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Taking the guesswork out of wine selection

I was in northeast Oklahoma this past weekend, tasting cabernets, rieslings, merlots and more at Grand Wine County's first annual fall festival.

Talking about those wines reminds me of a pairing dilemma you may have encountered. Rieslings can vary tremendously in style and can be either dry or sweet.

Those from Germany won't offer much help on the label and you may end up either having to ask someone, stick to a brand you've had before, or just hope you get the right kind to go with whatever you are serving. In the same way, merlots can be full-bodied and spicy, or a simple, fruity wine.

Wouldn't it be nice if it were simpler, and someone had taken the guesswork out of it? If you are fortunate enough to live near a Winestyles franchise, they have built a business on doing that very thing.

Rather than follow the typical plan of organizing their wines by country of origin or grape variety, Winestyles puts wine into eight categories, with typical characteristics and generalized pairings for each.

Instead of saying, I think I want a merlot with this particular dish, but I want it to be one that is full-bodied and able to stand up to the flavors the meal presents, you could just choose a bottle from the "bold" section. On the other hand, the person who wants a smoother, easy drinking merlot to pair with a lighter dish may go for the "fruity" or "mellow" selections.

Now, I realize that I have probably lost all the snobs who may have been reading at this point. "Too general," they say, "and far too simplistic."

But that's the very idea. If you know what you like and what kind of meal you are making or serving, you have a variety of choices already laid out for you.

Most of the wines in the stores are between $10 and $25, so you don't have to spend a fortune to get what you need to make your meal a success. Other categories include: crisp, silky, rich, bubbly and nectar.

Winestyles usually has regular, free tastings, as well as a wine club that can be joined for a nominal fee. New franchises are opening constantly, so those of you who don't have one yet may not have long to wait.

Editor's Note: There is a Winestyles location at 4511 Olde Perimeter Way, just north of Perimeter Mall in Atlanta.

To share your favorite pairings, ask questions, or just to talk wine, write me at goodellwineguy@sbcglobal.net. Until next time, happy pours.