Basic Wine Information and Serving Tips

If you're just beginning to learn about wine, naturally you start with the basic wine information. Before you begin learning commonly used descriptive terms like herbaceous, flinty or chewy, it's good to get a handle on the basics first.


Tannins are phenols that occur naturally in grape skins and stems. Tannins are what makes your mouth feel dry when tasting a full-bodied red wine. Harsher tannins often also cause your cheeks to pucker a bit or you may feel them in your jaw, similar to when you eat something slightly sour.


The body of the wine is how it feels in your mouth. This is also referred to as mouth-feel. When tasting a wine, there are two main things you're looking for:

  • The weight of the wine - Not weight as far as actually heaviness, but how it feels on your palate. When a wine is full-bodied, it completely coats your palate and tends to feel heavier in the mouth. When a wine is light bodied, it coats your palate thinly, making it feel lighter in the mouth.
  • The texture of the wine - This is how the consistency of the wine feels in your mouth. Is it smooth or velvety or is it coarse and brash.


Another basic wine information term. Acidity has to do with body of wine and if it's well balanced. Too much acid makes tends to be harsh and makes your mouth pucker and too little makes the wine taste dull and lifeless.

Red Varietals

Though there are a number of different types of red wine, here is a list of the most common red varietals on the market:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon - Full bodied
  • Merlot - Medium to light bodied
  • Pinot Noir - Medium bodied
  • Syrah or Shiraz - Medium bodied

White Varietals

Just as with the reds, there are many types of white wine on the market, here are the most common:

  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Grigio

Serving Temperature

To get the full effect of the flavor nuance s of white or red wine, you need to serve them at the optimum temperatures. Doing so releases all the flavor nuances and aromas of the wine. Here are some guidelines:

  • Whites - 46 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reds - 55 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Champagne and sparkling - 43 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit


Whether or not to decant wine is an oft debated topic. The two main reasons to decant are:

  • Aeration - The chemical compounds in wine react with oxygen. When this happens, more subtle flavors and aromas are released and you get the full tasting experience of the wine.
  • Remove sediment - As wine, (generally red wine) ages, sediment forms at the bottom of the bottle. Decanting prevents the sediment from reaching the glass.

Of course, if you choose to decant a bottle of wine simply for show, that's just fine too.

Choosing the Perfect Wine

Work you way up, as far as body is concerned. This helps develop your wine palate. For example:


  1. Pinot Noir
  2. Merlot/Shiraz
  3. Cabernet


  1. Pinot Grigio
  2. Sauvignon Blanc
  3. Chardonnay

Remember, price is not always a direct reflection of quality.

More Basic Wine Information

Here are some articles to find more helpful basic wine information:

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Basic Wine Information and Serving Tips