Ultimate Wine Guide: 10 Most Important Things To Know

What Is Wine?

The earliest evidence of wine dates back to 6000 B.C. in Eastern Europe. While processes and varietals have changed since then, what defines wine remains the same–it is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of grapes.

What Are 4 Different Types of Wine?

There are four major types of wine, each with its own flavors and characteristics:

  • White wine. The vintner only uses the juice of the wine grape, not the skin, to produce white wine. White wine is naturally acidic and is often crisp and tart. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are popular white wines.
    • Red wine. Typically made from black grapes, red wine is high in tannins that can leave your mouth feeling dry after drinking. Favorite red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
  • Rosé wine. Rosé is pink, light, and sweet. The winemaker ferments black grapes with their skins for a short period to produce the wine.
  • Sparkling wine. Naturally-occurring carbon dioxide is what makes sparkling wines bubbly. There are three different methods for carbonating wines to create that effervescent effect. 

Why Is Wine Coloring Important?

Wine can range in color from the pale straw of a Vino Verde to the rich, ruby hues of a Merlot. The hue and intensity of a wine’s color can offer clues about the wine itself, such as age, pH level, vintage, and quality.

What Should I Know About Wine’s Aroma?

The aroma of a wine reveals almost 80% of the wine's flavors. The way wine smells can indicate the environment in which the winemaker grew the grapes, the wine’s age, and the techniques used to make the wine.

What’s the Difference Between “Old World” and “New World” Wine Regions?

Wine regions are divided into “Old World” (Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East) and “New World” (California, Argentina, and Australia.) The grapes, climate, and even government regulations factor into how the wine will taste based on the region from which it comes.

What’s the Correct Way To Taste Wine?

Begin by looking at the wine and noting color, opacity (whether translucent or opaque), and viscosity (thick or thin). Next, smell the wine for primary aromas such as fruit and secondary aromas that come from the wine-making process. Most often, these are yeast-derivative scents like cheese or nuts. You’ll also want to take note of scents that come from the aging process, such as spices, cedar, or vanilla. 

Follow this by tasting the wine. Is it sweet? Sour? Bitter? What is the wine’s texture—rich or thin? Note how the wine “finishes”—from the first sip to the after taste.

Why Should I Swirl and Smell Wine?

Swirling wine in your glass releases a wide range of aromas. Since so much of how we experience wine comes from its bouquet, swirling and smelling your glass of Chardonnay enhances your wine drinking experience. 

How Should I Serve Wine?

Depending upon the type of wine you’re pouring, there are different ways to serve the beverage to optimize the wine’s flavor.

Which Glass Should I Use With Which Wine?

The correct glass impacts the way your wine tastes. There are a wide variety of wine glasses available for the purpose of maintaining a wine’s temperature, collecting aromas, and moderating tannins. But for the beginner, simply remember to serve white wine in a glass with a smaller bowl, red wines in a glass with a wide opening, and sparkling wine in a fluted glass. 

At What Temperature Should I Serve Wine?

Serve white wine chilled between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Sparkling wine is more enjoyable to drink when chilled between 45 to 50 degrees. Contrary to popular belief, red wine can be chilled. Refrigerate red wines for 45 minutes before serving, then uncork, decant, and let it warm up for 10 minutes before pouring.

What’s the Difference Between Oak and Unoaked Wines?

The terms oaked or unoaked refer to the vessel used to age a wine. For example, when Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels, the wine takes on flavors from the oak, such as vanilla, caramel, and butter. Unoaked wines are usually lighter with more fresh fruit flavors.

What Does a Wine Label Tell Me?

A wine label imparts a bounty of information if you know how to read it. Look for the name of the producer (who made the wine), the region from which it came, the grape variety used to make the wine, the vintage or year of the grape harvest, and the alcohol by volume (ABV).