When it comes to wine, rules are made to be broken. Most of them, anyway...
1. White with White, Red with Red
Pairing wine and food makes even the most socially confident hostess quake in her Manolos. Pairing can be complicated, but it's no more an exact science than diagnosing phantom pain or perfectly seasoning your award-winning chili. Here are two non-rules to remember: one, if you like it, it's a good match; and two, wine and food pairing is just one big (fun, ongoing) experiment.
2. Red Wine Needs to Breathe
Quick, hook up the oxygen tank! When you first open a bottle of red, the wine can taste astringent and even sour, softening to sweet mellow fruit as it relaxes. But you don't need a special decanter for that. Just pour the wine in your glass and, if you don't guzzle it in the first five minutes, the wine will have plenty of space to stretch out and take a deep breath.
3. Always Use the Proper Glass for Red, White, and Bubbly
This rule works when you're home polishing your complete set of Riedel glasses, but if you've brought a bottle to a friend who doesn't even own wineglasses, or when you're staging an impromptu picnic with takeout and screwcap wine, just pour the wine in something–anything–and enjoy the company.
4. Don't Buy Plonk from the Supermarket
If your definition of an "everyday wine" tops $30 a bottle, then by all means, follow this law. As for the rest of us, stores like Costco, Cost Plus World Market, Trader Joe's, and more sell excellent value wines at the right price. You won't get as much individual attention from a wine geek as you might at a small shop, but if you're adventurous enough to explore on your own or know what you like and can find it cheaper at the grocery store, then hold your head high while you check out.
5. Take Detailed Tasting Notes
Experts argue that taking notes helps you learn, like in class. But does drinking wine really need to be on the same level as physics? If you're trying to learn how to talk about wine, then talk: say aloud what you're smelling and tasting. Hands off the notebook and nose in the glass, please.
Gretchen Roberts, founder and editor of Vinobite.com, is at the upper end of the Millennial generation, old enough to have a decade of wine-drinking under her belt but young enough to know that wine is about three important things: finding a great bottle at a good value, vicariously exploring the world, and having fun with friends. Roberts writes about wine for Wine Enthusiast, MyRecipes.com, Cooking Light, and Slashfood.com.