Wine 101

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Illustration by Kathryn GogliottiNavigating a wine shop can be a confusing experience for some. What exactly is a full-bodied red with earthy undertones? What is the difference between oaked and unoaked Chardonnay? Is Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris the same wine? While the list of questions could go on forever, the answers are simple. Have fun with wine. It’s meant to be enjoyed and never let any wine snob tell you differently.

The number one rule of wine is that there are no rules. Sure, you may have heard white wine with fish and red wine with steak but those rules are being thrown out the window. Of course certain wines do complement food but before you get all bent out of shape wondering if the wine you selected will pair well with your meal ask yourself a question. Do you like what you are drinking?

If the answer is yes, then that is the only other rule you need to follow. Drink what you like.

Below you’ll find a few other wine tips that you can show off at your next dinner party.

What does it mean to let a wine breathe? Also known as aerating a wine, letting your bottle breathe is simply exposing the wine to air. By allowing the wine to breathe, its aromas will open up. This is most notable for red wines.

You’ll hear people refer to their wine as light-bodied or full bodied, but what exactly does that mean? A wine’s body is how it feels in your mouth. Indulge me for a moment and imagine a sip of skim milk. It feels very light in your mouth. Now take a sip of heavy cream (if you dare), you would immediately notice the difference in weight in your mouth. It’s exactly the same with wine. Some wines are full-bodied (heavy cream) and some are light-bodied (skim milk) and some just fall right in the middle sort of like a half and half which we refer to as medium-bodied.

Just because you break the bank on a bottle of wine does not mean you are going to enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, there is something to say about a bottle of Caymus Cabernet on a chilly Friday night that is worth the price tag but some of the best wines you can find in your local wine shops are under $20—and when you find one around $10 make sure you stock up!

Sparkling Wine vs. Champagne- Okay, maybe we are going to get a little snobby here (please forgive us), but there is a difference between sparkling wine and champagne. A wine can only be called Champagne if it is made in the Champagne region of France. Sure, a California sparkling can be made with the Champagne method but unless it comes from France and unless it’s produced in the Champagne region- a Champagne it is not.

 Rosé, or as I affectionately refer as ‘pink wine’, is best for those craving some of the characteristics of a red with the coolness of a white during the spring and summer months. Not to be confused with White Zinfandel (which is too sweet), Rosé can be made from a variety of red grapes including Shiraz and Pinot Noir. Next time you see it on a wine list, order a glass; you will thank me later.


Illustration courtesy of Kathryn Gogliotti