A Beginner's Practical Guide to Wine By Patrice Caraba Table of Contents

A Beginner's Practical Guide to Wine Table of Contents
By Patrice Caraba

Table of Contents

I. A Beginner's Practical Guide to
Wine
Introduction

How Wines Are Named

Wine Types and Colors

What Do They Mean by “Breathing”?

Wine Lingo

Throw a Wine Tasting Party

Wine Accessories

More Wine Tips

Don't Stop Learning About Wine

Explore Inexpensive Wines

Additional Resources

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I.

A Beginner's Practical
Guide to Wine

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Introduction

Humans have enjoyed wine of all types for centuries, and have written about their
experiences in detail. Over the years people have become convinced that there is a right
and wrong way to go about choosing a wine, opening a wine, what to serve with a wine,
how to taste a wine, and even how to spit a wine out. All of these rules have intimidated
those who just want to enjoy a glass, those who are looking for wine to serve their guests,
and the gift-giver who would like to present wine as a gift without appearing ignorant.
Therefore, being asked to bring wine to a party can cause a feeling of panic because it's
always been said that different types of wine are meant for different types of food. The
smart guest will ask the host if there is a preference for the wine that they will be
contributing. In cosmic irony, chances are that the host has asked the guest to bring the
wine because they are confused on what to serve and have delegated the task to a
guest.

So, how are we to overcome the mysticism surrounding wine? Let’s get practical and
cover the essentials. To start, the price of the bottle of wine is no indication of how much
any single wine drinker will enjoy the wine. As you learn about wine, you find that you
don't have to try to impress anyone because you pulled the most expensive bottle from
the shelf. Moderately priced local wines are often of surprisingly high quality and
discovering new wines at an affordable price will soon become a goal.

Moving on, beginners also know that even wines with the same name can be different. A
sip of Chardonnay, for example, immediately lets you know that it is not the same wine as
the Chardonnay you enjoyed the last time you drank it. It doesn't mean that there is
anything wrong with the palate or the wine. As you begin to understand how different
wines are labeled, you'll be able to look for the information that identifies your favorites.

With all the wineries who provide the bottles that fill your favorite wine market shelves
and bins, it's easy to lose track of what wines you have sampled in the past and what you
thought of them. In addition, wine isn't a consistent product. The taste and color can vary
from year to year based on environmental conditions. So if you find a wine that both
pleases your palate and your pocketbook, you may find that wine from the next harvest

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pleases your palate and your pocketbook, you may find that wine from the next harvest
disappoints.

The temperature at which the wine is served will also affect the taste of the wine. Some
wines are served at room temperature, while others are at their best when they are
served chilled. Although your favorite wine merchant will be happy to tell you how to
present your wine, if you are buying several types to have on hand, you may not
remember the information when it is most needed.

One of the top things to remember as you begin to learn about wine is that it is a drink
meant TO BE ENJOYED. Some people have a favorite type of wine and a favorite label
and don't buy any other wine, no matter what time of day they are enjoying a glass or
what type of meal they are serving it with. There is nothing wrong with this, so feel free to
continue and never apologize for it. Relish in the experience and all of the nuances
involved in finding a wine that you and yours like to drink.

For those who want to learn about wine so that they are able to enjoy the “whole wine
experience” with confidence, some simple information will give you the background
information that you need to begin your exploration of the elixir of the gods. As guiding
advice, consider the following statement. "I've learned enough about wine to know what I
like and what I don't like, that it's sometimes okay to drink white wine with red meat and
red wine with white fish", says Gian Paolo in the article “Wine Not” published in The
Modern Gentleman. "But, above all I've learned that I don't want to be a wine snob," he
finishes.

Sometimes knowledge of personal preferences for taste combinations is enough
knowledge to give a person confidence in choosing a wine. For those who feel the need to
justify the choice, however, a little more information is needed before they purchase a
bottle to share or present as a gift.

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How Wines Are Named

It's understandable that so many people feel intimidated by wine. Gazing at a selection at
the wine merchant’s can be confusing because wines are named in two basic ways. Some
are named for the type of grape that is used to produce it while other wines are named
for the region that the grapes were grown.

If you are looking at European wines, chances are the name comes from the area that
the grapes were grown. Australia and the U.S., however, tend to use the variety of grape
when naming the wine.

Some wines are made with a blend of juices from different types of grapes. The name of
the wine will come from the predominant grape of the blend. Different global areas have
different laws that outline how much of the predominant grape juice must be present
when wines are named after the grape. The requirement could be anywhere between 75
and 90 percent. The label on the wine bottle does not have to list other grapes that were
used in the blend.

As you begin to experiment with different wines, you will discover that even wines with
the same name are not the same. Now that you know that the predominant grape in the
bottle may only be 75 percent of the total juice that went into the wine, it's easier to
understand.

When the wine is named after the region where it is grown, your knowledge of the region
will tell you more about the wine inside of the bottle than knowing the variety of grape
used. This is because the taste of the wine relies so much on environmental factors in the
microclimate that the vineyard is located in.

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Wine Types and Colors

A lot of people think of wine types as either being white or red, but in fact there five types
of wine. In addition to the red and the white are the Rosé, Fortified, and Sparkling. It's
easy to identify a Sparkling wine because it has bubbles.

The first time you poured a glass of White Zinfandel, you may have been surprised if you
actually expected it to be white wine. It is, in fact a rose, or blush wine. It's made with red
grapes. No, it's not another deep, dark wine secret. You just have to know a bit about
what gives wine its color:

Grape skins are the only secret to what gives the wine its rich red color and the
tannins that give them flavor. Wines have a red color when the juice of the grapes is
fermented with the skins.

Most white wines are produced from the juices of white grapes, but there are
exceptions. White wine can come from red grapes if the skins are separated and
removed before process of fermentation is started. Without the skins, there is no color
to be absorbed. The absence of the skin also means that there is less tannin in a white
wine made from red grapes than a red wine made with red grapes.

It's a good idea to understand that a fortified wine has a feature that makes it
different from other types of wine. They have higher alcohol content than other wines,
and are meant as dessert wines. Port wine, Sherry, Marsala, Vermouth and Marsala
are examples of a fortified type of wine.

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What Do They Mean by
“Breathing”?

When you open a bottle of wine, two things take place. The ethanol evaporates and the
wine oxidates. Both influence the taste of the wine, whether it be white or red. "The
amount of time, however, is not fixed, which is where the decision making comes in" says
Lucas J. Meeker in the article “Does Wine Really Need to Breathe?” Mr. Meeker should
know, as he is a co-winemaker at The Meeker Vineyard.

According to Meeker, even swirling wine in the glass for 15 seconds before you drink it
will be a benefit, but he usually likes a large bodied red wine to remain in the bottle for
about an hour after it is opened and lets it sit in the glass from five to ten minutes after it
is poured for the best benefit.

Of course, as a winemaker, his standards are a lot higher than those of the average wine
drinker and there are many factors his trained palate and nose is looking for. In fact, he
lets some wines breathe for as long as two days.

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Wine Lingo

Wine talk is confusing to a beginner. To make it worse, many feel that they have to show
off their knowledge by speaking the special wine language.

"Tasting notes and catch phrases used by salespeople and marketers are usually written
by professionals for other professionals," says Anthony Giglio in an article that appeared
in Boston Magazine. According to him, "Those words are then passed on to everyday Joes
who haven't a clue in the world what they mean." There is an extensive wine vocabulary,
but the average person can get the idea of what the wine merchant or waiter is talking
about by learning a few simple terms:

The word “terroir” is used to describe the climate, soil, exposure to the sun and other
factors that influence the grapes growth. The same type of grape grown in two
neighboring vineyards may taste completely different because of the terrior.

All grapes are not the same. Different varieties of grapes are used for different types
of wines. When a wine is made from grapes from a single source, it is referred to as
the “varietal.” The producer of the wine is a “vintner.”

As people discuss wine, the word “tannins” is often used when describing the taste.
The grape seeds and the skin have a group of chemicals that are called tannins. The
astringency of the finished wine will depend on the tannins of the grape.

Many beginning wine aficionados are confused about the vintage of wine and the
importance that it plays in the taste of the wine. Vintage is simply the year that the
grapes were harvested. Depending on the environmental conditions during that
growing season, the juices from the grapes can differ from year to year.

Don't be shocked when a wine expert tells you that the wine has wonderful “body.”
They are describing how the wine feels in your mouth when you taste it. And the term
“nose” refers to the aroma of the wine.

Just when you think you were starting to catch on, you find out that wine has “legs.”

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Where do these legs show up? When you swirl wine in the glass, rivulets of the
beverage run back down the inside of the glass, back into the drink. This is what
they’re talking about. Some people say they can judge the quality of the wine and its
alcohol content from these trails of the liquid, but the viscosity of the wine can cause
differences in the rivulets. The cleanliness of the glass will also make a difference.

As we finish learning the terminology of wine, we should note that wine, too, has a
“finish.” This is the taste that lingers in your mouth after the wine is swallowed. A light
wine doesn't have as long a finish as a full-bodied one does.

Now that you have enough knowledge of wines, you may want to share what you have
learned with friends. Nothing beats having a hobby more than having a friend to discuss it
with, and being able to have discussions and debates about wine will fill those awkward
gaps at social events.

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Throw a Wine Tasting Party

One of the best ways to introduce your friends, family and acquaintances to your new
passion is to throw a wine tasting party. Danzante Italian wines have been available in the
U.S. since 2004 and their website includes an article called "Hosting a Wine Tasting Party"
that offers a wealth of information on not only the wines that they produce but how to
serve them. As experts in the subject of wine, they provide excellent advice for the
elements involved in hosting a wine tasting party, including the following tips:

Pick a theme for your party. You may want to concentrate on a certain wine growing
area to narrow the focus of the party. A wine tasting gathering does not have to be a
formal affair. Pick a theme that you will be able to carry out and that you and your
guests will be comfortable with.

Invite your guests 2 weeks before the event.

Request that each guest bring a bottle to share that they have been curious about.
Don't forget how insecure you were before you embarked on your mission to learn
about wine and assure them that there is no wrong wine to choose.

Set pricing guidelines for the wine that your guests will bring to the party. Don't forget
the misinformation you had before you started learning about wine. They may feel
that they have to pay a high price for their contribution. The guidelines will help a
budget conscious guest choose a wine with confidence.

Setting up a party can be as simple or elaborate as you are willing to make it. Using
inexpensive white tablecloths will make the inevitable spills less stressful. The white will
also make it easier to see the color of the wines.

Scented candles may compete with the aroma of the wine. Choose unscented candles
if you are lighting them to enhance the atmosphere of the wine tasting area.

The wine labels can be hidden by presenting the bottles in paper bags. Arrange the
bottles from sweet to dry white wines, and move through the color spectrum this way

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with the full-bodied, red wines at the end.

Prepare for the party by having the proper supplies so that your guests can sample
the wines and record their comments.

Some of the items you'll need to lay out are:

Plain crackers or bread for cleansing the palate

At least one wine glass per guest

Water pitchers so that glasses can be rinsed between each tasting

A bucket that can be used to dump the wine left in the glass between tasting. The
container can also be used as a spit bucket.

Cards and pencils for the guests to record the wines that they have tasted and their
thoughts about them.

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Wine Accessories

It is phenomenally easy for absolutely anyone to mess up opening a bottle of wine. And it
is to EVERYONE’S great chagrin when this happens to them. Opening a bottle of wine
successfully means that you need a corkscrew that works best for you. The only way that
this can be determined is if you try the different types and decide for yourself. While
some can just pull the corkscrew up from their Swiss Army Knife and appear never to
have a problem, others will find that they need a corkscrew that has a guide to keep the
screw in the center of the cork, so that it won't disintegrate and foul the taste of the wine.
Wine poppers don't even have a screw. Instead, the cork is popped by a burst of carbon
dioxide released when a hollow shaft is inserted through the cork.

No matter how good a wine is, there are times when there is wine left in the bottle. While
it is true that some people will just consider it a good reason to have another glass or two,
most will save it for another day. Once the cork is out of the bottle, it's difficult to put it
back in. Most wine drinkers think that a wine stopper is just as important to have as a
cork screw.

A wine decanter will make it easier to serve wine at a gathering, but it also has other
benefits. When you pour the entire bottle of wine into the glass vessel, it will aerate it.
The sediment that is found at the bottom of a bottle of red wine is also removed. And for
those who care about presentation, using a wine decanter just looks more “elegant.”
Finally, wine racks are ideal for storing wine, but unless you have purchased expensive
wines that require long-term aging, they are less a necessity than they are a
convenience.

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More Wine Tips

Now that you have a basic understanding of wine, you should be able to choose a bottle
for any occasion without intimidation. Remember that there are few real secrets or hard
and fast rules. Red wine with red food and white wine with white food “rules” are
outdated, even though you will hear from experts who will not relinquish their long-held
beliefs.

Wine bottles with screw caps are not inferior to bottles that are corked, so don't let
anyone convince you otherwise. If you have ever opened a bottle of wine and had the
cork disintegrate and fall back into the drink, you will see one of the advantages of the
screw cap.

If you present a bottle of wine to your host and it is not served, there is no need to feel
that your gift is not appreciated. It could be that the wine has already been chosen and is
open and breathing. Another reason is that you made such an excellent selection that
your gift has been hidden away to be opened and enjoyed on a special occasion. What a
great choice! Once the wine is opened, here are two some smart habits to begin
practicing:

Depending on where you live, serve red wines at room temperature. If it's 85 degrees
in the room, this advice should be taken with a grain of salt. As a general rule, red
wines should be served at 62 degrees, give or take 10 degrees. Chill white wines
before serving.

Keep a wine journal. This will help you keep track of the wines that you have tasted
and what you thought of them. Remove the label from the bottle, and glue it on the
description page so that you know exactly what to look for in case you enjoyed the
wine so much that you want to purchase it again. Note the date, price, where you
found the wine and any other qualities, good or bad, that you found in the wine. If you
drank the wine with a meal, make sure you describe that, too. Although wine journals
are available at various prices in gift shops, it's easy to start your own in a plain
notebook.

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Don't Stop Learning About Wine

Many wine enthusiasts turn the quest for information about wine into a lifelong education
process. There are always new techniques in winemaking being developed as well as new
areas of the globe that are being turned into wine growing areas. For example, "Today
Websites for wine lovers are popping up faster than you can say Gewurtraminer," says
Sharon Kapnick, writer for Time Magazine. In her article, “Food: How to Choose the Right
Wine,” she has listed websites with information and resources from wine lovers, wine
virgins, and wine experts alike. Hers is only one of innumerable wine resources online, on
the radio, and in print. In each medium, experts with their trademark opinions come and
go. Following their quirks will give you a different perspective, as well as exposing you to
new labels to try in your search for the “perfect to you” glass of wine.

Beyond book learning, keep your eyes open for wine tasting events in your area.
Sometimes they are the backbone of a fund-raising event. Your local wine merchant may
use a wine tasting as a way to promote a new line or to introduce the business to new
customers. If you are lucky enough to live near a vineyard, schedule a tour. You are often
invited to sample the product. Many festivals also have an area that offers wine tasting.

Lastly, don't feel that you have to walk away from a wine tasting event with a bottle of
purchased wine. You are under no obligation to buy. Although some places will charge a
fee to sample the wine, many are free. It's a good way to learn more about wines, and
you may even meet a wine lover on the same quest for knowledge as you are.

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Explore Inexpensive Wines

Now that you know that you don't have to pay a fortune for a very nice bottle of wine,
feel free to experiment at will. Domestic wines can be very inexpensive and are of the
same high quality as those that you pay a premium for. The following suggestions, all
under $20.00 a bottle, can get you started.

Red Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Ste. Michelle

Columbia Valley, Washington

White Wine: Chardonnay from Firestone Vineyards

Santa Ynez Valley, California

Rose: Sofia Rose from Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Geyserville, California

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Additional Resources

A vacation in wine-growing country is a relaxing way to enjoy the beautiful scenery and
experience new wines. Worldwide Wine Tours offers information on regions and
resources to help plan that perfect vacation anywhere on the globe.

Sooner or later, thoughts may turn to trying to make your own homemade wine. Get the
basic information that you need to get started at Winemaking.com. Learn about making
wine from grapes as well as the easier method of using kits.

Do you ever wonder about the health benefits of wine? Check out this article at Clean
Cuisine and Wine for information on recent studies on the subject.

Now that you've gotten your friends interested in wine, you can easily find wine-themed
gifts to give them when you're stumped for ideas. A wonderful place to start looking is at
the website of The Wine Enthusiast. They have an online catalog with great ideas.

Good Reads has an extensive list of books that have been published about wines. If you
would like to add some to your library, or wish to give them as gifts, find the right
information on the site’s Best Wine Books list.

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About The Author

Patrice Caraba
Patrice Caraba is an experienced writer and a member of the Hyperink
Team, which works hard to bring you high-quality, engaging, fun content.
Happy reading!

Get in touch:

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