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How to Drink Wine

Erin O'Reilly - Certified Specialist of Wine

So, you’re ready to start drinking wine? If you have a corkscrew, a clean(ish) wine glass, and an open mind, then you’re all set! While it doesn’t take much, here are a few tips for drinking wine and getting the most out of your bottle.

How to Start Drinking Wine

Wine has something of an elitist reputation that can intimidate newbies, but that’s all nonsense. People have been drinking wine - good wine and bad wine - for millennia. And they all started somewhere. You’re in good company.

What Glassware to Choose?

If you’re just starting out, you only need one glass. Choose a wine glass that has a slightly tapered bowl, meaning the sides curve up to create a narrower rim than the base. Why? This helps concentrate the aromas you’ll smell in your wine. Glasses with straight sides are okay in a pinch, but fall short.

Don’t worry about water spots.

woman drinking white wine with a view

How to Drink White Wine

White wines are enjoyed cold, or ‘chilled’ as they say. Put your white wine bottle in the fridge several hours before you want to drink it (or even overnight).

Pull the wine out when you’re ready to drink and pour yourself a half-glass. You don’t want to fill the glass all the way to the top, because then 1) you can’t swirl, and 2) the aroma molecules that evaporate from the wine’s surface won’t have any space to concentrate making it harder to smell your wine.

Swirl your wine and bring the glass to your nose. What do you smell?

The wine’s aromas will waft up to your nose and trigger impressions - fruit, flowers, minerals, or herbs. You may not be able to pick out any specific details, but that’s okay! Go with general sensations.

Next, take a sip of your wine and let it roll across your tongue, a.k.a. your ‘palate’.

Now you should sense the wine’s acid, or mouthwatering qualities, along with some of the more intense fruits in the wine, maybe lemon or apple. The wine may be sweet with noticeable sugar, or dry, meaning no sweetness.

Sip your wine over a period of 30 minutes to an hour. See how the wine changes (if at all) in your glass and on the palate.

How to Drink Red Wine

The majority of red wines are enjoyed at room temperature. Don’t store your red wine in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to drink, pour yourself a half-glass. Swirl your wine and bring the glass to your nose. Just like you did with the white wine, try to think about what you’re smelling. Red wines will have red fruit (cherry, plum, raspberry, cranberry) and black fruit (blackberry, currant, fig).

A man smelling a glass of red wine

Do you smell more than just fruit?

Unlike most white wines, red wines often have licorice, spice, and savory notes of smoke or coffee. Can you detect any of these rich aromas?

Take a sip of your red wine.

You’ll be tasting fruit, acid, and also something called tannin, or that drying sensation that runs over your mouth and gums. Tannin comes from the skin, seeds, and stems of the grapes.

Different types of grapes, called varietals, have different levels of tannin. If you’re drinking a Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, you’ll probably notice the tannins immediately. If you’re drinking a Merlot or Pinot Noir, these are softer and velvety.

Your red wine may have a little sweetness to it, barely noticeable, or, more likely, is dry.

Enjoy your wine over a period of 30 minutes to an hour. Pay attention to how the wine changes in your glass and on your palate.

A woman with a glass of rose wine

How to Drink Rosé Wine

Rosé wine, sometimes referred to as pink wine, is made from red grapes. Winemakers craft rosé wines for early drinking. If you buy a bottle of rosé, don’t sit on it. Pop that cork or twist off the cap and enjoy!

Serve your rosé wine lightly chilled. Keep it in the fridge and take it out about 10 minutes before you want to drink your wine. Just like your white and red, pour yourself a half-glass, swirl, and breath in deeply. You’ll pick up juicy red fruits (strawberry and watermelon) and perhaps even candied qualities, like Jolly Rancher or maraschino cherry.

Rosé’s the ideal anytime wine. Whether you want a sipping wine to enjoy over a lazy afternoon or need an easy drinking wine before your main meal, rosé is a perfect choice.

Bottoms up!

Learning how to properly drink wine is a full-on sensory experience. From the color, smell, taste, and texture, you’ll discover something new in every bottle. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be swirling like a pro in no time.

Erin O'Reilly Author Bio Image Author Bio: Erin O’Reilly, Certified Specialist of Wine, is a wine writer and educator. She pens her work from Monterey wine country where she raises a glass to the growers and producers dedicated to crafting great wines.