Food & DrinkJK Wine

How to Shop for Wine as a Beer Lover

Valuable insight on switching from hops to grapes

Two cans of sour beers with two wine picks bookeneding them on a counter
A few sour pairings with the relevant wine picks. (Photo by Kara Daly)

A wine lush and a beer lover walk into a bar. How does this joke end? We think it could end with the beer lover sabering a bottle of Champagne while the wine lover does a keg stand: A Nora Roberts romance if there ever was one. 

We think Roberts would agree that beer and wine people don’t have to stay on their separate sides of the menu. There are intersectional moments in the flavor profiles of these respective fermented beverages where they can meet, shake hands, swing their partner, hang on tight, promenade left and circle right. 

If you want to try this delicate dance yourself, follow along. We’ve put together a list of wines to try for beer lovers, according to your preferred style. Give these a whirl, a swirl, and a sniff. 

Wine Picks for the Lager Lover

Lagers are clean, crisp, weightless and crushable. The ABV is relatively low, so you’ll want to look for wines on the lighter end of things as well. Vinho Verde is a great contender for its weight class, with zippy acidity, apple aromas, and an effervescent silhouette. It goes down like a Minnie Riperton trill.

Lager lovers, do yourself a solid and peruse the sparkling wine cooler. Keep an eye out for light, affordable cava, a Spanish sparkling wine reminiscent of brewers’ yeast. Or, if you like a sparkling wine with a nice 5 o’clock shadow, check out a rare but delicious sparkling riesling. Look for the word “trocken” if you want dry.

Other wines to try: pinot grigio, Coteaux Giennois, verdicchio, chenin blanc.

Wine Picks for the Pilsner Lover

Pilsner is a lager with acrylic nails and curtain bangs; it’s got a little more bite. A pilsner flavor profile will be earthy, citrus and sometimes toasty. If this doesn’t make you think Champagne, we don’t know what will. To riff on that pilsner bite, get a blanc de blancs and enjoy your new carbonated beau. 

Pilsner lovers may also find their fancy tickled by grüner veltliner, a lean, dry wine with white pepper, arugula, and citrus fruit. It’s easy-going but adds a little shimmy and shake. 

Others to try: pinot blanc/bianco, gavi, grenache blanc, voskehat.

Wine Picks for the Sour Lover

Sour is the villain of the beer world. You love it because you aren’t truly sure it’s the villain. There’s something relatable about it, and it makes you want to know how it got this way. Was it trauma? Or did they do it for the plot? The wine answer to sour is a pét-nat — short for pétillant naturel — a natural, unfiltered, lightly fizzy wine that makes you pucker your face in delight. 

You might get sliced by a green apple Jolly Rancher or you might fall victim to the funk — you never know what you’re gonna get with the villain. 

Other wines to try: falangina, picpoul, rosé.

Wine Picks for the IPA Lover

Now, for our most dangerous trick, we’ll attempt to build a bridge between the mothership of craft beer and the world of wine. It can be done, just hear us out. 

If you like a West Coast IPA, you prefer a bitter note, a light body, and a hoppy (rather than fruity) profile. Allow us to peel back the curtain to the wonderful world of skin contact wine. And what a world it is. Skin contact wines are made by fermenting white grapes with their skins. Is it a freak show? Absolutely. Is the show currently sold out? Oh yes.

For an entry-level skin contact, look for wines made with the vermentino grape. For something a little funkier, try the amphora-aged skin contact wines of Georgia. 

West Coast IPA lovers might also enjoy light red wines, which will balance astringency and fruit. Try trousseau, a spicy red with a light body, pithy tannins and wet stone. 

Other wines to try: Beaujolais, pinot noir, Xarello, Greco di Tufo.

Let’s talk about the beer style that has seduced everyone to oblivion: the hazy IPA. This medium-weight beer strikes a perfect balance of juicy and bitter. Is it a coincidence that the wine we pick for these hazy heads, these juice fiends, is the one that Drizly reported is the top-selling white varietal? 

Most talked about beer, meet most talked about wine: sauvignon blanc. Sauvignon blanc is zippy and racy, packing a tart, floral punch; you can’t miss it. 

Other wines to try: txakolina, torrontes, roussanne.

There’s more crossover in the flavor profiles and textures of beer and wine than you might think. Ask yourself what you like about your preferred beverage, then try something else that sings a similar tune. 

There are some moments when an IPA is absolutely necessary (for Kara, that’s burger night). And then there are others, like while eating a dish of oysters, where arneis or chablis is clearly right for the job. 

Rather than think in terms of “beer vs. wine,” try thinking about “fruity vs. bitter” and follow your tastebuds to and fro on the draft and wine lists you encounter this summer.

Read more of Jerry’s and Kara’s writing on wine in Charlotte here.

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