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.

If you’ve always wanted to expand your palette and learn more about wine tasting, wine pairing, the different types of wines, and the lingo associated with wine and wine tasting, read on.

Basic Wine Styles

You probably know the difference between red wine and white wine, but would you believe that there are many more wine varieties 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.

Rosé wines get their pink hue from the skins of red grapes. You can find both dry and sweet rosés and are a great 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 common 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 in old-world regions, winemaking is highly regulated. There are guidelines that all wineries must follow and winemakers must adhere to the standards that have been used for centuries in those countries.

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 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.

With new world wines, you might find more unique wines and fuller-bodied 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 out there and many wines combine two or more grapes. White wine grapes include:

  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon blanc
  • Riesling
  • Pinot gris
  • Torrontes
  • Chenin blanc
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Gruner veltliner
  • Viognier

Common red wine grapes include:

  • Pinot noir
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Grenache
  • Sangiovese
  • Cabernet sauvignon
  • Cabernet franc
  • Zinfandel
  • Malbec

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. Most other reds, though, are served at 60 to 65 degrees or room temperature.

You should also 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 a variety of different wines and possibly find something new to enjoy.

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.