January 10, 2023 by Arden Montgomery

Bringing Back Wine Basics

We’re going back to basics, baby!

There’s a world of viticultural delights out there, but when you’re just getting started in the world of tasting, pairing, and sharing about wines, it’s always good to start with the most familiar and iconic varietals available. 

Let’s be clear – there’s nothing pedestrian about the basic wines in our collection, but they do generously offer an accessible and delicious stepping stone into more complex tasting experiences. They are after all foundational to the wine world as we know it.

So let’s get back to our roots and take a look at a few favorite and recognizable bottles from our cellars. 

The Basics of Wine

Basic really depends on your point of view: where you are in the world, what the traditions of your culture may be, what varieties of wine are accessible. Something which is absolutely astounding to someone else may be foundational to you, and we acknowledge this truth. 

So here’s how we’re thinking about it: when you walk into your local Trader Joe’s, what varietals are flagged in the wine section? That’s the metric we’re going with here

You’ll notice almost immediately that all of the varietals listed have distinctly French-sounding names. And that’s because many of these originated or were made popular via the viticultural traditions within the country of France. As a nation, France has founded many of the winemaking practices and standards which the rest of the world now follows –  a fact which may help to further explain why we hold these grapes as fundamental.

So, today we’ll be taking a look at:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Syrah
  • Riesling
  • And Sauvignon Blanc

Let’s go!

Favorite basic wines from the Argaux cellars

  • 2020 Norris Ribbon Ridge Dry Riesling – $35
    Riesling is beloved for its light body, medium sweetness, and fruit-forward palate. The more saccharine varieties can edge on the side of desserty-ness, but it’s closer to a fruit tart than a chocolate cake, if you know what I mean. The Norris shakes things up a bit with a drier experience that is no less delicious and offers a crispness which is rare to find in other Riesling bottles.
  • 2018 Piro Presqu’ile Vineyard Pinot Noir – $44
    Pinot Noirs are typically lighter-bodied, with silky smooth tannins that coax white-wine-only evangelists into the redder side of things. Always a fan favorite and truly foundational to many global viticultural trads, the power of this grape is exemplified in the fruity, herbaceous, and food-friendly Piro.
  • 2020 Cargaux Syrah – $45
    Syrahs are not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are oh-so worth it for the oenophiles who can stick it out. She’s big and bold, with a bodacious body that expertly balances acidity with sweetness, toning down the sometimes dry and chewy experience this grape offers. The Cargaux Syrah is a collaboration between Argaux and the Carhartt family, and we think it’s a delicious example that’s ready-made to appear at your next beach BBQ.
  • 2020 Wonderland Project No. 9 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon – $55
    Talk about a big wine. Cab Sauvs are not most newbie’s first choice when they’re just getting to know the reds – and yet this tannin-forward, acid-forward, fruit-forward, body-forward wine is still the most popular variety in the world. And the Atlas Peak is an elevated take on the varietal, with notes of cherry, chocolate and florals on the tongue – Michelin-rated restaurants love, love, love it!
  • 2021 Von Winning Sauvignon Blanc II – $25
    A dry wine that lures you in by pretending to be sweeter than it is – citrus and florals make the list on many tasting descriptions. The Von Winning bottle is fruity and green, a perfect refreshment following a friendly game of flag football or a day at the river.
  • 2021 Weingut Griesbauerhof Alto Adige Pinot Grigio – $28
    In contrast to the Sauvy B, Pinot Grigios aren’t as dry, but their tangy tasting profiles rich with fruits and sometimes a little funk convince our tongues that they’re more bite than bark. But we know better, and we love it. And this bottle is loyal to the genre, but still rises above the rest with an exquisite texture and a palate of apple, stone fruit, nut, and rock.
  • 2020 No Name Santa Barbara County Chardonnay – $30
    It’s soccer-mom basic and at this point she’s owning it, but don’t forget Chardonnay is the founding grape in many other famous and genre-defining wine traditions. She’s flexible, too, with a palate that can express in wildly different ways depending on how the grapes are fermented. This California Chard leans deliciously into the oaked variety with a palate like a sweet French bakery on a sunny provincial afternoon.

Other offerings from Argaux

Getting to know the basics of the wine world is one great and delicious way to begin a fruitful education in viticulture. And to help you learn even more about the world of wine, we’ve put together a little kit that makes honing your powers of perception into a fun and meaningful game. 

Our Blind Wine Tasting Kit comes with 2 to 4 mixed or red wines which are strategically wrapped to conceal their identities. You and your friends can then taste the wines and, using our handy tasting guide, make your best deductions as to the wine’s type (down to the year, if you want!) before you unwrap and reveal the label. 

Tasting wine is the best way to learn about the viticultural world and its complexities, and this kit is a great place to start. A fantastic party game, present, or self-care treat.


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