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8 wines every newbie should know

As the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival goes live, round up your friends and drink your way around the globe from the comfort of your own home this year. With hundreds of bottles available to order from the online wine cellar, get your glasses ready to pour home measures of all your favourite red, white and sparkling wines. Want to take things to the next level? Discover amazing wine pairings with award-winning nibbles created by master chefs and delivered direct to your door. What’s more, you can hone your knowledge with live-streamed tasting classes led by industry experts while sampling all these pre-ordered delights. Brush up on these eight essential wines to really impress your guests. What better way to connect than over a glass of wine?  


8 common terms for wine lovers



The smell of a wine in the glass. Aromas can include floral, citrus, fruity and earthy.



A wine with refreshing acidity.



Not to be confused with a lack of moisture. In winespeak, dry actually means not sweet.



The impression a wine leaves as you swallow it.



Bringing flavours of fruits but not necessarily implying sweetness.



Describing a wine that tastes smoky and toasty.



A red wine leaves the mouth feeling dry the same way that putting a wet tea bag on your tongue would.


Old World and New World

Old World wines refer to the traditional wine-producing regions of Europe, whereas New World refers to everywhere else in the world.


Wine 101


Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, or if you’re too cool to use the full name, Cab Sav, is a rich tannic red wine. Holding a glass instantly makes you look classier.

  • Grown in nearly every major wine country
  • Tastes more floral in those from Bordeaux, while wines from California bring a little black pepper and vanilla into the mix 

Food pairing: with its substantial tannins, the perfect match for a Cabernet Sauvignon is lamb. Any dish that incorporates barbecue lamb ribs works absolute magic with it.



A softer alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, the smoothness and easy aftertaste of Merlot makes it a brilliant option for red wine beginners.

  • Popular in the Bordeaux wine regions
  • Roasted and earthy flavours from cool climates like France and Italy; fruit-centric, often cherry, and dashes of chocolate from warmer climates like Australia and Argentina

Food pairing: a lush fruit-driven grape that can produce some seriously hefty wines on any continent — Merlot makes for a spectacular feast for your taste buds when paired with beef and lamb.


Pinot Noir

Don’t let the lightness in colour and subtle flavours fool you, Pinot Noir is pricier on average than other red wine, due to difficulties in growing the grape.

  • Most commonly from the Burgundy region of France
  • Tends to have flavours like cherries, raspberries and strawberries

Food pairing: to combat its signature red fruit flavours, crisp acidity and low tannin, the best way to enjoy Pinot Noir is with savoury dishes. Salty flavours are your friend here.



Thanks to its bold berry and jam-like flavours and aromas, Zinfandel can really pack a punch. It also tends to have higher alcohol levels, ranging from about 14–17 per cent, so take it slow and savour every sip.

  • California vineyards are experts in Zinfandel; try varietals from Napa Valley
  • Sweet and fruity with a spicy and tobacco-like smoky finish

Food pairing: a monster in the red wine family, Zinfandel is charged with everything from fruits to oak and tannins too, which means any food pairing with this wine needs to be just as bold.



Moscato is perfect for beginners and people with low tolerance thanks to its low-alcohol levels, often around five to seven per cent.

  • From Asti in Montferrat, Piedmont, Italy
  • A slightly bubbly dessert-style wine with hints of fruity flavours like peach, apricot and nectarine thrown in

Food pairing: desserts are the best part of a meal and Moscato can take your dessert to the next level. You’re guaranteed to finish the meal with a satisfying smile on your face.


Sauvignon Blanc

One of the most popular white wines in the world, Sauvignon Blanc is not only affordable, but also satisfyingly crisp and fresh. It’s not difficult to see why Sauvignon Blanc is a popular choice.

  • Originated in the Bordeaux region of France
  • Taste flavours of zesty lime with examples from cooler climates but carries more tropical fruit notes like peach from warmer climates

Food pairing: this super popular white wine is well-loved for its cocktail of tropical fruits, gooseberry bush, freshly cut grass and sometimes oaky flavours. But those fruity aromas can overwhelm delicate dishes. Note to self: it’s all about balance.



Looking for something a little richer and smoother? Chardonnay does the trick. With hints of creaminess, chards are suitable for red wine lovers who are trying to switch things up.

  • Originated in the Burgundy wine region of Eastern France
  • Taste tropical fruits like banana and mango in warm climates such as California and more zesty tones and poached pear from locations like Australia and New Zealand

Food pairing: the great thing about Chardonnay is its versatility, making it very easy to pair with most food. It works very well with ingredients like pork belly, fish and even chicken sandwiches.



Intense, sweet with a perfume-like aroma, a sip of Riesling is like a run through a flower field.

  • The most popular and priciest Rieslings come from Germany and the Alsace region of France
  • Ranging from very dry to sparkling, the wine’s natural high acidity makes it a great wine for aging

Food pairing: Riesling is made for Asian food! The hint of residual sugar that many Rieslings have makes it a great pairing for any Asian food packed with umami, saltiness or bitterness.


And finally: 5 tips to enjoy your wine and food pairings

  • Number one, always start with a wine you know you enjoy!
  • Pair light-bodied wine with lighter dishes and full-bodied wine with heavier fare.
  • Wine pairing is more complex than simply matching white wine with fish and red wine with meat, but you can’t go wrong sticking to that rule if you feel overwhelmed.
  • Another general rule of thumb is that wine should be sweeter than the food pairing. Otherwise the dish becomes more bitter and tart as the meal goes on.
  • Don’t limit yourself by food pairings. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with mixing and matching whichever wine with whatever dish you fancy.

Now that you’ve embarked on your wine journey, why not take it a step further and host your own blind tasting party?




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