How To Talk About Wine 101

Talking about wine is pretty intimidating in certain situations, like when you’re at a restaurant with a wine list in hand and the waiter’s standing next to you. Are you ready to make a decision?

Knowing the basics about wine make you more confident, so you can order or ask questions without feeling self-conscious and unsure.

This brief intro is a great first step in learning common wine terms, food and wine pairings, and facts about wine. When you’re done, you’ll have a basic understanding and new appreciation for wine that’ll inspire you to talk and sip more.

Red Wine vs. White Wine

At its most basic, white wine is made with white grapes, and red wine is made with red grapes. The differences are much deeper than that, though. The grapes used to make red wine include the skin of the grape as well as the seeds during fermentation. This isn’t the case with white wine.

The differing flavors between red and white wine are also distinctive. Red wines are usually rich, soft, and velvety. These wines tend to taste bitter or dry because they have a lot of tannins.

White wines are usually more floral or fruity with a zesty acidity. They don’t have many tannins, which is why they’re typically sweeter than red wine.

Sweet Wine vs. Dry Wine

When it comes to wine, “sweet” and “dry” have very distinctive meanings. According to most sommeliers, a dry wine lacks residual sugar. Most wine is technically dry and leaves a somewhat bitter taste.

However, bitterness is often a lack of sweetness rather than an actual bitter taste. Sweet wine, like dessert wine, is the opposite of dry and contains residual sugar.

Varying degrees of this lack of sweetness depend on the wine, but most red and white wines offer signature flavors and aromas that give it a pleasing flavor.

When you are ordering wine, keep this difference in mind. If you want a dry wine, order red wine or a dry white. If you want sweet, ask for a sweet wine.

Tip: Many people interchange “sweet” and “fruity” wine. If you want fruity flavors in your wine, don’t order sweet. Ask for fruit-forward wine.

How To Pour Wine

The entire process of pouring wine begins with uncorking. After uncorking, focus on pouring the wine using different pouring styles for each type of wine.

  • White. The standard wine pour for white wine is 3 oz. Pour slowly into the center of the glass. Stop when the glass is about one-third full.
  • Red. The standard wine pour for red wine is 4 oz. Pour slowly into the center of the glass. Stop when the glass is about half full.
  • Sparkling. Sparkling wine has bubbles that can be overstimulated when you pour, similar to carbonation. To avoid this, pour sparkling wine in a trickle. Using a wine flute, pour a small amount and allow the bubbles to settle. Fill the glass to three-quarters full.

How To Smell Wine

Learning how to smell wine is a common part of a wine tasting. When you understand what to smell, you’ll know how to communicate your thoughts on the wine. Olfactory sense engages your brain on a higher level, so all your senses are engaged.

To begin, smell the wine while it’s in the glass. Stick your nose all the way into the glass to get close to the wine. The glass essentially isolates the scents of the wine.

Close your eyes and inhale deeply. Concentrate on separating the different scents you notice. For example, you may note lemon rind or banana in a white wine. A red wine may have notes of cherries or tobacco.

If all you smell are the grapes, that’s OK, too.

Common Food Pairings

Pairing wine with foods is quite complex, but once you know which wine goes with which food, you can talk about pairings for hours. The following are more common food and wine pairings:

  • Cabernet sauvignon with lamb chops, steak, and other red meats
  • Pinot grigio with light or delicate seafood dishes
  • Pinot noir with truffles and mushrooms
  • Dry rosé with cheese dishes
  • Shiraz with sauces that are heavily spiced, like barbecue sauce
  • Champagne with salty foods
  • Chardonnay with seafood in a rich sauce, salmon, or other fatty fish
  • Sauvignon blanc with tart sauces or dressings
  • Moscato d’Asti with fruit and fruit desserts

Learning the basics about wine makes it easier to talk wine. There’s so much to learn, and you can’t expect to know it all at once. Go easy on yourself, take the time to study, and keep sipping responsibly. Stick with DMV Distributing, and you’ll be talking wine like a pro in no time.

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Topics: Wine Pairing