Dec 2nd, 2015, 02:45 PM

The Idiot's Guide to Wine

By Shalise Barnes
Image credit: Flickr/Ken Hawkins
How to order, serve, and taste wine without fear.

France is, of course, the place to be if you enjoy your wine. But choosing wines can be a daunting task if you're not just considering price. To make sure you don't order something you, or someone in your entourage, won't like, we have compiled this handy guide, with some helpful information from Wine Folly.

Image credit: Flickr/Didriks


Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the most popular full bodied wines. Taste has hints of black cherry and cedar.

Syrah: A full bodied wine. Taste has hints of blueberry, pepper, and chocolate.

Zinfandel: A medium bodied wine. Taste has hints of strawberry and sweet tobacco.

Pinot Noir: A dry, light bodied wine. Taste has hints of cranberries and cloves.


Chardonnay: A dry, full bodied wine. Taste has hints of yellow apple and chalk.

Sauvignon Blanc: A dry, light bodied wine. Taste has hints of honeydew melon and passion fruit.

Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio): Another dry, light bodied wine that are typically sweeter than a sauvignon blanc. Taste has hints of lemon and nectarine.

Riesling: An off-dry sweet wine, often served as a dessert wine. Taste has hints of honey and apple.

Image credit: Flickr/Leon Brocard

How to taste wines:

This is where the real struggle comes in. You have ordered your wine, and the waiter returns and pours a small amount into your glass. He is looking at you expectantly. Your heart begins to thud, your brow dampens. Your French dinner partner is staring.


This is where you do the swirl. Gently move the base of your glass in a circle on the table, observing how the wine moves on the sides of the glass. If it forms good "legs" on the sides of the glass, it will be more ripe and have a stronger taste.


Take a few short sniffs of the wine, and then lift your head to process what your nose just inhaled. You don't want a vinegar or sulphur smell, or anything that smells like your grandma's basement.


Sip it. If you like it, nod in approval to the waiter. If you don't, nod in approval to the waiter. Unless something is seriously wrong with it, it's really pretty rude to send a new bottle back.

Image credit: Flickr/Valentin Janiaut


If you're serving wine at home and want to really get the most out of it, the choice of glassware is very important.

Reds should be served in large-bowled glasses, in order to really appreciate the aromatic properties of the wine. You can also pour the bottle into a carafe in order to allow the wine to "breathe", if the taste is too condensed straight from the bottle.

Whites can be served in more narrow glasses.

Champagnes and sparkling wine are typically served in narrow flutes in order to preserve the bubbles, however good champagnes can have as much aromatic quality as a red and should be served in wide glasses.