Wine 101: How to Read a Wine List Like a Boss

Consider your date seriously impressed.

types of wine
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Being able to read a wine list is one of those things that feels like it takes you from being a kinda-sorta-adult to being an adult-adult. And while we aren't about to give up calling our moms when we get sick (send help, mom!) or asking our parents to read over our taxes (what if we missed something?), we'll happily learn how to decipher a wine menu on our own. So we consulted Matt Lilien, founder of Wine Wala advising company, to give us the 411 on the most popular wines and what to pair them with. Consult this cheat sheet at a fancy dinner party, at the liquor store, or when you want to impress your date. Adulthood might not be all that hard after all. 

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Tastes like: Tropical fruits, with a buttery finish

Pair it with: Pork, chicken, seafood, strong cheeses

Pinot Grigio (Gris)

Tastes like: Lemons, green apples, pears

Pair it with: Salads, light fish, light cheeses, white pizza

Sauvignon Blanc

Tastes like: Citrus, tropical fruits, herbs, gooseberries

Pair it with: Salads, vegetables, fish


Tastes like: Apples, pears, flowers, minerals

Pair it with: Fish, cheeses, chicken, light appetizers, desserts (for sweet Riesling)


Tastes like: Lychees, spices, flowers

Pair it with: Asian foods, spicy foods, strong cheeses

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Cabernet Sauvignon

Tastes like: Cassis, black currants, herbs, cedar

Pair it with: Beef, lamb, stews


Tastes like: Black cherries, plums, spices

Pair it with: Lamb shank, duck, sausage

Pinot Noir

Tastes like: Cherries, strawberries, spices, flowers

Pair it with: Salmon, tuna, pork


Tastes like: Blackberries, black pepper, spices

Pair it with: Chicken, BBQ, curries, stews

Learn how to enjoy your favorite wines with the perfect dish with Decanter’s new online wine pairing course.