Picking a Wine Without Looking Like an Idiot
You're at a fancy restaurant when the wine bucket comes out, it's a wine you've chosen for the steak dinner you and your date have ordered. But you want to be smooth, so you've ordered a wine without her realizing it. The waiter pours the wine into the glass -- it's white wine! Amazingly, your date doesn't spit it out. Not living in Napa Valley is no excuse for wine choosing ignorance. You need a crash course in sommelier (wine steward) advice.
Know What Meats Go with What Wines
Working to your advantage is the fact that there are only two main groups of wines -- whites and reds. Sure, there are some variations in between, but the rules are basically the same. White wines tend to have a lighter and sweeter taste. In order to complement a meal, you want to choose foods that are lighter to go with a white zinfandel, chardonnay, or Reisling. Chicken and fish are your best bets.
For red wines with their richer and often oak-y taste, you want to pair these glasses with red meats. These two tastes go hand in hand as they both tend to be bold and vibrant, helping to coexist with each other, without canceling out the flavor of either.
If you're ordering something that doesn't have any meat in it, you will tend to still choose white wines, but those dishes with a bolder flavoring or spices will need something stronger.
Choosing a Good Year of Wine
What you might not realize is that the older the wine is does not necessarily guarantee a good taste. Very often, many wines are not meant to age for a long time, but rather are meant to be poured immediately. If you are looking to create your own wine cellar, you will want to ask the store where you buy the wine whether this is a bottle that should be stored or if it should be poured. Many times, red wines tend to age well for a few years, but white whites are often better served within a year. Champagne follows this same rule, especially when it's the modern form of champagne that doesn't come from France.
Some good years of wines? It is said that 2002 and 2003 were good years for wine, while 2006 is also a good year due to the heavy rains in the Napa Valley. If you can determine the rain fall for the year, you can guesstimate on the quality of the wine -- more rain=more quality.
You will also want to make sure you are serving your wine at the right temperature -- red wines do better at room temperature while whites should be slightly chilled.
Though this is basic information and it certainly doesn't qualify you as a wine snob (yet), you aren't going to horrify your next date with your wine choice again.