The Ultimate Wine Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Order Like a Pro

A Day in the Life of a Wino

While drinking wine can be a luxurious experience, the task of picking, ordering and tasting like a pro can be an intimidating task. Have you ever been in a group of wine lovers and felt like a complete chump reading over the wine menu, not sure of what to order, how to order it or what fancy tactic to use while doing so?

This article will help you to understand why the “experts” do what they do and will help to translate some of those all too confusing wine terms. Keep in mind that drinking wine should be an enjoyable experience and cutting out some of the all-inclusiveness and confusion will help you to understand the process and relish the experience.

Danielle shared a version of this article with; check it out here!

Common Types of White Wines:

Sparkling Wine- Champagne, Prosecco

Light-Bodied White- Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc

Full-Bodied White- Chardonnay, Viognier

Sweet White- Riesling, Rose

Common Types of Red Wines:

Light-Bodied Red- Pinot Noir

Full-Bodied Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec

Sweet Red (dessert wine)- Port
ACS_0001Trying to look cool at a tasting for one of my best friend’s bachelorette party

Key wine terms you should know:

Body– this is a word used to describe the way the wine feels on your palette and in your mouth. Full bodied wines (e.g. cabernet sauvignon) are more robust, light bodied wines (e.g. riesling) are more mild.

Decant (or decanter)– to decant is to pour the wine (or any liquid) from one container to another. In the wine world, many people use a decanter, they pour the wine from the bottle to the decanter (typically a glass container)- this allows oxygen to enter the wine and bring out the flavor and aroma.

Bouquet– this term is closely associated to the term “aroma”, it is essentially, the smell of the wine.

Oakiness– this refers to quite literally an “oaky” taste that is due to a fermentation or aging process in an oak barrel or with oak chips. Many times this oakiness can  be recognized in a taste profile which indicates the fermentation process of the wine.

Oxygenate– to oxygenate wine means to expose it to oxygen (decanting it or swirling it in your glass.) The significance is in the transformation in flavor when exposing it to oxygen. The flavor is completely different before exposed to oxygen and not fully showcased.

Tannins– Tannins are polyphenols, these come from the stems and skins of the grapes. If a wine is “high in tannins”, it will have a dryer taste, if it is “low in tannins”, it will lack dryness in the flavor and may be more sweet.

Astringency– Astringency is another way to describe dryness, typically resulting from high tannins or polyphenols (from the grape’s skin and/or stems).

Acidity– this refers to a tart flavor in the wine resulting from the acidity levels in the grapes the wine is made from.

Dry– Again, this refers to the flavor of the wine that is a result of high tannins, it is the opposite of sweet. The grapes and the fermentation process will determine the dryness of the wine in question.

Aroma– this refers to the smell of the wine.

Finish– (noun), this is basically the “after taste”, this is how the wine flavor sits on your palette after you’ve swallowed it or spit it out.

Sommelier– this is the person in the restaurant that is your go-to, wine expert. They are your wine steward, they pour and provide the details of each wine.


Food Pairings:

You may notice that when you go to a nice restaurant, the waiter or sommelier will offer or recommend the wines based on the dishes you order. Let’s take a look at some of the typical pairings based on general consensus. Some may disagree with these pairings, but that’s why this experience is so great. Experiment with the flavors, take the recommendation of your waiter or sommelier, try it and see if you like it. If you don’t try something else.

Sparkling Wine (Champagne, Prosecco)- pairs well with fish, aged cheese, or dessert.

Light-Bodied White (Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc)- pairs well with a great salad, roasted vegetables, or a yummy dessert.

Full-Bodied White (Chardonnay, Viognier)- pairs well with brie cheese, shellfish, or chicken.

Sweet White (Riesling, Rose)- pairs well with aged cheese, desserts, cured meats.

Light-Bodied Red (Pinot Noir)- pairs well with seafood dishes, chicken dishes, sauteed or roasted veggies.

Full-Bodied Red  (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec)- pairs well with red meat, cured meats, red meat pasta dishes and aged/hard cheeses.

Sweet Red (Port)- pairs well with desserts, mild/soft cheeses and cured meats.


How to Taste:

You may find that in a restaurant the sommelier will allow you to taste the wine before pouring for the table. In this case, there are a few simple steps to taste like a pro.

Look at what you’re about to drink. Notice the color, the color of the wine typically indicates the type of grape used to make it.

Swirl the wine in the glass, this allows the wine to “breathe” or oxygenate, allowing the flavors of the wine to really come out.

Smell the wine. Now that you have swirled the wine in the glass, allowing the flavor and aroma to release, stick your nose either in the glass or close to the rim of the glass and smell what you are about to drink. Notice the way it smells.

Take a small sip from the glass, allow air to reach your tongue during or after your sip to really release the flavor of the wine onto your palette. Notice the different flavors within the wine, does it have an acidic flavor, a fruity flavor..etc. And also recognize the “finish”, how long does the taste linger on your palette before leaving?

And finally- what did you think? Did you like it? Did you hate it? Share your feedback with your waiter, your sommelier or your company, discuss the flavor profile and how you liked it. This is part of the fun.

Danielle shared a version of this article with YogiApproved, click here to check it out!

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