How to Choose Wine: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

How to Choose Wine: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners


If you don’t know much about how to choose a wine, it can be overwhelming to choose from the seemingly endless varieties. There are so many different flavors from regions all over the world. When you’re browsing, you might be afraid of choosing something that is too dry or sweet, so you end up going with something familiar.


If you’re looking to expand your wine knowledge and branch out, you’ve come to the right place. By the end of this article, you’ll be a self-proclaimed “wine connoisseur!”


Related: How To Drink Wine The Right Way 


The Basic Components of Every Wine


Everyone has a different palate, and as a result, we all have varying opinions on what is a “good wine.” Each wine has some simple components that define its taste. These characteristics are determined by age, location, grapes, and the fermenting process. Here are some factors to consider when choosing your next bottle.


  • Acidity: If a wine has high acidity, it will have a more tart flavor which often results in that dry flavor that some of us love. 

  • Sweetness: You’ll find a wine on the shelf that is either sweet, semi-sweet, or dry. Many cheaper wines are cut with plenty of sugar to enhance the flavor.

  • Body: A wine’s body refers to how it feels in your mouth. Some wines have a full body which gives them a heavy feeling when you drink them. Light body wines are typically white, and they feel light in your mouth. Grapes grown in warm climates generally have a full body as compared to ones grown in cooler regions.

  • Tannin: These are the compounds in the skin of the grapes. Since tannins get incorporated in the process of making red wine, that is why they usually have a dry and more bitter taste. 

  • Alcohol: All wine is measured using alcohol per volume. The more alcohol in the wine, the warmer it will feel when you drink it. 

Certain types of wines are associated with some of the above metrics. For example, Chardonnay is typically a sweeter wine due to its light characteristics and low acidity. 


Ready to try some delicious wine, see what Cedar Creek has to offer!


How to Choose Wine: Top Tips


While there is no way to give you tips on how to choose the best wine, there are some ways to choose for yourself. Combine the factors outlined below to choose the right wine for your taste and occasion. 


Consider flavors you already enjoy


Are you the kind of person that can’t drink coffee unless it has plenty of cream and sugar? If that’s the case, you might prefer a sweeter wine. If you enjoy the bitter punch of a black coffee, you might like a high acidity wine. 


Many old world wines from Italy and France pack that full body flavor that true wine drinkers love. If you prefer a more mild taste with a bit of sweetness, try a new world wine from Australia or the United States. 


What are you eating?


Wine pairings are popular, but you can take it far beyond that. Think about the occasion and your reason for buying the wine. If you’re entertaining a lot of guests, you might want to provide a few options. Consider getting something sweet and something dry. 


If you’re trying to pair a wine with your meal, there is a general rule to follow. Pick a white wine for chicken and fish dishes. Go with a bottle of red wine for beef, lamb, and veal. We’ve provided some specific wine pairings below to help you. 


When mixing your wine into something else like a Sangria, you don’t have to worry as much about the details. For this, we would recommend choosing a cheap bottle because you won’t taste the slight differences in flavor if you’re adding other components. 


Take your time and read the label


Here’s a crazy idea, fill a bottle with grape juice, and sell it as wine calling it “Best Wine Ever.” We believe it would fly off the shelves! That’s because most people don’t read the labels. They get so swept up by the drawings and colors that they overlook the most important part. 


Related: Sangiovese Wine


The taste! 


Much of the time, you can get all the information you need about the flavor from reading the label. You’ll learn about the location, the grapes, the body, and alcohol content right on the bottle. Don’t be afraid to spend some time reading the labels to ensure you get the right wine for your taste. 


Ready to try some delicious wine, see what Cedar Creek has to offer!


Don’t worry about the age


Age is not as important as most people think. When you purchase wine from the store, it is ready for you to drink, and it doesn’t matter how old it is. Red wine puts more of an emphasis on age than white so if you’re torn between two reds, go with the one that is older. 


Price isn’t that important


If you’re deciding between two bottles and the main thing separating your decision is price, go for the cheaper one. Price isn’t always important if you’re putting the other factors first. If something is on sale, it doesn’t mean that it’s not selling, it might be out of season or due to surplus inventory. 


Discounted wine allows you to try a few different bottles you’ve never had before. Also, don’t assume that a “twist-off” cap means that the wine is low-quality. All this means is that the wine must get consumed within a year, so it has nothing to do with the quality. These are also more convenient for storage if you don’t have a way to re-cork the bottle.  


Try wine from different regions


In the realm of wines, we call this, “Old World” and “New World.” Old world wines come from places like Italy, France, and Germany. These areas have long histories of producing wine, and much focus goes into their soil and climate.


New world wines are from places like the United States and Australia. These winemakers focus more on the marketing of their product compared to the region. Someone buys an old world wine because they enjoy wine from that region. People buy new world wines, usually because of marketing. 


Be sure to sample flavors from all over the world to learn more about your palate and your desired taste. 


How to Pair Wines


Now that you understand the basics of what makes a wine, now let’s look at how to drink it. If you pair a great wine with strange food, you might not get the full experience. Keep sweetness, acidity, and body in mind when pairing wines. 


Pair salty food with sweet wine. Sweet and salty works with food, so it also works with wine. Sipping a sweet wine after a salty bite will cut the salty flavor and also highly the sweetness of the wine. 


Acidic food works best with acidic wine. If you’re eating acidic food, you’re shocking your taste buds. High acid ingredients require highly acidic wine; otherwise, you won’t taste the wine as much. For example, tomato sauce and citrus need a highly acidic red wine for an ideal pairing. 


The fattier the food, the higher the acidity. There’s a reason why wine and butter are a common combination. The alcohol in the wine cuts through the fat, and when you cook it down, it provides a delicious flavor. The same goes for pairing a drinking wine with a fatty meal. If you have a steak or cheese stuffed dish, you want to have a high acidity red wine to go along with it. This also applies for hearty desserts like cheesecake. 


Wine Pairing Examples


Now you understand the characteristics of wine and how to pair them with food. Next, we can play a little match game and see if you can pair some of these wines with the right foods. Let’s see how good you do! 


  • Pinot Noir - Light body red wine with high acidity and red fruit flavor
    • Pairs with chicken, pork, veal, and cream sauces
    • Ideal for French and German dishes

  • Zinfandel - Medium or full body red wine with fruit flavor and low acidity
    • Pairs with chicken, pork, beef, barbecue
    • Ideal for Italian, American, and Chinese dishes

  • Chardonnay - Medium bodied white wine with fruit flavor and mid-level acidity
    • Pairs with fish, shellfish, chicken, and cream sauces
    • Ideal for French dishes

  • Cabernet - Full bodied red wine with high alcohol and tannins
    • Pairs with heavy dishes like beef, lamb, and smoked meats
    • Ideal for American dishes

  • Riesling - Light bodied white wine with high fruit flavor, sweetness, and acidity
    • Pairs with chicken, pork, and turkey
    • Ideal for Thai, Indian, and Moroccan dishes

  • Pinot Gris - Light bodied white wine with moderate acid and slight sweetness
    • Pairs with salads, fish, and light dishes

Now You Can Choose


At this point, you should know a lot about wine and how to choose the right flavor for you. As you browse the assortment of wines, make sure you keep all these factors in mind before committing to a bottle. Now that you know how to choose, do you think you’ve made some mistakes in the past? We hope you enjoyed this article and hope you enjoy the wine you choose! 


Ready to try some delicious wine, see what Cedar Creek has to offer!