Tim Lane / BuzzFeed Wine is delicious. View this photo on Instagram Instagram: @demi_cassiani But it can also be confusing. Vintage, regions, grapes... There's a lot of information to swallow. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Comedy Central It'd be nice to be able to ask the bartender for more than just "the biggest glass you've got". So, we went to London Wine Week and spoke to sommelier and all-round wine expert Dawn Davies for advice. drinkup.london From red to white to rosé, she knows what's up. Here's what she told us... 1. Wine types are named according to either the grape they're made with or the area they're from. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "Wine is incredibly complicated and I think that’s why people get nervous about it," Davies says. "There’s no clear guidance on the bottle about what it is you’re drinking, unless you’ve already done your research. Some places in the world name the grape on the bottle. For example, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon – those are all grape varieties. Those tend to be what we call the New World countries, so Australia, New Zealand, America, South America. "Then you get the Europeans, like the French, the Spanish and the Italians, who confuse everyone because they don’t put the grape on the bottle, they put the region. This is a concept we call 'terroir' in wine, where everything that happens in an area in terms of the climate, the height of the hills, the soil etc affects how the grape and then the wine tastes. So for the Europeans it’s more important to talk about this idea of place than the grape. For example, if you see a French Chablis, 'Chablis' isn’t the grape, it’s the area. The grape is chardonnay." 2. There are literally thousands of types of grape, but the most well-known ones are called noble varietals. winefolly.com "There are what we call the noble varietals. For white wine, there’s chardonnay, a really classic white grape that can be very buttery and creamy or can be very citrusy and lean; sauvignon blanc, which is probably the most well-known, and can be really tropical and fruity or really fresh and grassy; and then riesling. "For red wine, you have things like pinot noir, which is a light, fruity style, cabernet sauvignon, which is bigger and richer, and shiraz or syrah, which is spicy and rich, and merlot. So those are some of your main varietals, but there’s over 2–3,000 grape varieties in the world so we could keep going forever. But if you want to start, those are some of the most recognisable ones." 3. Vintage is important for "Old World" wines, but less important for "New World" wines. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "The vintage is the year that wine has been grown in, and the reason that’s important is that in each year the climate is different. It affects how the grape grows. Grapes are a natural product – if you have a lot of rain, for example, the grape will swell and will be too dilute. Or a lot of sunlight pushes the sugar content of the grape up and acidity level down. So, if there’s a lot of sun one year, the wine will be sweeter, whereas a cool harvest will have a higher acidity wine. "In New World countries though, vintage is less of a problem because they have more consistent weather. You’ll have variation but it won’t be quite as great as in the Old World countries." 4. Some wines are made to last, but others are made to be drunk right away. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "Different wines age in different ways. If we took an easy-drinking New Zealand sauvignon blanc, you wouldn’t want to keep that wine more than a year as it’s not going to get better. The fruit will start flattening out – even if no one’s opened it, there’s still a little bit of air that will interact with the wine, and it will slowly oxidise over time. Some wines you just need to open and drink. "But some wines are built to live longer, just by virtue of the makeup of the grape; for example, cabernet sauvignon. In good circumstances, if it’s from the right area and made in the right way, it can last for decades. Some rieslings can last even longer. Madeira can last centuries. "Then as the wine ages, less and less of it becomes available, as people are drinking it and it gets rarer and rarer. Then there’s also certain vintages that are famous for being amazing, like a ‘61 in Bordeaux. Everyone wants those bottles as they’re ridiculously rare now, and hold very high prices as they’re seen as coming from the best areas." 5. Wine colour comes from how long you leave the juice in contact with the grape skin, as well as the actual colour of the grapes. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "Most grapes are clear inside – the colour is all in the skin. White wine, which is made with white grapes, is easy. There’s no colour on the skin, so you press it and off you go. Red wine, you want to get the colour from the skin into the liquid. So you leave the skin in contact with the juice so it can take more and more colour out. The longer you leave it, the more colour. "There are two major flavour differences between red and white. Red has more tannin than white. If you’ve ever drunk tea that’s been stewed too long, you get that fuzzy bit on the side of your palate – that’s tannin. Tannin is present in the skins, and there is some in white but in red there’s more. And the more you leave the juice in contact with the skin, the more tannin you’re going to pull out from that. "Then a very basic thing is that you tend to find more red fruit flavours in red wine, like blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, and cherries, and more white stone fruits, florals, and citrus in white wine. It depends on the wine, though – there are no rules as it’s so complicated." 6. Rosé is usually made with red grapes, but is much more like a white wine. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "There’s two main ways you can make rosé. The first is just blending a red and a white together. That doesn’t happen often these days, but you can do it – that’s how you make rosé Champagne most of the time. The second way is to take a red grape and leave it in contact with the juice for a very short time so it has a lighter colour. Flavourwise though, rosé sits closer to white wine but with more red fruit flavours. It doesn't have as much tannin and should be served chilled."Rosé doesn't deserve the bad rep it sometimes gets. When they started making rosé it was like their leftover wine – if a wine wasn’t good enough to go into a red or a white, they’d just stick it in a rosé so they didn’t lose any of the yield. So it started off being a slightly lesser product just by virtue of how it was made. Now, though, rosé has gotten much more popular, so they’re making them better." 7. The "legs" is the liquid you see sticking to the side of the glass when you swirl your wine. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "The 'legs' is either the sugar or the alcohol clinging to the glass. So if something’s got high alcohol you’ll see more prominent legs, or if it’s a sweet wine you’ll see more prominent legs because the glycerol attaches to the glass. We’re really good in England at drinking and not tasting, so it’s really important when you start learning about wine to spend time looking at what the glass tells you. "If it’s really dark, you can sometimes tell the grape variety by the colour, or potentially even the age. Smells tells you a lot about the varietal, if it’s good or if it’s bad. Then tastewise what you’re looking for is acidity, tannin – which is that tea feel – and how heavy it feels on the palate, which is called the body. Then also alcohol, which you’ll feel at the back of your throat. If there’s a burn, that will be the alcohol. And all of these things need to be in balance for it to be a good wine." 8. Most wines are dry, and very few are actually sweet. winefolly.com "'Dry' is the amount of sugar left in the wine. To get to wine, you have sugar plus yeast, and that reacts together to give you alcohol and CO2. The yeast eats the sugar to produce the alcohol. Sometimes not all that sugar gets used up, because the yeast dies when it gets full on too much sugar. But most wines are fermented all the way to dryness. "Have you ever picked up a bag of sugar and smelt sugar? You can't smell sweetness. What you find is that most people think a wine is sweet because it has a lot of fruit in it. Most wines, outside of dessert wines, are fermented dry or will only have a very small amount of sugar left in them, but the fruit smell makes you think it's sweet. So next time you think a wine smells sweet, instead try to find the fruit you're thinking of." 9. Wine glasses help improve the taste and smell of your wine. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "A wine glass is hugely important. A glass with a stem helps you to keep your wine cool when you hold it. The main thing though is that the slightly round going-in shape of a wine glass allows enough air to get into the wine to bring up the flavours."Wine needs to breathe – if you’ve been stuck in a bottle 10 years, you’re going to feel pretty cramped, and wine is the same. It’s a bit stiff fresh out the bottle and needs air to release its flavours. The roundness of the glass gives the air a chance to get into the wine and move it around. And then because the glass comes in a little bit at the top, it concentrates the flavour so that when you bring it up to your nose you get smell. "I hate restaurants that give you your wine in a standard glass or a tumbler. You can’t smell anything in those glasses. Champagne coupes are the same – they’re beautiful but your bubbles disappear in about five seconds and you can’t smell shit. And I’m sorry, but if I’m drinking Champagne I want to smell it. If you’re paying money for a wine you want to taste it properly, right? Proper wine glasses help you taste and smell it." 10. Keep your unopened wine bottles horizontal, and once they're opened, keep them in the fridge and drink within a week. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "It’s really important to keep wine horizontal because the cork needs to be kept a bit moist. If the cork dries out, it shrinks and you’ll get more oxygen going into the bottle and it’ll oxidise the wine. If you’ve got a wine rack, I’d say put it in a cool, dark place, with not a lot of vibration or a large temperature variation. So not in your kitchen by the oven! Under a staircase is good. "If you’ve opened a bottle, then with a white wine you don’t want to leave it any more than three or four days, or longer than a week for red. Always keep opened wine in the fridge. Even if you open a bottle of red and put it in the fridge it’ll slow down the deterioration by about three or four days – just bring it up to room temperature when you want to drink it." 11. "Corked" wine tastes mouldy. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed “'Corked' is actually a taint that comes from something called TCA that you find in corks (though not just corks). If you think your wine smells a little like wet socks that have been sitting in the corner and have gone a little mouldy, that’s cork taint. Most people think that any fault in the wine is 'corked', but really it’s that mouldy taste. A wine can also be oxidised, which is a nutty, cooked character – sometimes that’s deliberate though. Sometimes a wine might feel a little metallic and closed in, but that’s just because the wine needs air. Just give it a little bit of a whack round in your glass to see if it changes." 12. When eating, pair your wine with the sauce of your dish more than the protein. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "I always say pair the wine with the sauce. Don’t worry so much about the protein as the sauce usually has more flavour than the meat. A good rule of thumb though is that if you have a big red meat you want a big wine with it. Think of the texture of your food; if it’s rich and heavy, you want a rich and heavy wine. If it’s light, you want a lighter wine. But always think about the flavours in the sauce too. For example, there’s nothing to stop you from having salmon and pinot noir – people usually think red wine isn’t for drinking with fish, but because salmon is quite a rich fish, it works. Or if you have a very rich sauce, you might want something lighter to counterbalance it." 13. Red wine tends to be more alcoholic than white, but it's unlikely certain types of wine will give you a worse hangover. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "Some people say tannins give them hangovers, and some people won’t drink red wine because of it, but I don’t know if there’s any actual facts on that. What you do find with red wines is that they’re usually a little higher in alcohol content that whites, so it might be that there’s just more alcohol in reds. "In my opinion though, the only thing that gives you worse hangovers is drinking too much wine. Maybe there's something to be said about wines that are badly made having more chance of giving you a bad hangover, but it’s usually more about how much you drink than the wine. People also say low-sulphur or organic wines give you less of a hangover, but I’m not convinced." 14. Where the wine is from is super important! View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "Even two regions using the same grape variety that are next to each other will taste different. The soil, the climate, the way the sun hits the vineyard, and on and on, has an effect. Take a Chablis against a Meursault. Both burgundy grape wines, and only a couple of miles down the road from each other. The Chablis is a really mineral, chalky citrus. The Meursault is big and rich and nutty. Same grape and we’re talking mere miles away from each other." 15. Supermarket own-brand wines can be good! View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "I think Lidl's doing a really good job at the minute and I never thought I’d say that. I tasted a bottle by it recently that I was very surprised by. M&S is always good. There’s definitely good supermarket wines out there. A lot of them have a nice approachability to them. They’re easy drinking wines, and we all need an easy drinking wine occasionally." 16. Try not to spend less than £6–£7 on a bottle of wine. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "One thing that everyone needs to realise when they buy a £3 bottle of wine is that a bottle alone is going to cost about 50p to make, if we’re generous. So now you have £2.50 to make the wine. Duty will be £2 a bottle. So now you’ve got 50p to make the wine. Then there’s shipping, transport... Realistically, on the very cheap wines, they’re using under 50p to grow the grapes and make the wine, which can’t be good. "I would say the top end of £6 upwards is a good minimum to spend on wine for a decent liquid, as then at least a few quid is going on the wine. The guy can’t make a living on 50p, and the wine certainly won’t be very good." 17. If you're looking for a budget wine though, go for a malbec or a sauvignon blanc. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "For red, malbec is pretty safe budget option if you want a really nice ripe, fruity wine. There are a lot of malbecs out there that even at a lower end are very good – the Argentinian malbecs are pretty safe. For whites, it tends to be a little tougher to find a good budget one. If you like a very fruity wine a New Zealand sauvignon blanc works a treat. "English sparkling wine is also really amazing. They have the same soil as Champagne and a very similar climate so you get a similar quality to Champagne. Honestly, English sparkling wines can be as good if not better than some Champagnes. Try Gusbourne and Furleigh, those two are my favourites. Chapel Down is also a great little English wine." 18. A good wine will make you think more, and you'll be able to taste it longer. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "People often ask me, 'Why is this wine so much more than that wine?' Firstly, a good wine should give you more pleasure than a shit wine. When you smell it, it should make you think more. When you taste it you should be able to taste a lot of different things and want to go back to it to work it out. A shit wine you’ll just pick up and you’ll glug. "Then it’s also about length and how long it stays on your palate at the finish. If it keeps on going and you can still taste it after a couple of minutes, that’s an indication of quality. You can really tell quality by how long you have to think about it, and how long it lasts on your palate. "If you want to test it, it’s worth taking a really cheap wine and one that's £10 more to really get a sense of quality difference between the two. In general, when you’re learning about wine it’s always a good idea to get two different wines so you can compare and contrast them. And there’s so many bars out there that do wine by the glass, so you don’t need to go for a whole bottle of each." 19. If you're a beginner, start out on pinot grigio or sauvignon. And give riesling a chance. Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "A lot of people start out with pinot grigio, which is fairly neutral and doesn’t have a huge amount of flavour, which is totally fine if you want a nice cold bottle of wine on a summer’s day. If you like pinot grigio, I’d say the next step is to try albariño, which is a Spanish grape variety. It’s got a little more character than pinot grigio – it’s got white peach and some nice florals. If you like sauvignon, another one which a lot of people start on as it’s just so juicy and easy to drink, then try something like a torrontes from Argentina, which has lovely peachy, Turkish delight flavours. "Riesling is every sommelier’s favourite but not many other people’s. It’s a funny grape as it goes from very sweet styles to very dry styles, and I think in the '60s and '70s there was a brand that just made very cheap, poorly made rieslings – people drank them and then decided riesling wasn’t very good. But actually there’s some really beautiful ones out there. It’s one that if you don’t tell people what they’re drinking they love it, but if you do tell them they’ll go, 'Oh, I don’t like Riesling.'" 20. Never be afraid to ask about wine – it's always OK to return it! Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed "I think sometimes people are afraid to ask about wine, and I always say you’ll have a better experience if you ask. And if you don’t like it, you can always take it back – especially in restaurants. A good sommelier or a good wine sales person will listen to what you like. Always give an idea of what you like and a price point. A lot of people get nervous that someone’s going to rip them off and sell them a £200 bottle of wine, when actually they wanted a £20 bottle – but if you say to someone 'I only want to pay between x and x' they'll work to those specifications." 21. The best way to develop your wine palate is to get outside your comfort zone. View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "There’s a lot of courses out there you can take to help develop your palate. And there’s so many wine tastings out there too – just find your local one. Then Jancis Robinson’s book The Oxford Companion to Wine is great as it gives you a step-by-step guide. And practice makes perfect! The more you taste and the more you try, the better you get. It’s more about going out there and trying different things. "Some great lesser-known varieties are gruner veltliner, an Austrian white grape; assyritiko, a Chablis alternative from Greece; bonarda, an Italian grape that's made it's home in Argentina; and negroamaro, a juicy southern Italian red grape. Don’t just stick to sauvignon blanc because that’s what you’ve always drunk!" 22. Don't be scared to add mixers to wines, or try a wine cocktail! View this photo on Instagram instagram.com "One of the nicest drinks for summer is fino sherry or white port and tonic. It’s one of my favourite drinks. It’s got to be a light port though. They mix red wine with coke in Spain and in China, but I don’t know that I’d want to do that unless it was bad red wine. "A lot of people are experimenting with wine cocktails these days. Bars tend to use fortified wines in their cocktails as it copes a little bit better with spirits. And there’s nothing wrong with a simple white wine cooler – if you want to make a bad wine taste a little bit better just whack some soda and mint in there."