Wine Fundamentals

Selecting a wine you like is easy when you can correctly pronounce wine names, use appropriate terms to describe wine, decode wine names, and approach the selecting process with confidence.
Quick Guide to Wine Pronunciation

Correctly pronouncing wine names is one way to keep from irritating a wine snob; the following table can help you out. The stressed syllable in each word is italicized; if no syllable is italicized, all syllables carry equal weight.

  • Auslese > ouse-lay-seh
  • Beaujolais > boh-jhoe-lay
  • Bourgogne > boor-guh-nyuh
  • Brut > brute
  • Cabernet Sauvignon > cab-er-nay saw-vee-nyon
  • Chablis > shah-blee
  • Chardonnay > shar-dohn-nay
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape > shah-toe-nuf-doo-pahp
  • Côte-Rotie > coat-roe-tee
  • Gewürztraminer > geh-vairtz-trah-mee-ner
  • Haut-Brion > oh-bree-ohn
  • Hermitage > er-mee-tahj
  • Loire > l’wahr
  • Mâcon > mah-cawn
  • Merlot > mer-loh
  • Meursault > muhr-so
  • Moët > moh-ett
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo > mon-tae-pul-chee-ah-noh dah-brute-zoh
  • Montrachet > mon-rah-shay
  • Mosel-Saar-Ruwer > moh-zel-zar-roo-ver
  • Muscadet > moos-cah-day
  • Pauillac > poy-yac
  • Perrier-Jouët > per-ree-yay-joo-ett
  • Pinot Grigio > pee-noh gree-joe
  • Pinot Noir > pee-noh nwahr
  • Pouilly-Fuissé > pwee-fwee-say
  • Riesling > reese-ling
  • Rioja > ree-oh-hah
  • Sancerre > sahn-air
  • Spätlese > shpate-lay-seh
  • Viognier > vee-oh-nyay
  • Vosne-Romanée > vone-roh-mah-nay
  • Willamette Valley > wil-lam-et

Useful Terms for Describing Wine

When describing wine, wine merchants, restaurant servers, and your oenophile friends will use specific language to tell you about its characteristics. Knowing these words will help you understand the wine they’re describing:

  • Aroma or bouquet: The smell of a wine — bouquet applies particularly to the aroma of older wines
  • Body: The apparent weight of a wine in your mouth (light, medium, or full)
  • Crisp: A wine with refreshing acidity
  • Dry: Not sweet
  • Finish: The impression a wine leaves as you swallow it
  • Flavor intensity: How strong or weak a wine’s flavors are
  • Fruity: A wine whose aromas and flavors suggest fruit; doesn’t imply sweetness
  • Oaky: A wine that has oak flavors (smoky, toasty)
  • Soft: A wine that has a smooth rather than crisp mouthfeel
  • Tannic: A red wine that is firm and leaves the mouth feeling dry

Easy Wine Identifier

Most wines you find in shops and restaurants are named in two basic ways: for the variety of the grape or for the place the grapes are grown. This instant guide decodes common wine names and tells you the wine’s color.
Wine Name Grape or Place Wine Color

  1. Barbera Grape Red.
  2. Bardolino Place/Italy Red
  3. Barolo Place/Italy Red
  4. Beaujolais Place/France Red
  5. Bordeaux Place/France Red or white
  6. Burgundy (Bourgogne) Place/France Red or white
  7. Cabernet Sauvignon Grape Red
  8. Chablis Place/France White
  9. Champagne Place/France White or rosé
  10. Chardonnay Grape White
  11. Chianti Place/Italy Red
  12. Côtes du Rhône Place/France Red or white
  13. olcetto Grape Red
  14. Merlot Grape Red
  15. Mosel Place/Germany White
  16. Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris Grape White
  17. Pinot Noir Grape Red
  18. Port (Porto) Place/Portugal Red (fortified)
  19. Pouilly-Fuissé Place/France White
  20. Rhine (Rheingau, Rheinhessen) Place/Germany White
  21. Riesling Grape White
  22. Rioja Place/Spain Red or white
  23. Sancerre Place/France White
  24. Sauternes Place/France White (dessert)
  25. Sauvignon Blanc Grape White
  26. Sherry Place/Spain White (fortified)
  27. Soave Place/Italy White
  28. Syrah/Shiraz Grape Red
  29. Valpolicella Place/Italy Red
  30. Viognier Grape White
  31. Zinfandel Grape Red or pink

Buying Wine with Confidence

Don’t get frazzled when you’re shopping for wine. Browsing and buying wine should be a fun, positive experience. Remember these helpful hints when you hit the wine shop:

  1. No one in the world knows everything about wine.
  2. Smart people aren’t afraid to ask “dumb” questions.
  3. The purpose of wine is to be enjoyed.
  4. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll enjoy it more.
  5. I am my own best judge of wine quality.
  6. Most wines are good wines.
  7. Experimentation is fun.
  8. Advice is free for the asking.
  9. Every bottle of wine is a live performance.

How To Serve Wine – Step by Step

Perfect the art of opening a wine bottle. There are many types of bottle openers on the market, so select the one that best suits you. You need to remove the cork effortlessly, without breaking it, and especially without dropping pieces of cork into the bottle. Practice opening bottles of wine so that you perfect the process.

Learn about the wine you are serving and the temperature it should be. Different wines are best served at different temperatures. Where some wines are best chilled, others need to be served at room temperature for optimum enjoyment. Serving a wine at the wrong temperature can destroy the flavor and aroma, defeating the purpose of the winemaker.

  • Serve Champagne, sparkling wines, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, white Zinfandel, and other white wines at 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (1.67 to 4.44 degrees Celsius). Chill for an hour and a half in a refrigerator. 20 minutes in an ice-water ice bucket would also suffice. Sweet dessert wines and dry sherry should be served in the same manner.
  • Vintage-dated Champagne, high-quality bubbly and barrel-aged wines should also be chilled an hour and half before serving, along with high quality, full-bodied barrel-fermented white wines like white Burgundy and Chardonnay. They should then be brought out 20 minutes before serving. Ideal serving temperature should be 55 degrees (12.78 degrees Celsius), or cellar temperature. This will enhance the mature characters of the vintage wines and the flavors of the quality wines.
  • Serve the majority of red wines at 65 degrees Fahrenheit (12.78 degrees Celsius) or after 20 minutes of refrigeration.

Find out which wines need to breathe oxygen to open up the aroma before serving. Not all wines benefit from breathing, however. For example, Bordeaux should breathe about an hour before serving. Most wines can be served as soon as you open the bottle. When allowing a wine to breathe, pour it into a decanter or glass first, as wines cannot breathe well in a bottle. Don’t let the wine breathe too long, however, as this can dull the aroma and flavor.

Opt to serve wine in a decanter. Not only are decanters aesthetically pleasing, but they improve the taste of the wine. Aged wines, specifically, benefit from being served in a decanter because it removes wine sediments and allows the wine to breathe.

Select wine glasses depending on the type of wine you are serving. Remember that when you are serving a wine, you need to give it space. Educate yourself on the different styles of glasses and how they are specifically designed to highlight the distinct qualities of the wine. For example, the traditional wine glass has a large bowl shape. When filled only 1/4 of the way, the space allows for it to be swirled and breathe oxygen.

Don’t serve a new wine in the same glass as an old wine. If you have finished a bottle of wine and have opened another, change the glass so that you don’t lose the integrity of the wine flavor.

Collect the bottle of wine:

  1. Pick up the wine bottle from the service bar and make sure it is the correct one that has been ordered and that it is at the right temperature
  2. For Red wine, put the bottle into a wine basket
  3. For White wine, prepare a wine cooler with enough ice cubes and water
  4. When carrying the bottle of wine into the restaurant, always have your service napkin with you. Be careful when carrying wine.

Present the bottle of wine:

  1. Make sure you have placed the correct wine glasses on the table
  2. Put the wine cooler with stand and napkin next to the guest table or the wine basket on the assigned station
  3. To present the bottle of wine, place the service napkin over your left hand, place the bottle of wine in your left hand holding the neck of the bottle with your right hand, then step to the right side of the guest (host) who ordered the wine
  4. Present the bottle of wine with the label facing the guest. At the same time say the name of the wine (e.g. : “Old Vine Zinfandel 1968, Sir”)

Open the bottle of wine:

  1. Place the bottle on the service trolley or sideboard next to the guest table. Take the bottle neck in your left hand and hold it tight
  2. Open the bottle with a corkscrew, using a knife to cut the foil from the top of the bottle either on or under the rim. Do not turn the bottle while cutting
  3. Clean the top of the cork with a service napkin, hold the bottle tight in your left hand, then insert the corkscrew into the middle of the cork. Do not push too hard
  4. Turn the corkscrew slowly into the cork. Lift up the cork slowly, trying to avoid any noise. Remove the cork from the corkscrew and place it on a side plate and clean the bottle neck with a service cloth.
  5. Unless you are a wine expert, do not smell the cork
  6. Take the bottle in your right hand and pour the wine slowly from the right side of the guest (host), into the guest’s (host’s) glass, filling the glass only ¼ full, with the label facing the guest
  7. After the approval of the host, pour the wine into the other glasses, ladies first, counter clockwise and the host last, then place the bottle back into the wine cooler or wine basket

Wine Order taking:

  • Present the wine list
  • Approach the guest, or host if applicable, from the right side and present her/him the wine list with your right hand.
  • Recommend the appropriate wine.
  • Note: Red wine is more suitable for red meat, e.g., beef or pork dishes and white wine is more suitable for white meat or seafood dishes, e.g., chicken, fish and shellfish.
  • Step back at an appropriate distance.
  • When the guest has ordered, repeat the order and thank the guest before leaving the table.
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