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Leigh’s Tips For Wine Newbies

480 Liter Wine Bottle
After the apocalypse, this 480 liter bottle of wine will be worshipped as a god. Well. More than it is now, we mean.

For any new wine buff…or someone who just wants to look like a wine buff…I’ve compiled some tips from the Ministry of Fine Spirits so you can order wine at a wine bar and not look like a complete newbie…

1. The great thing about wine bars is that they are now often serving “flights”–these are three to four glasses of wine, about 1/3-1/2 of a “regular pour” size and are to give you an idea of what you might like. That being said–if you are on a date–a flight can make you appear indecisive…or like a lush because you have three glasses in front of you instead of one. Flights are great, though, when you go out with friends and are just wanting to figure out what wine is what, without having to try to impress.

[ad#rightpost]2. If you don’t go for a flight, decide if you want white or red wine. This isn’t about whether you’re having chicken or fish or beef–it’s more about which one you think you can sip without making a face…

2a. Whites are usually lighter in flavour, easy to sip and served chilled; additionally, they are usually lower in alcohol. For whites, don’t go the chardonnay route — it’s too easy! Everyone knows “chardonnay.” Show some sophistication and order a pinot grigio (pee-no gree-ghzee-o) or a sauvignon blanc (so-vin-yon bl-ankh). And unless you are really a girl, do NOT order a reisling (rees-ling). While not all are sweet, most are and everyone around you will know that you aren’t a “real” wine drinker. (I’m just saying.)

2b. Reds are usually stronger in flavour, are more for a leisurely sip and are served room temperature; these also often appear to have more of a “kick” in the alcohol level. For reds, go with a pinot noir (pee-no n-whar), a syrah (sir-ah) or a malbec (mall-beck). These are tasty and you aren’t going to get something that’s too strong.

3. Price-wise, look at about middle of the price range for the wine list. You don’t look cheap (and cheap wines are usually harder to swallow) and you don’t look snooty (“I must only drink those that cost the same as my Armani leather wallet” (which is totally what everyone would be thinking about you).

4. Trust the bartender…unless you’ve been there before and you know he/she is an ass. Bartenders are usually your friends–and they’ll often give you a sip of something they are trying out. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’d like a pinot noir from Napa, something not too oak-y, maybe a medium body – got any suggestions?” or “I usually like the whites from the Russian River Valley; do you have something similar?” NOTE: Believe it or not, this does NOT make you look like a newbie. It makes you look like someone willing to try something new and someone who trusts the expert to help you.

Now, if you want some conversation starters, here are a couple of wine tips:

  • Malbecs are often South American and became popular in the US only a bit over five years ago
  • Did you know that in blind taste tests French and American wines often tie in points?
  • Red wines are FULL of tannins so they are both tasty and good for you–plus all wine can lower blood pressure and help with cholesterol management
  • And it never hurts to ask the person you are chatting up what they are drinking and what they like about it. If they know wine, they’ll talk to you about the flavours and the under- and over-tones and the area the wine came from. If they are a newbie like you, it might be the perfect opening for both of you to admit that you’re just starting your wine appreciation…and start that journey together.

    Now get out there and have at it. Happy sipping!

    Image: Seriously.


    • This article is full of absolutely awful misconceptions about wine, not to mention some seriously incorrect statements. Tons of wine geeks, sommeliers, and wine drinkers love Riesling – the idea that most are sweet is false. While most chap grocery store Rieslings are cheap, higher quality Riesling is beautiful for food pairing because of its acidity, balance of sweet & dryness, and low alcohol content. Also, with its hallmark petrol and mineral notes, I would hardly refer to Riesling as a “girl’s thing.”
      Also – Malbec if you want something that’s not too strong? Have you EVER had Malbec?

    • You do realize that this article is factually incorrect and you’re responding really unprofessionally, right?

    • And you do realize that showing up, climbing on a high horse, responding to an opinion article by throwing around a bunch of your own opinions (which are obviously superior because they’re yours) with very little in the way of actual facts (*you* would hardly refer…; assuming that everything tastes the same to everybody else) and ending with asking if the author had ever actually tried what she was talking about…that’s a really bitchy way to start a conversation, right? The way I see it, I was just trying to keep my sense of humor while responding to a very unpleasant person.

      Now maybe that wasn’t your intention to come across like that, but that’s what you succeeded in doing.

      So, if you’d like to change the tone, be my guest. Otherwise, we can just trade comments on this page, add to the amount of unique content on it and thus increase its search rankings all day long. Whatever you want to do, I am game.

    • These are my favorite! Please keep the discourse going. I am even willing to start a chant to add to motivation. “Move the can, Fran!”

      By the way, my palate prefers Boone’s Farm and Thunderbird. Does that make my taste buds factually incorrect? If so, I love the way fallacies taste. Strawberry Hill, YUMMY!