Cheat Sheet

Wine All-In-One For Dummies

From Wine All-in-One For Dummies by Ed McCarthy, Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Maryann Egan

Both red wine and white wine come in myriad styles, from delicate to robust. They taste best when paired with the right foods. Fortunately, you can find a red or a white wine to go with any meal you might serve at home or order in a restaurant — or to enjoy on its own or to suit your mood.

Finding the Right Red Wine

Not sure how to choose a red wine to complement your meal? If you’re new to red wine or don't have time to browse at the wine shop, this reliable chart can help.

If You Want a . . . Try . . .
Crisp, light-bodied red wine to go with light meat dishes, sausage, hamburgers, pasta, pizza, or casseroles
Bardolino or Valpolicella
Beaujolais
Inexpensive U.S. Pinot Noir
Inexpensive Chianti
Loire Valley reds (Chinon, Bourgueil)
Medium-bodied, firm red wine to go with lamb, venison, simple roasts, or hard cheeses.
Less-expensive Bordeaux wines
Chianti Classico
Rioja
Cabernets or Syrahs from southern France
Less-expensive red Burgundies
Beaujolais crus
Medium-bodied, soft red wine to go with spicy meat dishes, grilled meats, roast chicken, game birds, turkey, lamb, venison, or salmon
Most U.S. Pinot Noirs
Inexpensive California Cabernets and Merlots
Inexpensive Zinfandels
Many Australian Shiraz wines
Australian Cabernets
Most Côtes du Rhône reds
Chilean Cabernets and Merlots
Full-bodied, intense red wine to go with rich meat dishes, venison, game birds, roast turkey, or spicy pastas
Better California Cabernets, Merlots, and Zinfandels
Better Bordeaux wines
Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello di Montalcino
Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Hermitage and Côte Rôtie
Better red Burgundy wines

Choosing a White Wine

Choosing the right white wine to enjoy with dinner or to serve guests doesn't have to be hard. Try one of the white wines recommended here and save yourself some hassle.

If You Want a . . . Try . . .
Crisp, lighter-bodied, dry, unoaked white wine to go with fish, shellfish, game birds, pork, veal, Thai dishes, or Chinese food
Soave, Pinot Grigio, Frascati, or other Italian white wines
Muscadet
Sancerre
Dry German Riesling
Chablis
Inexpensive white Bordeaux wines
Fuller-bodied, dry, unoaked white wine to go with fish, shellfish, chicken, spicy sausage, or vegetarian dishes
Mâcon-Villages
St. Veran
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Alsace wines
Oregon Pinot Gris
Most Austrian whites
Fuller-bodied, dry white wine with oaky character to go with fish, shellfish, poultry, veal, pork, cream sauces, or egg dishes
Better California Chardonnays
Australian Chardonnays
White Burgundy wines from the Côte d’Or district
Most Pouilly-Fuissé wines
Most Rhône Valley whites
Some California Sauvignon Blancs
Better white Bordeaux wines
Soft, fruity white wine that’s not fully dry to go with shellfish, chicken, pork, light cream dishes, Asian dishes, light curries, or smoked fish
Inexpensive California Chardonnays
Liebfraumilch
Many German Rieslings
Many U.S. Rieslings
Most U.S. Gewürztraminers
Vouvray

Taste-Testing a Bottle of Wine when Dining Out

The process of tasting wine from a bottle that you've ordered in a restaurant can be intimidating, but this quick guide to the wine-tasting ritual makes it easy. Evaluating wine involves a bit of ceremony, but there’s logic behind it. Step by step, the wine-presentation goes like this:

  1. The server or sommelier presents the bottle to you (assuming that you’re the person who ordered the wine) for inspection. Check the label carefully and feel the bottle with your hand to determine whether its temperature seems to be correct. If you’re satisfied with the bottle, nod your approval to the server.

    This step enables you to make sure that the bottle is, in fact, the bottle you ordered.

  2. The server removes the cork and places it in front of you. Inspect the cork and sniff it to make sure it’s in good condition.

    In rare instances, a wine may be so corky that the cork itself will have an unpleasant odor. On even rarer occasions, the cork might be wet and shriveled or dry and crumbly; either situation suggests that air has gotten into the wine and spoiled it.

    If the cork raises your suspicions, wait to smell or taste the wine itself before deciding whether to reject the bottle.

  3. The server pours a small amount of wine into your glass and waits. Now is when you swirl the wine in the glass, take a sniff, perhaps a little sip, and then indicate whether you find the wine acceptable.

    If the wine is fine, you can nod or murmur, “It’s fine.” If something is wrong with the wine, now is the time to return it — not after you’ve finished half the bottle!

    If you decide that the bottle is out of condition, describe to the server what you find wrong with the wine. If the sommelier or wine specialist agrees that it’s a bad bottle, he may bring you another bottle of the same, or he may bring you the wine list so you can select a different wine. Either way, the ritual begins again.

  4. If you accept the wine, the server pours the wine into your guests’ glasses and then finally into yours.

    Now you’re allowed to relax.

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