When we think of wine, we often envision refined cosmopolitans sitting in cafés, sipping a smooth glass of Pinot Noir after a small-portioned meal. We picture slick characters from movies like Casablanca (1943), The Godfather (1972) or a James Bond film. For decades, wine has traditionally been viewed as the drink of the sophisticated and the urbane.

But now millennials are changing the way wine is produced, reports Stephanie Gallo, the Chief Marketing Officer of family winery E&J Gallo. “[Millennials are] willing to do things previously unexpected with wine,” said Gallo. “[They’ll] serve premium wine from a box and make cocktails with wine. They don’t have an elitist feeling about it, or that wine is only supposed to be at the table with gourmet food. We’re finally seeing wine go from a celebratory beverage to an everyday drink.”

1. So…what is wine?

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Photo by Smita Jain

Red wines are made when the grapes are fermented with their skins and seeds. White wines are made when skins are separated before fermentation.

The third, and less commonly known type of wine, is rosé wine. To make rosés, winemakers remove skins and seeds after a few days of contact with the grape juice. Sometimes, rosés are made by blending reds and whites, but this practice is generally frowned upon (and illegal in France).

Port and sherry are fortified wines, or wines with added alcohol. Champagne is sparkling wine.

2. What do all the fancy words mean?

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Photo by Smita Jain

Chianti, Merlot, Shiraz—learning to read wine labels can be like learning a new language.

In the United States, wines are named after the grapes from which they are made. Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are grapes used to make white wine. Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are grapes used in red wines.

In Europe, wines are named after the regions in which they are produced. A Bordeaux wine is produced in the Bordeaux region of France with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, a Burgundy wine is made in Bourgogne with Pinot Noir grapes and Chianti wine is made in the Chianti region of Tuscany in Italy with Sangiovese grapes.

Wine enthusiasts also love to toss around words like “earthy” and “oaky.” Our fellow Spoons at American University have created a handy breakdown.

3. Is old wine really better than new wine?

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Photo by Smita Jain

No. We often hear stories of wines selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars, so we’re led to believe that old wine is more valuable and tastes better. You can’t just buy a bottle, age it for a couple decades and then sell it for thousands of dollars.

Most white wines are made for immediate consumption, and everyday red wines should be consumed in the first 1 to 3 years. Mid-priced reds (roughly $20+) can be kept 3 to 5 years after production year. Better reds ($40+) can last 5 to 8 years.

Check out these links to proceed to step four:

Wine and Cheese 101
Wine and Cheese Pairings 101
Navigating the Wine Aisle
Red Wine Summer Smoothie
Turn Wine into a Sangria Slushy in Just 4 Steps