The Wine Rookie Refined

The Wine Rookie Refined

Novice wine drinkers eventually face the fear of committing a “wine faux pas.” Something about the sophistication of the drinking process or the elegance of its drinkers intimidates the “wine newbie.” Fear no longer rookies, the secret world of wine etiquette will now be revealed!  With this step by step guide to serving, tasting and enjoying a bottle of vintage or a new introduction, you are sure to impress your guests… and maybe even yourself!


Let’s say you decided to “shell out” a few more bucks on a bottle with a cork instead of a twist-off; here’s how you do it:

Remove the foil with a foil cutter. Twist the spiral of the corkscrew all the way in. Grip the handle and pull out. Or simply press the “down” button on an electric bottle opener. It’s your choice.


Serving temperatures of white wine should be in the 45 degree range, while reds can be served between room temperature to 55 degrees.

Half a glass is the appropriate serving.


Does it matter? Yes! Heaven forbid you serve a white wine in a red glass!

Basics: Red glasses are usually narrow on the rim compared to its wider bowl. The purpose of this is to expose the wine to as much air as possible. Air uncovers the aromas, yet encapsulates the taste. White wine glasses are not so wide at the bowl or narrow at the top. They keep a consistent shape.


Yes, BREATHE. To fully enjoy red wines you need to let them breathe. Aged wines and newer wines require air to expose the aromas and flavor. Opening the bottle and letting it sit uncorked is not enough. It’s best to pour the wine in a glass (or decanter if you have one) and wait a few minutes before drinking. Waiting time varies with the age of the wine. Newer wines require more time; on occasion, even hours.

White wines can be enjoyed almost immediately. They are not known for their age; therefore they do not need to breathe.

 Swish and Swirl

Hold your glass by the stem, not the bowl; this will prevent an increase in temperature of your wine. Gently swirl the wine. This will expose the wine to more air and prepare the glass for smelling. The remnants from the swished wine in the glass heighten the aromas.


Place your nose in the glass and slowly inhale. At this point, wine enthusiasts, or winos as they are affectionately called, identify the small traces of earth’s aromas. Berries, fruit, tea, anything is game. Wine newbies may struggle with this, so I recommend the following: tilt your head slightly to the left, raise your right eyebrow, and simply nod like you know what you’re doing. This maneuver never fails.


Ahh, finally! Remember that wine is meant to be drunk slowly and in small sips.

Wine loses its prime after too many hours of air exposure, so it’s best to finish the wine once it’s been opened.

 Other Helpful Tips…


Chocolate has been known to bring out the different flavors in wine. (Try a Cabernet and a small piece of dark chocolate, yum!)

Protein rule of thumb: white meat or fish, white wine; red meat, red wine.

 Selecting a Wine

Explore and discover! Most wine novices begin with sweeter wines, like Moscato, then gradually move up the dryness scale. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you don’t like it, add a little Sprite and ice- you should NEVER let anyone see you do this, of course.

 Wine Gadgets

Aerator-Helps reduce breathing time, but can be costly. Remember, patience is free.

Vacuum Pump- Preserves wine for up to a week. That is assuming that you have any wine left to preserve.

Icicle Cork- God’s gift to white wine drinkers. A cork topper with a freezable icicle attached. Insert in bottle and wine is ready in minutes. A MUST HAVE!

 Headache Myths Revealed

We’ve all suffered that slight wine headache- so much so that there’s a syndrome for it: “Red Wine Headache” or “RWH.” Although a headache is more prominent from red wine, white wines can also be a trigger. You’ve heard most people blame sulfates, but these are not the culprit. In fact, sulfates are in all wines to help break down the yeast and preserve the taste of the wine. So even if the bottle isn’t labeled, “Contains Sulfates,” a small amount is in there.

Research shows that possible reasons for your headache are: too much wine, dehydration, lack of ability to metabolize histamine, tyramine-induced increase in blood pressure, sugar added to cheap wine, or the region of the wine can also be a factor. (from a Tastings column by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher published in October 2000.)

 Ooops! Stain?

Mix one part dishwashing liquid with one part hydrogen peroxide in a small cup. Mix. Dab on stain. Ta-Da! All gone! Be careful not to apply to skin, this can cause burns.

 Lastly and Most Important

Relax, experiment, and enjoy!


About the Author: Rebecca Medrano

An English teacher by day, and wine enthusiast by night, Rebecca Medrano, recently moved from her home town of El Paso to San Antonio, Texas. When she is not enlightening today’s youth, “Ms.M,” as her students call her, enjoys traveling, conjuring up culinary delights, visiting Hill Country and New Mexico wineries, accepting blind flight challenges, and an occasional visit to the gym.

 Photo Credit – homme_de_fer3 (Flickr)


Vinnie recently joined the team at Wine and Food Travel as Editor in Chief. We are very excited to have her culinary experience and artistic background to draw from here at WAFT. Vinnie brings a wealth of experience in the culinary arts, professional writing and marketing. Her passion, expertise and her willingness to share her learnings with readers is a welcome contribution to the WAFT team. Vinnie also maintains a food blog where she shares many of her recipes, food experiences and adventures,

  1. I’m a new wine drinker and this article gave me all the info I could ask for. Thanks! Great job!


  3. I have always stayed away from ordering wine on dates, but now with this information I can be confident that I know what I’m doing! Thank you so much! This was very helpful!

  4. very informative article and very nicely put, I’m sure this information will make any novice look like a wine expert. you’ve just encouraged me to open up my horizons and taste new wines. thank you very much.

  5. Great! Very simple and informative, I would just add something as restauranteur. When the waiter opens the bottle it is a costume to hand the cork to the person who ordered the bottle, newbies (as you called them) think they should smell it, DON’T!, the reason they present it to you is so you see that it is wet, this means that the wine was stored properly and no air entered.

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