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wine 101: crash Course for 
wine novice  
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What’s in a name?
So you’ve been tossing around these words – "Cabernet Sauvignon", ‘Chianti," "Chardonnay" – but haven’t a clue as to what these really mean? Here’s the somewhat confusing thing about wine names: sometimes the name refers to the grape variety that produced the wine, other times the name refers to the region in which the wine was produced. In general, the European wines are named after the region (Bordeaux are from Bordeaux, Champagne is from Champagne, Rioja from Rioja, get the picture?) while the American and Australian wines tend to go by the grape variety (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz). Both the grape variety and the climate in which the grapes were cultivated will make a big difference in how the wine tastes.

Sweet or Dry? Full- versus Light-bodied?
Wine terminology can be hopelessly vague. "Fat," "round," "charming," "plump" – these are words used to describe a beverage? Forget about memorizing the wine dictionary for now; as a beginner, there are two primary qualities upon which you’ll want to concentrate: sweet vs. dry, light versus full-bodied.

All right, you all know what sweet tastes like, right? Well dry, in wine-speak, is essentially the opposite of sweet. The less sweetness you detect in a wine, the drier you’d say it is. It’s all about sugar content. Be aware, however, that sometimes, dry wines can taste "fruity" – which the mind often interprets as tasting sweet even though the actual sugar content is quite low.

The fullness, or weight, of a wine can be a bit harder to pin down. Several factors contribute to it: acidity, the proportion of alcohol, the amount of tannin present. Basically, a full-bodied wine will seem to fill your mouth chock full of flavor. Red wines, on the whole, are heavier than white wines. 

As a general rule, heavier wines go with spicier, richer foods; lighter wines are perfect with more subtle flavors. Also, if you’re going to be sampling several wines during the course of an evening, start with the lighter ones first, and make your way up to the more full-bodied ones later.

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