re not, they should be). These are the reds and whites that complement a meal. Whites are usually served chilled; reds at room temperature. Reds are aged but whites usually are not.
Sparkling wines–“I wake up to bubbly,” Big Tymers sing in “Still Fly.” While waking up to bubbly might be verging on the alcoholic side of things, plenty of big-timers serve champagne to signify class and riches, but you may not know wine can also be just as deliciously bubbly. Bubbly wine is made using the same process as champagne.
Fortified wines– Ports and sherries are among the fortified wines. They’re heavier very sweet and are usually served with desserts or as an after-dinner drink.
Color Me Bad
You’re blushing!
Blush wines are pink and therefore a little more fun.[wine1] They’re sometimes considered “a girlie drink,” but that’s just silly. Wine is wine. Blushes are generally a summer drink and a bit harder to come by in the United States. “My favorite is Raspberry Riunite. It’s cheap, but it tastes like raspberry pop!” Wasilewski said.
You are sooo White
White wines are lighter than reds. They compliment meals that are similarly light. For instance, you would probably choose a red to go with spaghetti and meatballs. Logan says the socially acceptable rule is to put white wines with white meat and red wines with dark meat. He suggested a lighter dish like shellfish goes best with a sweet white wine. “You don’t want to blow the wine away with the food and vice versa,” he said.
Chardonnay–It’s a-“Oak-kay.” A full-bodied, fruity wine, it’s fermented and briefly aged in oak barrels. There may be hints of oak, butter and green apple. A California label is a good bet here.
Chablis–This is a white table wine from the Chablis region in northern France. Many are made from chardonnay grapes. Your best bet is a French label.
Pinot Grigio–It’s named after a variety of white grape. It’s a light, tangy and dry white, often with hints of apple or pear, citrus or spice. Go for an Italian label.
Riesling–It’s light and relatively sweet with a floral aroma. There can be occasional hints of peach or melon. Most originate in Germany, though they are also made in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. A German or French label is best.
Sauvignon Blanc–This is a fairly light, dry white with hints of lemongrass, green herbs or even grapefruit. This is on the opposite end of the spectrum as Chardonnay. Try a French label.
Red your mind!
Red wines are heartier than whites. The flavor is a perfect companion to a winter snowstorm. Especially if you have someone to cuddle up with over a bottle.
Cabernet–It’s smooth, real smooth, with hints of black currant, oak or black cherry. Aim for a California label.
Chianti–This one is made with loving care under the Tuscan sun. Think red-and-white checkered tablecloths and accordion serenades. Chiantis are a slightly tart, but light and tangy red. Best bet when buying: Italian label.
Merlot–The merlot grape is similar to the cabernet grape, though slightly softer and plumper, kind of like your Aunt Mildred. Remember the smell of her homecooking? This wine is wonderfully aromatic, too. It’s rich and full-bodied, with hints of rose, oak, plum and even chocolate. Merlots are frequently blended with cabernet sauvignons. Try a California label.
Pinot Noir–Made famous by a Merlot-hating Sideways, this wine’s grape is fickle and needs careful tending. Characterized by earthy aromas, this could be considered the hippie of the grape bunch. It’s considerably lighter than merlot and cabernet, and is light and fruity. Try a French, Washington or Oregon label.
Zinfandel– Don’t drip this wine on your zinny zin zin – get it all in your mouth. It’s a mild wine that ranges in color from light pink to bright red. Sweet and fruity with strong berry hints and light spice, zinfandels are not usually the first choice of the connoisseur, though high-end labels are gaining prestige. Best bet when buying is a California or Australian label.
Where can you go to refine your wine-tasting skills? [bottles]
*Beggar’s Banquet has Wine Nights every Wednesday.
*Goodrich’s Supermarket carries wines from all over the world.
*Burgdorf’s Winery, in Haslett, at www.burgdorfwinery.com
*Black Star Farms, a Suttons Bay Michigan Winery, in Leelanau County. For more information, www.blackstarfarms.com
*Nov. 5 – Winemaker’s Dinner at Zehnder’s Restaurant in Frankenmuth, www.stjulian.com.
*Nov. 10 – “Unwind With The Vine” at Hershey’s Steak & Seafood, East Lansing, will feature wines from Peninsula Cellars of Old Mission Peninsula and appetizers, 7 – 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person advance or $30 at the door, www.michiganvine.com.
[wine2]In the spirit of, well, spirits, I decided to find out exactly how students feel about wine. I conducted an informal panel of seven people on a few different wine identities and choices.
How many people actually know the differences between “good” and “bad” wine? Three thought they could tell, while four didn’t.
Among wine, beer and liquor, where would you rank the drinks of the gods? Surprisingly, three voted first, while second and third had two apiece. Of the dry, semi-dry and sweet varieties, one preferred the first, three chose the in-between, one liked sweet and one had no preference.
How important is price?. Only two went for taste when thinking of buying wine, while the other five opted for the cheap stuff.
That explains the Franzia.

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