How to Choose Wine: A Beginner’s Guide

January 7th, 2019

You walk into a wine bar. Now what? Wine lists can be intimidating. Luckily, you’re not alone on your wine journey.

Get to know your preferences.

Choosing wine is about getting to know your palate and discovering the characteristics you love and the ones you don’t. Do you prefer red or white? Dry or sweet? Do you favor wines from certain regions?

Dry vs. Sweet: Sweetness sensitivity varies from person to person, so your definition of sweet could be different than your friend’s. Find out where you fall on the sweetness scale.

Cool vs. Warm: Wines from different regions taste different. Warmer climates produce more ripe, less acidic grapes whereas cooler climates produce tart flavors with more acidity. Buy a single variety from a warm climate and a cool climate and taste them side by side. Then, you can confidently buy wines from the climate you prefer.

Communicate your preferences with your sommelier.

The beauty of visiting a wine bar is your access to the best resource possible: real people who have studied wine. Picking a wine is a no-question-is-a-dumb-question situation. Ask questions and state your preferences, even the smallest details can help. For instance, do you prefer light and fruity or dry and oaky?

Photo by Rachel Sweeney

Start with a glass.

If you’re feeling unsure, order a glass before you commit to a bottle. If you like a particular wine style, you might also like its alternatives. So, if you like a dry riesling, you may also like a dry Gewürztraminer.

Track your wine journey.

When you find a wine you love, write the name down or snap a pic of the label. Be sure to document the region, style, and any specific flavors you liked. This info will come in handy the next time you’re ordering a glass or purchasing a bottle.