You’ve tasted most of the varieties–Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot–and heard the terminology–dry, sweet, misty–but wrapping your head around the basics of wine can seem like a daunting task. Yet, according to Renee Rowe, founder of the African-American Wine Tasting Society, learning about wine is not as terrifying as you may think.

Here are a few ways to familiarize yourself with wine.
1. Find a good wine shop
Shop around for a wine merchant store you’re comfortable with, says Rowe, someone who has the time and interest in talking with you and teaching you something about the bottle you’re about to buy. “A good wine merchant is truly interested in helping you find what you like. If you don’t know what that is yet, they’ll help you figure it out.” Then, on your next visit you can build on that knowledge and fine tune your likes and dislikes.

2. Attend wine tastings
“The more you taste, the more you’ll develop your palate,” says Rowe. Most wineries and distribution companies hold tasting events to promote their product. Take advantage of their generosity. At a tasting, don’t always gravitate towards the wines you already know and like. Experiment with different tastes and varieties to develop your own taste.

3. Find your style of wine
Do you prefer your wine sweet or slightly fruity, dry or rich? Do you like red or white wine? Listen to how someone more knowledgeable than you describes what you’re drinking and make a mental note of it. ‘That’s what fruity is,’ or ‘That is smokey.’ Knowing your preferences will help you and your wine merchant find a wine that agrees with you.

4. Find the perfect wine glass
Often overlooked but invaluable. A good wineglass is made of crystal, has a rounded bowl and a rim that curves in slightly. The egg-like shape releases the fragrance of the wine when you swirl it. “All of the characteristics of wine have to have a way of revealing themselves and the only way to do that is through a good wine glass,” adds Rowe, a self-described wine glass snob.

Some wine basics you should know:
1. White wine should generally be served chilled while red wine should be served (and stored) at room temperature.
2. A “dry” wine simply means it’s not sweet.
3. A “full-bodied” wine means it is full of flavor with a bold and heavy taste in the mouth.
4. White wine comes from grapes made with their skins off, while red wine is made with the skins left on, giving it more antioxidants.
5. The name of a wine indicates the variety of grapes it’s made of. For example, a white Zinfandel wine comes from Zinfandel grapes.

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