A Wine Guide For Beginners
There’s way too much wine out there and simply not enough time to explore every last bottle. But while you’re on this quest as you navigate through a new world of wine for beginners, you may as well understand your palate, how to taste wine, serve it correctly, and how to take care of your beloved bottles at home.
How To Taste Wine
Sure! The most obvious thing to do is bring the glass to your lips and sip, but it goes a bit deeper than that. If you want to enjoy wine and the world of flavors that you can discover within each bottle, then you may want to think about how you taste and learn about wine for beginners.
First things first, sniffing your wine isn’t rude. It’s a method to greet your wine and pick up on the complex aroma that escapes from your glass. But, what you may want to do first is to inhale while you swallow some of your wine. Try this, and you’ll quickly understand that the experience is muted when you can’t characterize the wine’s aroma profile.
The right way to go about this is to sniff out the aromas before you take that first sip. Close your eyes and begin to isolate the different things you can pick up on from your palate. To explore flavor interpretations in greater depth, read more about how to develop a wine tasting palate.
Don’t worry about fancy language. Jot down what comes to mind and go with that because there is no wrong way to taste wine.
The only thing that you may need to apply is a constant method to draw out the appearance, aromas, flavors, and finish of the wine you’re enjoying in a language that you understand.
What’s the story with swirling wine?
The short answer may be that most of the enjoyment of wine comes primarily from aromas, so swirling the wine will aerate it slightly, helping it to expose those aromas that are resting in the bowl of the glass.
Swirling helps release hundreds of different aroma compounds found in wine. These compounds are the reason why wine has such an array of aromas.
What’s the best way to swirl your wine?
- Start by pouring some wine in your wine glass and keep it below the roundest curve of your glass
- Now place your thumb and forefinger at the base of your stemmed glass as it sits on the table
- Draw tiny circles on the table as you hold on to the base of your glass
- There’s no need to do this any more than three times, so take it easy with the swirling motion
- Now lift the glass and bring it to your nose for a good sniff
As you get the hang of the circling motion, you can try to swirl your wine without using the table as a resting place for your glass.
Red Wine For Beginners
Red wine is somewhat of an acquired taste when you’re in the beginning stages of the discovery of wine, but we’re here to take you through some of the different types and varieties of wines that are for a novice.
Are you interested in exploring the finer points of these varietals? Explore our red wine guide for beginners.
These red wines are probably the best wines for beginners because they’re so lightweight and refreshing. Light-bodied reds are wines that you can enjoy without food, but you can also pair it well with your bolognese thanks to their lower tannin levels.
- Pinot Noir – This is a light, smooth wine for beginners that’s a lovely acidity to it. The grape grows anywhere from Burgundy to Sonoma. Every bottle of Pinot Noir will ultimately have a different flavor profile based on where it was produced. Typically, you can expect a healthy dose of red-fruits combined with earthy, herby notes
- St. Laurent – Savor this hugely underrated light-bodied red from Austria with your BBQ or cheese platter as the flavors of berries, cherries, and baking spices unfold
Take things up a notch with these wines that aren’t too bold or light. It’s just right. Medium-bodied wines showcase more tannins than lighter wines, but nothing too overwhelming, so the flavor you can expect is anything but complex.
- Merlot – This varietal is your weekday dinner companion with its versatile profile that unlocks flavors of cherries, chocolate, and soft tannins. Pair this with roasted lamb or chicken and veggies
- Zinfandel – Stock up with the jammy, candied fruit flavors and spicy finish of a reliable Zinfandel. If you like something that packs a bit of a punch, this is the wine for you. Its alcohol content is higher but not heavy and pairs well with curries
These wines contain the highest tannin levels and create a bit of a heavy feeling on the palette. You’ll do well by pairing a full-bodied red with hearty stews and rich, substantial dishes.
- Malbec – The pride and joy of Argentina have enjoyed plenty of popularity over the last ten years and has proven to be a solid contender with its dark fruit flavors and intoxicatingly spicy finish. Serve your Malbec with some empanadas for a magical experience
- Cabernet Sauvignon – This varietal is a beautiful blend of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc and is considered the king of red wines. This is a bold, robust wine that needs a steak to carry through its rich flavors
White Wine For Beginners
The best wine for beginners is usually white wines, but we’ll leave that up to you to decide since taste is a personal affair. But, to understand the layers and flavors of different white wine varietals, you’ll need to know what to look for when you make your purchases.
Most commonly, white wines can fall into four main categories. This makes it easier for you to understand how to enjoy it and what you enjoy.
To gather more information on the specific nuances, be sure to browse our white wine guide for beginners.
Bold & Dry White Wines
These grape varieties are brimming with their intense flavor with its creamy-vanilla notes brought about with oak aging.
Light & Dry White Wines
With the following types of wine, you can expect something light-bodied and medium-dry with a fresh, clean taste.
- Pinot Grigio
Herbaceous White Wines
The herbaceous sorts are light-bodied, finished off with herbal or “green” aromas like bell pepper or jalapeño, and paired well with salads and herb-infused dishes.
- Grüner Veltliner
Light & Sweet White Wines
Often with just a touch of residual sugar (from the grapes), these wines are slightly sweet and very aromatic.
Now that we’ve made our way to perhaps the most celebratory type of wine for beginners, we’ll look at the main three grapes used in Champagne production. And yes, some of them are, in fact, red grapes.
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Meunier
However, Champagne, Prosecco, and Cava find themselves under an umbrella category of sparkling wines and Champagne because each of these varietals is subjected to a secondary fermentation process to create bubbles and a distinct taste.
At their core, these three fizzy wines vary significantly in style and quality.
Let’s look at other ways you can tell Champagne apart from other sparkling wines:
- The main difference is that champagne can only be labeled Champagne if it’s produced within the French Champagne region
- The difference between Prosecco wine when compared to champagne and cava is, it’s produced in Italy with Glera grapes, and the production method is slightly different
- Although Prosecco goes through a secondary fermentation process as well, it’s aged in steel tanks as opposed to glass bottles, which gives it a signature "fizz" along with the bubbles
- Cava is the official name for sparkling wine produced in designated areas, mostly within the Penedés region in northern Spain, west of Barcelona
For more details, be sure to check out our champagne guide for beginners.
Every bottle of wine you open has a different story to tell. Using the right wine glasses is the one thing you can count on to accentuate a wine’s defining characteristics.
White wines are typically served in smaller bowled glasses that help with the following:
- Preserve floral aromas
- Maintain cooler temperature
However, red wines often need a glass with a wider opening so that the distance to the actual fluid affects what you smell.
- A large “Bordeaux” glass will do the trick when you savor bolder red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and of course, Bordeaux blends
- Standard red wine glasses are better for medium-to-full-bodied wines and a spicier finish
Special wine glasses can be used to serve Port in (tiny in size, short-stemmed, and narrow for reduced evaporation) and Champagne flutes with longer bodies and narrow opening to preserve the fizz.
How To Store Wines
Sometimes you might think that the obvious way to store red wines is to keep them in a cool, dark place while white wines end up in the refrigerator, but this always causes people to enjoy white wines too cold and their red wines too warm.
A super cold white wine will be almost flavorless, whereas a red wine that is too warm will taste flabby and alcoholic. To effectively preserve your collection of bottles, read how to store properly wine at your home.
Here’s a key to the ideal wine service temperatures:
Red Wine Temperature
Pinot Noir needs temperatures of 60-64°F to perform well, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz must be stored at 64-66°F.
White Wine Temperature
Keeping your Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio at 45-48°F will do wonders, but store your Chardonnay and Chablis at 48-52°F.
Store your Champagne, sparkling wines, and dessert wines at 40°F.
How To Choose Wine
The world of wine can be intimidating. It can be a bit of a mission to find out what you like, given there are so many types of wine for beginners and varieties worth exploring.
In all honesty, if you want a seamless wine drinking experience, why not try a wine club that expertly curates wine deliveries based on your taste and the reviews you leave for reach wine you enjoy.
It’s that easy.