Hot take: You don’t need a PhD to enjoy a glass of vino. While wine has a reputation for being a fancy drink for fancy people, times are changing. Wineries are popping up all over the globe. Wine is becoming a drink of the people. Anyone can become a wine expert. And these top 12 tips for wine newbies will help you get there.

If you’re new to the world of wine, welcome! These 12 tips for the uninitiated are designed to help you on your journey toward becoming a vino virtuoso, from choosing the right bottle to enjoying every last sip of it.

First, some tips for choosing a killer bottle:

     1. Not sure what you like? Ask for help.

If you tend to go for the “house wine” at a cocktail bar or you normally get Apothic Red at the store, you might not be able to name-drop your favorite varietal. Not to worry.

When shopping for wine, it’s totally cool to ask for help. Your friendly neighborhood wine merchant is likely full of knowledge that they’re more than happy to impart to a curious customer. Tell them what you like, explain that you want to try something new, and tell them how much you want to spend. This brings us to our next point – 

     2. Just because a bottle of wine is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better. 

There are plenty of excellent bottles in the $10-$20 range. Plus, expensive vintage wine is an acquired taste. If you’re new to wine, you’re more likely to enjoy the kind of wine that’s meant to be consumed young. Fortunately, that’s most wine you’ll find in a store.

     3. Pick a crowd-pleaser.

If you’re hosting guests or bringing a bottle to a party, no one is going to fault you for picking a wine that’s not obscure enough. Just like Elle Woods, the varietals you always see on menus are popular because they’re really likable. 

For a red, go with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Merlot. For a white wine, choose a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, or Pinot Grigio. If someone in your life loves sparkling wine, it’s fine to choose a Cava or Prosecco instead of springing for Champagne.

Now that you’ve picked the perfect bottle, here are some tips for serving it up right:

     4. Store unopened wine sideways.

This is so the cork stays in contact with the wine and doesn’t dry out. Exception to the rule: If your bottle has a screw top, you can store it standing up.

     5. Keep wine cool (but not too cool).

You can pop that white wine, rosé, and sparkling right in the refrigerator, as those are best served chilled. Red wine can sit at room temperature until you’re ready to drink it. If you happen to have a cooler that can keep red wine at 60-65 °F, that is ideal.

Let’s say you forget to chill your wine in advance and your guests are on their way. No problemo. There are tried and true life hacks for chilling wine quickly, including cold paper towels, wine ice cubes, and The Ziplock Method

     6. You’re allowed to use any kind of glass you want, and no one will judge you. 

However, there are reasons why you might choose one kind of glass over another. Stemware is great for white wine because the stem gives you a place to hold the glass without raising the wine’s temperature. But ultimately, if you’re afraid of spilling Chablis on your chemise, by all means, go for a stemless glass.

When the time comes to pop open that bottle, here’s what you need to know to enjoy it to the fullest:

     7. Give it a swirl.

Swirling introduces more oxygen into the wine, which makes it “open up” – like it’s ready to start telling you secrets. And what are those secrets? Its many scents and aromas, of course. You can either keep the base of your glass on the table and move it in circles, or you can pick it up and swirl it in the air. Just remember to be gentle to avoid spills (and maybe practice with white wine).

     8. Before you take a sip, give it a sniff.

Wine has layers of aromas. Take note of any fruit flavors you smell, and then any secondary flavors like nuttiness, beeswax, cedar, etc. Those secondary flavors can help you figure out if the wine has been aged in oak.

    9. Take your time with that first sip.

Wine experts often swish the first sip of wine around their mouth for an extra beat. Why? It’s because of retronasal olfaction – the smelling that happens from inside your mouth. You may pick up a particular flavor and think you’re tasting it, but you’re actually smelling it. Your sense of taste is limited to: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami.

Finally, here are some tips on how to prolong the life of leftover wine:

     10. Store an opened bottle upright.

Wait wait wait, before we said to store it on its side – why the change? After it’s open, storing a bottle upright will help to minimize the surface area of wine that comes into contact with oxygen. The less oxygen, the slower the wine will oxidize.

     11. Re-cork the bottle.

Hot tip: If you can save the original cork, you won’t need a fancy bottle stopper. Boom. We just saved you money.

     12. Pop it into the fridge.

Yes, even if it’s red. All kinds of wine will last longer when kept cool. Try not to take it out again until you’re ready to drink it, because extreme temperature changes can damage wine.

In Vino Finito

If you’re serious about learning more about wine, keep a wine journal to record what bottles you’ve tasted and which ones you loved. This will help you remember your preferences, and will also make you seem like a very cultured and chic individual. But to start, these top 12 tips for wine newbies will give you a great wine education foundation.

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Finally, if you have questions about how to pick the perfect bottle, hit us up. We’re always happy to help. Cheers!

Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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