Know how to characterize and distinguish varieties of wine
Selecting a good wine is easier than most might expect, especially given the near encyclopedic level of information wine connoisseurs like to bring up when explaining why certain vintages are so sought after. Having a great deal of knowledge about wine should be more properly understood as the hobby of wine enthusiasts, not a prerequisite for selecting and appreciating a good bottle of wine. There are a few basic things that are important to understand and the rest will rely mostly on individual taste. The two main categories are red and white, and each one can be broken down further by the grape used in making the wine. Red wines include Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are white wines, which are usually lighter in body than the more dry red wines.
Learn which wines go best with different foods
A conventional rule is that white wines complement lighter foods like chicken, seafood and creamy dishes, while red wines are best with red meat. Though some of the lighter reds can work with most white meats, pairing a heavy red wine with fish is almost universally discouraged. Sweet wines like Riesling and Pinot Grigio go nicely with sweet and spicy foods. In most instances, the best wine choices will be those with a flavor profile that is very similar to that of the accompanying meal.
Pay attention to where and when the wine was made
Regional factors such as soil composition and climate will bring out certain characteristics that are usually consistent with other wines from the same area. If a particular wine is favored, chances are others from the same region will be liked as well. Additionally, local variations in weather that occur season to season and year to year can often make or break a particular vintage. This is why connoisseurs like to know so much about the climate of the area when the wine was made. Droughts, dry seasons and other deviations from the normal weather patterns will often make or break wines produced during these periods.
Consider how the wine will be served
Most wine lovers have some awareness of the way flavor is affected by the shape of the wine glass. While this is not a major concern, knowing which types of wine glasses are going to be used can provide enough of a nudge to reach a satisfactory choice.
Avoid expensive wines
Running out of wine during a party can be embarrassing and certainly demonstrates poor form in the hosts. There is nothing wrong with opting for less expensive wines, especially when entertaining. Old, rare and costly vintages are of interest to wine enthusiasts for reasons that often have little to do with how the wine tastes. The quest to locate these wines is also a significant part of the fun for these connoisseurs, so there is little reason to expect anyone to really care that much about how special the vintage might be. A sufficient supply of cheap but tasty wine will help ensure an enjoyable dinner party for all.