how to pick the right wine, wine-buying basics,

Because I’m a young woman working in the wine business, friends forever grill me for wine-buying advice. Whether you need wine for a party, to give as a gift or to share with a friend—all wine is not created equal, and each situation does require some knowledge and forethought. (Beyond which bottle’s on sale!) A little wine know-how really can go a long way—you’ll be able to tell by the impressed looks on your friend’s faces. Here are a few of my best tips for navigating your way through those rows of bottles and picking the right wine for all occassions. Cheers!

Choosing wine.
I know it’s tempting, but do not pick your wine by the cute animal on the label or the awesome bottle shape when cruising the wine aisles. Ask the clerk—you may just find a steal or delicious gem. If you’re dining out on the town, it’s the sommelier’s job to help you find the right wine. Put him or her to work. If you’re ordering by the glass, ask for a taste first. A good restaurant is always happy to accommodate. When in doubt, go for a name you can trust for consistent wines, such as Mondavi, Geyser Peak, Antinori, Peter Lehmann or, for Port, Taylor Fladgate. An internationally recognized winery can’t afford to let customers down.

A word on pairing.
Ladies, don’t get hung up on pairing your food and wine. If you don’t like the style of a wine that is “supposed” to go with your meal, you’re not going to like the wine no matter how perfect the pairing. But for those of you interested in a little experimentation, I’ve included some of my favorite pairings below:

Chardonnay: The most popular white wine in America, Chard grapes generally produce full-bodied wines. California, Burgundy (France) and Australia’s Margaret River all produce world-famous Chardonnays.