The No-Bullshit Guide To Wine

You’ve probably been there before. You’re on a date, it’s going well, then that dreaded moment happens and she says “Hey, should we get some wine?”. Your stomach drops as the waiter hands you the wine list and it’s like you’re trying to read a subway map, but in Russian. Or, maybe you’re headed to a friend’s house and they casually mention “Hey, can you grab a bottle of wine for dinner on the way?”. And, there goes another iphone smashed on the sidewalk after your slammed it in frustration.

Figuring out what the hell is up with wine can seem daunting when there are so many different kinds to choose from, a million fancy words, and high price tags. The good news is that it really doesn’t have to be intimidating at all. You don’t actually have to know about different wine glasses, have a monocle, a ton of money, or even care about sniffing and swirling it like a pretentious asshole.

Because a gentleman can’t subsist on whiskey and beer alone, we’re here to guide you in the ways of wine with a little bit of knowledge and a few buying tips. Trust us, it’s time to be able to order a bottle on your own (and impress the ladies) or be able to scout the wine aisle with confidence. Here’s how to do it.

Wine Ordering and Buying Do’s and Don’t

Don’t hesitate to ask for a recommendation
Not only will you not look like an idiot but the waitstaff/sommelier/shop owner will be happy to help, that’s their job afterall.

Do be upfront about your budget
Have no shame, any good, honest restaurant staff or shop worker will be happy to accommodate you, whatever that is. If they’re lame about it, they don’t deserve your business.

Don’t worry about regions or grapes, just flavors
If you’re unsure, giving the person helping you some idea of what types of flavors you like is the key. They can recommend a particular wine based on your preferences. Also, if you’re keen on pairing with a particular type of food or dish, they can definitely help with that too.

Do drink whatever the hell you want
White with steak or red with fish, who cares? At the end of the day, it’s your bottle, drink whatever the hell you want, with whatever the hell you want.

Don’t worry about cork v.s. screw top
At this point, many incredible wines come with a screw top, so it’s no longer a sign of a cheap or crappy wine. In fact, while the cork is traditional (some might say, outdated) the screw top is actually superior when it comes to protecting the wine from damage and spoilage.

Do consider blends
In addition to offering great bang-for-your buck, blends are a great way to find middle-of-the-road wines flavorwise. Blends come in all shapes and sizes and from many countries. Many French reds are pricey blends but a lot of California producers are making excellent red blends at very affordable prices.

Basic Wine Types Reds

Merlot
Merlot is a red for anyone who really enjoys rich fruit flavors like blackberries, cherries, blueberries, and plums. It's also extremely food-friendly and often a very good value.

From: California, France, South America
Pair it with: Grilled meats, pasta, even pizza and burgers.

Pinot Noir
Pinot is extremely popular and with it’s delicate, food-friendly flavors, you can see why. You’ll get flavors like cherries, raspberries, and strawberries, and it tends to have a floral aroma. Pinot is also very versatile so it will pretty much go with any kind of food in addition to being great on its own. Oregon and French pinots (called Burgundy because of its region of origin) tend to be more earthy while California pinots tend to be more fruity.

From: California, Oregon, France (known as Burgundy)
Pair it with: Pork, turkey, fish, salads, charcuterie, cheese

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cab is Merlot’s louder, more outgoing cousin in a way. They taste similar; Cab has a lot of those dark fruit flavors, too, but you’ll also notice more spice, coffee, and pepper flavors. Cabs tend to have a dry finish due to their higher tannin content (residues from the winemaking process) and this makes them more suitable for aging as the tannins will break down and give the wine more smoothness over time.

From: California, France, South America
Pair it with: Red meats like steak, lamb, and duck as well as cheeses and chocolate.

Syrah/Shiraz
Don’t be fooled; Syrah and Shiraz are the exact same wine. The story goes that Syrah was the original name when it got to Australia from France, and over time Australians took to calling to Shiraz. You’ll detect spice in this one and also smokiness and pepper. Syrahs tend to be great middle ground reds, you get some fruit like merlots and pinots and some spice like heavier reds.

From: California, Australia, France
Pair it with: Red meats, spicy foods, rich pastas

Malbec
Another affordable, food-friendly wine, Malbec originated in France but is predominantly grown in Argentina today. It’s got some of the same juicy fruit flavors as Syrah and Cabernet but with a good bit of acidity to balance it out. Currently it’s one of the best bang-for-the-buck wines out there and great bottles can be had at around $15 - $25.

From: Argentina
Pair it with: Red meats, spicy foods, tacos, bbq

Whites

Chardonnay
Chardonnay is the most popular wine in the United States (and with Real Housewives) and it can range from fruit-forward to oaky and full-bodied. It’s rich flavors make it great with lots of different types of cuisines.

From: California, France
Pair it with: Seafood, rich sauces

Riesling
Lighter and much sweeter than Chardonnay, you’ll usually get the flavors of crisper fruits, like apple, pear, and peach. It’s light flavors make it very easy drinking and is best served iced cold.

From: California, France, Germany
Pair it with: Spicy foods, desserts

Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is lighter than Chardonnay but has dry, crisp fruit and citrus flavors and isn’t overly sweet. It’s balanced flavors make it great with a huge range of foods and very refreshing on warm evenings.

From: California, Australia, South America
Pair it with: Seafood, oysters, vegetable dishes, Asian food