What Will it Be…Red or White?

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Learning to be a wine connoisseur.

Choosing the Right Bottle

The US produced over 800 million gallons of wine last year. There are almost 10,000 wineries in the US generating 18% of alcohol sales and $665 million in revenue. We consume, on average, almost 3 gallons a year per person. That’s a lot of vino!

Full-service, high-end restaurants have industry-experienced professionals who offer guidance and make suggestions. The first thing you’ll be asked is, “Red or white?” Most of us consume wine at home and have little or no expertise. When endless options abound, how do you choose the right wine?

A Good Wine Shop

Find a good wine shop. A 30-second conversation with someone who is passionate about winemaking is better than any search engine, for finding the perfect bottle. You can establish a relationship with an online shop or vineyard that would be happy to help with recommendations. As your palate develops, wine becomes more conversational and finding the right wine gets easier.

Five Categories

Red Wines – Made from black grapes, the juice, skin, grape pip and seed are incorporated into the fermentation process. Although referred to as red, color can range from dark eggplant to deep tawny.

White Wine – Utilizes white grapes and doesn’t come in contact with the skins, juice only during the fermentation process. White grapes are light green or mauvy-pink in color. White wine is pale green, yellow or golden in color.

Rosé Wine – Made with red grapes. The juice has a shorter fermentation process and is in contact with skins only briefly. Lighter in color and body than red wines. Serve chilled.

Sparkling Wine – Sparkling bubbles come from naturally occurring CO2 (or specifically added) during the fermentation process. The result reaches from fizzy and sweet to effervescent and bone dry.

Fortified Wine – “Fortified” with distilled spirits after fermentation. The fermentation duration will affect whether the outcome is sweet or dry. Once spirits are added, fermentation stops.


Here’s a secret- the characteristics of wine are highly subjective. People spend a lifetime and a small fortune honing their skills, developing their senses and training their palates to pick up on the subtleties of tasting. When you experience wine, you taste through the nose and mouth. Pour a glass, roll it around with the stem, exhale completely, inhale, full nose in the bowl. Your mouth should start to water. The first thing that comes to your mind is correct. It’s like word association or a Rorschach Test; there is no wrong answer.

Here is a list of characteristics used to describe wine:

  • Flowers
  • Coffee
  • Full Bodied
  • Fruity
  • Aromatic
  • Oaky
  • Dry
  • Sweet
  • Chocolate
  • Round
  • Tart
  • Chewy
  • Toast
  • Cigar
  • Barnyard
  • Grass
  • Smoke
  • Citrus
  • Berry
  • Earth
  • Apple
  • Salty
  • Buttery
  • Jam
  • Light
  • Butterscotch
  • Cherry
  • Vanilla
  • Spice
  • Soft
  • Cedar chest
  • Delicate
  • Bitter

Stick to a Budget

A bottle of wine can cost less than a burger or as much as a small family vacation. There are beautifully acceptable bottles of wine in your price range. Inform your seller what your price range is. There is no shame in an inexpensive bottle of wine. Once you understand the care and discipline it takes to execute a superior bottle of wine, you appreciate the producers who pour their heart and family into each harvest.

Temperature Matters

White wine should be stored at 50-60°F. Red wines should be kept at 60-68°F. Storing sparkling wine or champers (British slang for Champagne) in the refrigerator will cause it to go flat before its time. Keep sparkling wine at room temperature, then chill 15-20 minutes before opening. Keep in mind, in the wine world, “room temperature” is 55-60°F. If you are keeping your wine in the kitchen, above the refrigerator, move it immediately.

Let it Breathe

Young, red wines tend to be tight which means it’s not as smooth as developed, aged wines. Aeration is the key. The circulation of air through the liquid will speed up the process of releasing the tannins. You can accomplish this with a purchased aerator or simply pour the wine into a decanter or any other appropriate glass vessel. Older or vintage wine may have sediment that has collected in the bottom.

There are techniques to pouring a bottle while controlling the air bubble, so it doesn’t make that glug-glug noise, disturb the sediment or splash.

The Long and the Short of It

Wine is an art form and it takes a keen curator to bring out the best in these masterpieces. Some radical wine enthusiasts insist, “There’s no such thing as a bad bottle of wine, just different taste.” Red or white? The short answer is, yes. Whatever your preference, whatever your budget, for every mood and occasion, there is a wine. The perfect wine is the one you enjoy the most. It takes a little time and willingness to experiment to refine your wine style.

Remember, enjoy the process and ceremony in properly serving a lovely bottle of wine. You won’t be sorry. Cheers!

Heart of the Desert is a working pistachio ranch and vineyard with four retail establishments in New Mexico. They are best known for their farm fresh pistachios and Award-Winning New Mexico wines. Each store offers wine and pistachio tastings. They offer worldwide shipping and produce attractive gourmet baskets that make great corporate and family gifts. The main store, on the ranch in Alamogordo, offers farm tours that showcases how pistachios are grown and processed as well as a stunning Tuscany themed patio that overlooks the groves and is available for weddings, private parties or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine.