An Easy Wine Guide for Beginners

woman with wine

An Easy Wine Guide for Beginners

Wine, oh how the CGGM team loves you. A cab for a kickoff to the weekend, rosé for working lunches around San Diego, chardonnay to pair with our killer cheese and charcuterie boards—simply put, wine is kind of our thing. But if you’re new to our favorite stress-reliever, we’ve been there and we’ve got you.

What’s with the sniffing and swirling? Does it really matter what kind you drink with dinner? There’s white and red, isn’t that all you need to know? If you’re just selecting a bottle for your party of one after a trying work week, then yeah, red or white is a relatively painless decision to help forget about your least favorite coworker. However, if you’ve seen the light in the name of Holy Fermented Grapes or made the resolution to become Hostess of the Year, a) welcome to the dark side and b) you’re going to want to read our easy wine guide for beginners.

Intense fear or hatred of wine is called “oenophobia.”

wine glasses

wine corks

Meet the Grapes

Time for the basics. While we won’t have you memorize the more than 1,000 varieties of wine grapes (who has that kind of time?!), we will introduce you to eight of the most popular you’ll find in the store.

Meet the Whites:
Pinot Gris
Sauvignon Blanc

Meet the Reds:
Pinot Noir
Cabernet Sauvignon

Sommeliers say that smell is the most important sense when drinking wine.

wine vineyard

grapes on vine

Tasting Wine With All Your Senses

There are three main factors to sampling wine: smell, texture and taste. But beyond that, when you’re tasting wine there are a few things to look out for that will help you decide what you like and what you don’t. There’s sweetness from fruits and sugar content, bitterness from a wine’s tannin content and acidity, the sharp taste that comes from how ripe the grapes are.

woman drinking winewine glasses

All Bodies Are Wine Bodies

It’s one thing to read words on a page and remember them for the next time you’re tackling the wine aisle at the grocery store, it’s another to truly dedicate yourself to the wine world. It’s time for wine tasting! Yes, the best way to understand each wine variety, and to discover your preferences, is to taste it! But we’ve broken it down for you in case you can’t be bothered or need a little extra hand.

Sparkling Wine

Forget about Cook’s and go for the good stuff. Champagne can be a little painful on the budget, but you can go for Brut sparkling wines—not sweet—like Prosecco, Cava or any other kind of bubbly that isn’t Cook’s. Sorry, it just has to go.

Light-Bodied White Wine

Dry, refreshing and aptly named the “beer of wine,” light-bodied wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are great starters for your wine journey. Plus, they pair well with almost any meal, though we specifically like them for our day drinking and/or seafood.

Full-Bodied White Wine

Chardonn-hay. If you’ve discovered that you’re more devoted to red than white, this may be a good in-between thanks to its rich, creamy taste.

Sweet White Wine

Rieslings make a statement with sweet, strong aromas you can smell before you even bring the glass up to your nose. It’s worth it just for that.


The millennial wine of choice, rosé is made by “dyeing” a wine by using the skin of red grapes. They can be sweet or dry (we prefer dry), and they can also sneak up on you so be careful.

Light-Bodied Red Wine

Pale in color, yet rich in flavor, light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir are great with nutty cheeses, mushrooms, duck or other distinguished flavors.

Medium-Bodied Red Wine

The Sangiovese, Merlots and Zinfandels of the world were made for cuisine. With a great balance of acidity and flavor, medium-bodied reds offer up a lot of options when you’re throwing down in the kitchen.

Full-Bodied Red Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah are popular examples of full-bodied reds. Each is bold in taste and gives off a sort of palate-cleansing effect because of that boldness. Save these for decadent pastas or a perfectly-cooked steak for a rich, flavorful meal.

10,000 varieties of wine grapes exist worldwide.

wine bottles wine in vineyard

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