Wine has been around for thousands of years; in fact, in many regions of the world, it was the primary beverage. Water could not be counted on to be clean enough to drink, and refrigeration had not yet been invented, so wine was the beverage of choice. Many people are intimidated by wine, but in reality, all you really need to know are a few basics and you will be fine.
If you have not tried a lot of wines, that is where you need to start. Restaurants are a good place to begin trying different wines, because many offer several selections by the glass. If you like what you are drinking, make a note of the name of the winery, the type of wine and the vintage. Likewise, if you do not like something, make another note so you do not order it again. After only a few meals out, you will start getting an idea of what you like and what you do not. If you do not like something that everyone else raves about, do not feel bad. It is perfectly okay to follow your own preferences. Wine is a very individual experience, after all.
Many people prefer sweeter wines when they begin. Dessert wines tend to be the sweetest. Look for varieties like Riesling, White Zinfandel, Asti Spumante, and Port if you prefer a sweeter taste. Port is very different than the others mentioned here. It is fortified with brandy, creating a very sweet, thick beverage. It also has a higher alcohol content than many other wines. Asti Spumante is a sweet sparkling wine that many people enjoy. It pairs very nicely with fresh fruit.
You are more likely to find a sweet white wine than red, but sweet red wines do exist. Port is red, but if you want a lighter experience, you may want to try a Merlot, Chianti or a Shiraz (also called Syrah).
Now that you know a little bit about wine, you may decide you would like to serve some at a dinner party. Different wines taste best at different temperatures. While a champagne is best chilled, most red wines taste best when they are between 50 and 60 degrees. Red wine also tastes best if you let it breathe a little bit before you serve it. This means the bottle is opened so the air can mix with the wine. Decanters aerate the wine faster than leaving it in the bottle. You can even buy little gadgets that mix air with the wine as you pour it.
If you have leftover wine, be sure to refrigerate it. Not all wines will last more than a few days once they are opened. Of course, they can then be used for cooking, rather than drinking. The best way to store leftover white wine is in a smaller bottle, if you have one, then cork it. The less air that interacts with the wine during storage, the better it will taste. Vacuum pumps and gadgets to put in a layer of gas over the wine for storage actually can make the wine worse than just putting a cork in the original bottle. For red wine, the vacuum pump works the best at preserving the original complexity of the wine.
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