Pinot Noir Pinot Noir’s acidity provides a pop of fresh, fruity tartness that lightens up a heavy meal.
Tastes like: Red cherry, raspberry, and currant spiked with earthy, herbal elements.
Worth noting: To maximize Pinot Noir’s bright character, try serving the light-bodied wine a bit cooler than other reds—30 minutes in the refrigerator or five minutes in an ice bucket will do the trick.
2009 King Estate Acrobat Pinot Noir, Oregon, $18
2010 Kris Pinot Noir, Italy, $14
2010 Estancia Pinot Noir, California, $16
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Balanced and medium-bodied, Malbec is lush and complex—a perfect choice for wintry weather.
Tastes like: Blackberry and plum combined with mocha and velvety vanilla.
Worth noting: The clear, strong flavors of Malbec also make it a good choice for cooking: Just a splash adds depth to gravies, sauces, and marinades.
2010 Cupcake Vineyards Malbec, Argentina, $14
2009 High Note Malbec, Argentina, $13
2009 Michael Torino Don David Malbec Reserve, Argentina, $16
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The red wines from this grape are powerful and decadent—and not to be confused with the sweet, blush-colored white Zinfandel (made with the same grape but with very different results).
Tastes like: Juicy black cherry, raisin, and blackberry, with spicy hints of cracked black pepper, cloves, and cedar.
Worth noting: The grape’s high sugar content can translate into elevated levels of alcohol, which may overwhelm lighter dishes, so seek out bottles with 15 percent or less alcohol by volume (ABV).
2010 Big House Cardinal Zin Beastly Old Vines, California, $10
2008 Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, California, $15
2008 Joel Gott Zinfandel, California, $17
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Riesling Lively and bright, this grape is fruity without being cloying.
Tastes like: Apple, peach, and citrus, with an invigorating mineral touch.
Worth noting: Opt for a Riesling marked “dry” (if the wine is from Germany, it will often say “trocken” on the label). If you want something slightly sweeter, choose “off-dry” (“halbtrocken” in German).
2010 Salmon Run Riesling, New York, $12
2010 S.A. Prüm Essence Riesling, Germany, $14
2008 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Riesling, Australia, $15
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Gewürz means “spiced” in German, and this exotic and aromatic medium-bodied varietal (pronounced Guh-vurts-trah-mee-ner) lives up to its name.
Tastes like: Ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, with a layer of tropical notes—think guava and lychee.
Worth noting: A hint of sweetness makes Gewürztraminer a particularly good grape to pair with pecan and pumpkin pies.
There’s a reason Chardonnay is so popular. Full-bodied and satisfying, it has a delicious crispness that keeps it from being too rich.
Tastes like: Honey and butterscotch balanced with the pucker of green apples and lemon.
Worth noting: The intensely oaky, buttery qualities of some California Chardonnays can overwhelm even robust dishes, so look for brisker versions from France or South Africa, or seek out Chardonnays marked “unoaked” or “naked.”
2010 Indaba Chardonnay, South Africa, $10
2009 Domaine de la Patience Chardonnay, France, $13