Want to seem like you’re not a complete alien when the waiter hands you the wine list? Ready to move on from researching for the cheapest bottle on the shelf? Wine can be as simple or complex (read: confusing) as you want it to be. Here are some basics that are helpful for any drinker to know.

How is Wine Made?

Wine comes from grapes, everyone knows that (and if somehow you didn’t, now you do). Once harvested, the grapes are crushed to release their juices, which start to ferment (turn into alcohol) when exposed to the air.

Next, the wine-in-progress is transferred to containers for further fermentation, usually barrels or stainless steel vats, until it is ready to be bottled. The details and time frame for these steps vary depending on the winery and variety of wine being made, but you get the general idea.

White Wine vs. Red Wine

The variety of grape has a big impact on the final product, but most clearly, on the color. The skin of a red grape produces the red color in wine, while for white wines and champagnes, white grapes are typically used with the skins removed, resulting in a clear final product. Try lobbing that fun fact out there next time you’re on a first date.

When it comes to flavor, experts will tell you it’s hard to generalize, but we’ll tell you that won’t stop us from trying. People generally describe red wine as a sweet with a dark flavor, while white wine is regarded as lighter, sweeter, and more refreshing.

Tradition says white wines are more for warm weather and casual events while reds should be saved for dinner parties or formal settings. We say that rules are meant to be broken. In our experience, the best way to find a wine you like is to start trying them! Different varieties from different places all have distinct qualities that you might love or might not.

Where is Wine Made?

There are two categories of countries that make wine: Old World and New World. Old World wine countries are the ones that have a long history of producing wine (think: Italy, France, Spain). New World, as you might’ve guessed, refers to the countries that are relatively newer on the wine-making scene (like the U.S., Chile, or Australia).

The Old World countries are still dominant in terms of production (with the U.S. joining them at the top), but there are great wines being made in all corners of the globe. Different regions are known for different varieties, so get out there and explore from the comfort of your bar stool!

Where is American Wine Made?

The U.S. falls into the New World category of wine-making countries, and these days every U.S. state is making their own. However, California, Oregon, Washington, New York, and Virginia carry the bulk of production with California leading the way thanks to the famous Napa Valley and Sonoma regions.

California is known for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, although wineries across the state are making just about every variety you can think of.

So, enjoy yourself! Try some different options, see what tastes good to you, and drop your best wine-related recommendations in the comments. Cheers!