How to Enjoy Wine: A Guide for Would-Be Sommeliers

If your experience with wine is limited to Communion wine or the sugary sweet wine that tastes much like grape juice, you’re in the right place. Whether you prefer red or white, dry or sweet, bubbly or not, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to enjoy wine.

Read on if you’ve always wanted to expand your palette and learn more about wine tasting, wine pairing, the different types of wines, and the wine terms associated with wine tasting and drinking.

Basic Wine Styles

You probably know the difference between red wine and white wine, but would you believe many more wine varieties are available?

Sparkling wines can be red or white and are light and bubbly. They may be sweet (such as a Moscato or demi-sec) or dry (think brut champagnes). These are great with salty foods and some seafood, including fish and oysters. Be sure to serve your sparkling wine ice cold.

Male sommelier pouring white wine into long-stemmed wineglasses
Male sommelier pouring white wine into long-stemmed wineglasses. Waiter with bottle of alcohol beverage. Bartender at bar counter pour elite drink into long-stemmed glass

Rosé wines get their pink hue from the skins of red grapes. You can find both dry and sweet rosés and are an excellent pairing for foods from chicken and fish to those containing exotic spices.

Dessert wines are typically sweet and thick, meant for sipping after dinner. Many bottles of dessert wines are smaller than your traditional wine bottle, as the glass size is smaller. Port, sherry, and ice wine are everyday dessert wines you can enjoy with your sweet after-dinner treats.

Region Matters

There are many different wine-growing regions around the country, including old-world regions (such as France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) and new-world regions (such as the United States, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa).

In old-world regions, you may find lighter-bodied wines (but there are always exceptions). The biggest difference between old-world and new-world wine regions is that winemaking is highly regulated in old-world regions. There are guidelines that all wineries must follow, and winemakers must adhere to the standards on the production of wine that have been used for centuries in those countries.

Two hands clinking red wine glass in a vineyard during sunset
two glasses of cocktail making cheers. grapevine in Ticino

For example, wine from the Bordeaux region in France is labeled by the terroir (which is the natural environment where a grape is grown). Instead of labeling wine with the grapes that are included, it is labeled with the location where the popular grapes were grown. For example, the wine might be labeled as “left bank” or “right bank” to designate which side of the Gironde River the grapes were grown on.

You might find more unique wines and fuller-bodied wines with new world wines. New world wines come from areas where winemaking is not as highly regulated, so winemakers can branch out in their techniques and experiment with their wines. New world wineries often take advantage of modern technology and aren’t tied to winemaking techniques that are hundreds of years old.

Know Your Grapes

There are many different grapes, and many wines combine two or more grapes. White wine grapes include:


Sauvignon blanc


Pinot gris


Chenin blanc


Gruner veltliner


Common red wine grapes include:

Pinot noir





Cabernet sauvignon

Cabernet franc



A sommelier pouring wine from bottle to glass
Experienced Sommelier is Working in Restaurant. Sommelier is Pouring Wine from Bottle to Glass. Red Wine. Sommelier is Caucasian Man. Person is Wearing Special Uniform. Closeup View.

Store It and Serve It Properly

Wine should be stored and served at optimal temperatures. If you have a wine refrigerator, they are often designed to keep your wine at the proper temperatures.

White wine, sparkling wine, and rosé are stored and served the coldest, usually between 45 and 50 degrees. Heavier whites, like Chardonnay, and lighter reds, like pinot noir, are served a bit warmer, between 55 and 60 degrees. However, most other reds are served at 60 to 65 degrees or room temperature.

It would be best to have the proper glass to drink wine. Red wines are best served in a red wine glass that has a larger bowl that allows the wine to come in contact with oxygen. Allowing the wine to breathe enhances the flavor.

This is also why you should decant or aerate red wines. The benefits of aerating wine are that it allows you to enjoy your wine much quicker. While you might need to decant the wine for 60 to 90 minutes to get the best results, an aerator achieves the same results in seconds, as it aerates your wine as you pour.

White wine glasses are designed to keep the wine cooler for longer and are typically not as wide as red wine glasses, as white wines don’t need as much exposure to oxygen as red wines.

Drink What You Like

This is the most important aspect of drinking wine. Drink what you like. Don’t get pressured by wine snobs or others who fancy themselves as wine experts. If you don’t like a particular wine, don’t drink it. If your favorite wine is less than $10 and tastes like grape juice, drink it and enjoy it!

One the same token, don’t be afraid of trying something new now and then. Take a trip to a winery where you can sample various wines and possibly find something new to enjoy.

Friends tasting wine on the vineyard
Group of young friends tasting wine on the vineyard, looking on the wine glasses on a sunny summer morning, view from the backside

How to Enjoy Wine: Don’t Force It

Teaching someone how to enjoy wine is an oxymoron. You shouldn’t have to learn how to enjoy something; if you don’t like it, don’t force it! However, with a little knowledge of what to look for, you might learn to love wine, even if you never thought you would.

There are so many different types of wines out there that you are sure to find something you like if you want to take the time to learn to enjoy it.

If you found this wine education useful, be sure to check out some of our other articles about food, drink, and everything in between.

In the end, a wine steward has to be smart enough to see the difference between tasting wine and drinking wine. Whether you are old or new to the wine world, you have to find the big difference between the two.

And it doesn’t matter whether the wine contains alcohol or not. Everything boils down to how you learn or master the skills of sipping  like a sommelier. 

As you pour your delicious glass of wine, always remember these 5S’s of Eric Pool, the owner of Berryville Vineyards in Claremont, Illinois: See the wine, Swirl the wine, Smell the wine, Sip the wine, and Swallow the wine. Cheers!