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A Wine Guide for Newbies

In college, I would say wine is the least consumed type of alcohol. Wine is one of those things where you either love it or you hate it, and you just try to tolerate it. If your only experience with wine has been “slapping the bag,” which is common for a lot of college students, I am here to help. There are quite a few things that you need to know about wine because it’s rather complicated compared to other alcohols. If you are trying to look like you know what you are doing at your boyfriend’s holiday dinner, ordering wine at a restaurant or when someone asks you to bring a bottle of wine over for dinner, here are some of things you need to know to trick people into thinking this isn’t your first time drinking wine that doesn’t come out of a bag.

Red vs. White Wine

Most people generally prefer one over the other, but there is more to it than just red or white wine because there are several types of each. I like to think of it as a ladder from the most acquired or harshest taste to the lighter wines that are easy to drink fast. If you are just starting out with drinking wine, especially red wine, I would start with the lighter ones first, such as a pinot noir, then work your way up. There are a lot of different types of red and white wines, but here are the most common types you are likely to find on menus or as a selection at a party or event.

Red Wines…

Pinot Noir

It’s light and fruity but not overly sweet.I like to drink a pinot noir when I want a red wine during the day and it’s hot outside, and I like to pair it with salads or fish


It’s a medium-bodied red wine, and it’s darker in color than a pinot noir because it’s a little stronger.I have learned it is a safe pick with a steak or any Italian food, especially if it has red sauce.

Pro tip: A cheap merlot is almost always going to taste better than a cheap cabernet.

Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s a full-bodied red wine, dry and not fruity at all. It is easier for me to smell the flavors in a cabernet than in other wines because the taste really reflects the terrain in which the grapes were grown.It is definitely one of the more acquired tastes because it is so strong, but a really good cabernet will change the way you think about wine forever.Cabernets are my go-to with a quality steak and when I’m munching on chocolate.

White Wines…

Pinot Grigio

It’s light, fruity and sweet. For those of you who have never tried wine, your first wine should definitely be a pinot grigio. It’s best served cold, and if it is not cold enough, I will almost always drop an ice cube in the glass.A pinot grigio is my favorite daytime wine, and if I am making white wine sangria, you can be certain that I will be using a pinot grigio.

Sauvignon blanc

This is my favorite of the whites because it is light and crisp and not overly sweet, and I always look for citrus undertones.

I love a sauvignon blanc with a salad with a citrus vinaigrette.

Pro tip: sauvignon blancs from New Zealand and Australia are almost always citrusy


It’s a dry white and tends to have an oaky, floral and buttery flavor.My mom calls it “The Workhorse of the Whites,” because as long as it’s really cold, you can drink it.A good chardonnay, like a good cabernet (or really any good wine), can change the way you drink wine, but it’s always harder for me to find a good chardonnay since I’m on a college budget.


Just to be clear, Champagne only comes from the Champagne region in France, and everything else is sparkling wine.Sparkling wine is the obvious celebratory drink for any special occasion and chances are you will drink it at some point in your life.Sparkling wine can have varying degrees of sweetness. Just remember, dry is sweeter than brut, and the rest is complicated.Personally, I like a splash of Chambord in extra dry sparkling wine with a raspberry to top it off.

Red wine glasses vs. white wine glasses

Most college students drink wine out of a plastic cup like we do with everything else. However, I will never drink wine out of a Styrofoam cup because it changes the taste and makes it taste weird. Now, you may have wondered if the shape of the wine glass really matters. Well if someone serves wine in the wrong glass, it’s the first sign that they don’t know what they are doing. You may hear people talk about the wine needing to “breathe” or “air out.” When wine is exposed to oxygen, the flavors open and are enhanced, which is what they call letting the wine “breathe.” The red wine glasses have a larger base and surface area than a white wine glass for the purpose of allowing the wine to breathe.

As far as how much wine to pour, generally it is a third of a glass for red wine and half a glass for white wine. Please don’t pour a wine glass all the way to the top; it’s painful to watch every time a bartender or waiter does that.

Ordering wine

Stick to your price range when choosing wine off a menu. You don’t need to focus on the brand as much,just pick what type of wine you are in the mood for, then choose the one that best fits your budget. Be cautious of the wine specials your waiter or waitress lists for you because they probably all taste great but most likely are pretty pricey. However, the house wines will probably be kinder to your wallet.insert image 3

Opening a wine bottle

Any time you get the chance to open a bottle of wine, do it. Let someone teach you and take every opportunity to practice because it is the only way to get better at it. Even if you do not drink wine, it is a good skill to always have. In my family, you learn how to open a bottle of wine before you know how to pump gas. And on special occasions, we will open a bottle of Champagne by sabering it with a sword, but don’t try that at home.

I swear my eyes were open at the beginning

Features writer and videographer Taylor is a third-year public relations major and this is her first semester with Her Campus UFL. Taylor just transferred from LSU where she played on their beach volleyball team so she is super pumped to finally be a Florida Gator. Since moving to the ville, you can find Taylor either at SWR playing beach volleyball, blogging at Starbucks or staying up too late in midtown. This Summer Taylor is studying abroad with the J-school in Greece and London and then backpacking across Europe. You can follow her blog at sunsandvolley.wordpress.com and on Instagram @taytayyy28
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