Wine Isn't Rocket Science

A Quick and Easy Guide to Understanding, Buying, Tasting, and Pairing Every Type of Wine


By Ophelie Neiman

Illustrated by Yannis Varoutsikos

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$12.99 CAD



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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 25, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

This fully illustrated and highly informative guide is an exciting introduction to the world of wine for anyone who has ever wanted to learn but didn’t know where to begin.Rocket science is complicated, wine doesn’t have to be! With information presented in an easy, illustrated style, and chock-full of the fool-proof and reliable knowledge of a seasoned oenophile, Wine Isn’t Rocket Science is the guide you always wished existed. From how grapes are grown, harvested and turned into wine, to judging the color, aroma, and taste of the world’s most popular varietals (wine made from a particular grape), to understanding terroir and feeling confident ordering and serving wine at any occasion, this book explains it all in the simplest possible way. Every page, every piece of information, and every detail is illustrated in charming and informative four-color drawings that explain concepts at a glance.Includes detailed information on a vast array of varietals that will help transform a beginner into a connoisseur.



Tonight, Juliette is throwing a party. She has invited her friends Jack, Henry, Caroline, Elizabeth, and Paul. They love to talk about wine a lot, each bringing their own experience to the conversation: Elizabeth is obsessed with the proper etiquette for serving wine; Jack has learned about the flavors and aroma by tasting wine; Henry knows all about how wine is made; Caroline loves to travel and she understands what terroir means; and Paul is building a wine cellar.

Juliette is an amazing hostess. So before her friends arrive, she prepares carefully. She chooses the right glassware, selects the proper wines, and makes sure they are at the right temperature. It's not easy, and she does not want to disappoint her guests. She is not a sommelier who knows exactly how to choose wines to match the food and ambiance of the event. But she is using the information in this book to gain the knowledge she needs to feel like a pro.

She also makes a plan for after the party to clean up the dishes, the glasses, and any wine stains. And if a little bit of wine is left over, it's no big deal. She has some ideas for saving it and some recipes for using it. Most important, she won't forget what to do if she gets a hangover. But before the dinner party, she thinks maybe she should organize a blind tasting with games and some surprises.

This chapter is for all the Juliettes in the world who would like to throw a successful party with ease.



Before the party

During the party

After the party


Which glasses ?

These are the glasses most commonly found on the table at a dinner party.

1. Water glass It's for serving water. Period. Only put wine in it if it's a cheap wine you don't care about. At any rate, if you use this type of glass for wine, you won't smell much. It is useful for serving just a taste.

2. Champagne coupe Pretty, but not very useful for discerning the aromas of Champagne. It was rumored to look like the breast of either Marie Antoinette or Madame Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress.

3. Champagne flute Perfect for tasting Champagne, of course. It could also be used for light and bubbly white wines or aperitifs, such as Kir, port, Madeira or sparkling cocktails.

4. All-purpose INAO/ISO wine tasting glass Although it is very well made, it's rarely preferred by wine judges or critics. They are used a lot in restaurants because they're cheap and great for tasting all types of wines.

5. Burgundy glass It has a big bowl but a smaller rim diameter. It's perfect for Burgundy but also shows off whites or other types of young red wines. It concentrates the aromas so you will have plenty to smell.

6. Grand Cru Burgundy glass This is for lovers of expensive and famous Burgundies. It concentrates the aromas, then disperses them at the rim to spread the bouquet.

7. Bordeaux glass This very tall, tulip-shaped glass works for all wines except delicate whites. It tapers in from the bowl yet the lip is open enough to spread the wine on the tongue, so it works for powerful wines.

8. All-purpose glass It's the same shape as the Bordeaux glass but smaller. It works for light, powerful whites and both young and old reds. It could also be used for powerful Champagnes. Basically, it works for everything and is not specialized for any type of wine.

9. The decorative glass This is generally colored or kitschy and is good for nothing—most definitely not for drinking good wine. It hides the colors and suffocates the aromas. Upcycle it into a little vase or candle holder. Unless it's got sentimental value, chuck it.

The reason for using a stemmed glass

A stemmed glass has two uses:

It keeps wine fresh. The stem gives your hand a place to hold the glass other than next to the wine. Warm fingers work like a hot water bottle on the liquid and warm the wine.

It liberates the aromas. A balloon glass allows the aromas to play about freely before concentrating to tickle your nostrils, so you can better smell the wine.

If you must choose just one over the other? Opt for a small Bordeaux glass or a big all-purpose glass—they work for every occasion and adapt to all wines. Avoid glasses that are too small. They inhibit powerful reds from expressing themselves. On the other hand, glasses that are too big can diminish enjoyment of delicate whites.

There are a number of other types of glasses. The wine glass has been the subject of much experimentation in efforts to enhance certain wine characteristics. Finnish glassmaker Chef & Sommelier makes one called Open Up that has a sharply angled bowl at the bottom, which allows the wine to "open up" and release the most aromas possible. Many other glass manufacturers make glasses in a similar style. If you like wines that are very aromatic, these glasses may be for you.

Glass or crystal?

What makes crystal so great?

Crystal can be very delicate, with a rim barely thicker than a sheet of paper. Drinking from crystal creates a light and elegant sensation in your mouth. Another advantage is that it keeps the wine fresh longer than would a regular glass because it conducts less heat. Crystal has a rougher surface than glass, so when you swirl to aerate the wine, more aromas are released. Crystal isn't recommended if you're clumsy. It's expensive and easy to break. If you find yourself buying more crystal glasses than bottles of wine, give it up. There are other materials that give the illusion of crystal, and they are much sturdier.


What kind of corkscrew is in your drawer? The answer to this question depends on your tastes, your patience, your budget, and your habits—not so much on your muscles.

The principle of a corkscrew is simple: It combines a screw, often called a "worm," with a lever or lifter. To avoid shredding a cork, choose a model that has a spiral worm with no center post rather than an auger type that looks more like a screw. Be careful if the worm is very short, because you could break the cork.

Ack! I broke the cork!

Don't panic. You have two choices. If you have a sommelier knife, screw it into the remaining cork at an angle to avoid making the hole bigger and creating cork crumbs. Wedge the piece of cork against the bottleneck and pull it up vertically.

Another option is to push the cork into the bottle and immediately pour the wine into a carafe to keep the cork from contaminating the wine.

Solution 1

Solution 2


Wait, nobody brought a corkscrew? There are several emergency methods you can use.


Many people avoid drinking Champagne because they are afraid of putting an eye out or breaking Grandma's precious vase when they try to open a bottle.

Don't shake the bottle before opening it. If you have carried it in a bag and swung your arms around, let it rest at least an hour and a half in the fridge before opening it.

Once the wire cage that covers the cork is removed, put your thumb on the top and don't leave the bottle alone unsupervised.

Don't pull, turn! You have to hold onto the cork firmly, covering it with the palm of your hand so it doesn't fly away, then turn the bottle slowly. You will feel the cork slowly coming out and you'll be able to control how much pressure you use to release the cork and the gas inside the bottle.

Don't let go! Hold the cork and the bottle until they are completely apart. If you're doing this right you will hear a discreet and elegant pop.

Keep a glass within reach of the bottle. If you go too fast and the foam bubbles up, you will be ready to pour before the Champagne overflows out of the bottle.


There is no strict rule here. It really just depends on your own tastes. Nevertheless, the choice of wine can influence the ambiance, for better or for worse, so here are some guidelines.

Good ideas

For an elegant ambiance: a red Burgundy (Côte de Nuits) or white Burgundy (Chablis)

For a relaxed evening: a Muscadet from France

For a sweet, "la dolce vita" ambiance: a Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany

For a sensual ambiance: a white Loire (Chenin Blanc)

For a sexy ambiance: a red Côtes du Rhône

To melt a foodie's heart: an off-dry Riesling from Germany

Bad idea

A big red wine that stains: Purple teeth make a bad impression, guaranteed.

Good ideas

Bubbly: a Prosecco from Italy

Aromatic: an Albariño from Spain

White: a French Pays d'Oc Chardonnay

Red: from Languedoc or Chile (fruit, sweetness)

Bad idea

A big, delicate wine in a party cup. No one will be able to smell it.

Good ideas for a white

To win points and gain respect: Meursault (Burgundy)

To impress: an Assyrtiko from Greece

Good ideaa for a red

Perfect son-in-law: a Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux)

Solid, can't-miss: a Rhône blend from France or California

Sensible, no-nonsense: a Barbera d'Alba from Italy

Authentic above all else: Morgon (Beaujolais)

Good ideas

A lesser-known appellation: a Jasnières from Touraine, a dry Sherry from Spain, or a Touriga Nacional from the Douro in Portugal

A forgotten vintage: white (Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France or Alto Adige, Italy) or red (Blaufränkisch from Austria).

A good wine with a bad reputation: Muscadet sur lie (from the Loire. Be sure to buy from a good wine store!) or Chiroubles (Beaujolais)

A wine for warm weather: a rosé from Provence

A glass of wine on the couch: Rioja (a red from Spain)

Bad idea

A cheap Bordeaux: You'll look simultaneously like a snob and a cheapskate.

Good ideas

Something to celebrate: Blanc de Blancs Champagne

The new baby is here: Puligny-Montrachet (a white from Burgundy)

I will always be there for you: Pommard (a red from Burgundy)

Will you marry me? Amarone della Valpolicella (a red from Veneto, Italy)

Toasting a special moment with friends: Bierzo (a red from Spain)

Watching time pass (birthdays): Pauillac (red from Bordeaux) or Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from California

All alone?

If you are alone, it's better to drink a bottle that's already open than to open a good bottle, because when the pleasure isn't shared you risk feeling more alone.


Just before serving

Dry whites, fruity whites, light reds, sparkling wines, bubblies and Champagnes. It's enough to let them aerate in the glass to wake them up.

One hour before

Nearly all wines, reds as well as whites—except sparkling wines—will improve if you let them breathe an hour before serving. It's enough to remove the cork and let the bottle sit.

Three hours before

Young, intense red wines from France, Chile or Argentina as well as some from Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The more powerful ones, especially if they are very young, could even be opened six hours before the meal and poured into carafes for the last three hours.

Why let a wine breathe?

Oxygen is an indispensable friend to wine but can also be an enemy. When wine is exposed to oxygen, the wine evolves and grows, but eventually it gets old. Wine will age at an accelerated pace when exposed to oxygen.


The goal of using a carafe is to aerate the wine, while decanting permits the wine to separate from the deposits that accumulate in the bottle. You carafe a young wine; you decant an old wine.

To aerate a young wine using a carafe


To wake up the aromas (the bouquet). This technique can also reduce and dissipate the aromas of young reds.


At least an hour, or as many as two or three hours before bringing it to the table (depending on the intensity of the wine), pour the liquid from the bottle into the carafe. You can pour from high above, as some servers of tea do, to aerate the wine the most. You can also shake the carafe to aerate.

Which carafe?

Use a carafe with a large flat bowl, which allows a large area of contact between the wine and the air.

To decant an old wine


Decanting old wines is not mandatory, but when decanting, it requires great care because the tannins and coloring agents form a deposit in the bottle. Decanting helps separate the deposit from the wine so you don't pour it into the glass.


First position the bottle upright on a table a few hours before the meal, so the deposits can drop to the bottom of the bottle. Then very carefully pour the wine into a clear decanter. Decant only a few minutes before serving. Oxygen can quickly deteriorate the quality of the wine.

Which carafe?

Choose an upright carafe, with a small, less-rounded bowl and a fairly small opening to limit the contact with the air.


Wine temperature is important: It influences not only the perception of the aromas (bouquet) but also the sensation on the mouth (the mouthfeel). Here is a test: Taste a wine at 47°F/8°C and then the same wine at 65°F/18°C, and it will seem like you are tasting two completely different wines. A wine served at the wrong temperature could make the wine taste terrible—so be sure to be vigilant!

Why not serve all wines at the same temperature?

Because you have to adapt to their character, not the other way around. For a dry white wine with little bouquet, you're looking for acidity and freshness. Serve it chilled, even cold. For an intense, spicy red wine, you're looking for a softness of tannins and roundness of flavor. Serve it at nearly room temperature.

Better to be too cold than too warm

It is better to serve a wine a little too cold and allow it to slowly warm up in the glass (a wine can warm by 7°F (4°C) in about fifteen minutes once served) than to serve a wine too warm.

How to chill wine quickly

Normally, your wine would be stored in a room that is cool, even cold.

Normally your wine would not be stored at higher than 64°F (18°C).

Ideally it's kept at 59°F (15°C).

If that's not the case, what do you do?

If you have two to three hours before the party

Put the wine in the fridge, adjusting the time according to the service temperature.

If you have one hour before the party

Put the bottle into a large bowl or bucket of cold water and add ice cubes. This method is as effective as putting the bottle in the freezer.

Another possibility: Soak a dishcloth in cold water, wrap it around the bottle and place it in the fridge. The damp cloth will accelerate the refrigeration.

You have less than one hour before the party

Use this speedy trick: Put the bottle into a large bowl or bucket half filled with cold water, half filled with ice cubes. Add a big pinch of salt to the water, which will help lower the temperature more quickly.


Someone brought me bottle of wine. What should I do with it?


On Sale
Apr 25, 2017
Page Count
256 pages

Ophelie Neiman

About the Author

Ophelie Neiman is the author of the wine blog Miss GlouGlou. Hosted on the LeMonde website, it’s one of the most popular wine blogs in France. Wine Isn’t Rocket Science is her first book and it has been translated into eleven languages. She lives in France.

Yannis Varoutsikos is an illustrator and graphic designer. He is artistic director at Woll Beer and founder of the website Good Manners, which sells bags and accessories for men. He lives in France.

Learn more about this author

Yannis Varoutsikos

About the Illustrator

Yannis Varoutsikos is an illustrator and graphic designer. He is artistic director at Woll Beer and founder of the website Good Manners, which sells bags and accessories for men. He lives in France.

Learn more about this illustrator