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8 Things Wine Pros Wish You Knew

We asked wine experts from around the country what they wish their customers knew.

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Advice from the Pros

Don't know much about wine, but you know what you like? You're not alone: Between varietals, vintages and vineyards, the world of grapes can feel overwhelming. To help cut through the noise, we've reached out to sommeliers, wine shop owners and vintners across America. Here are their invaluable tips — the things they wish you knew — so you can enjoy that glass of vino that much more.

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Be Cool — But Not Too Cool

Though it's tempting to stash beer and wine together in an icy cooler, don't overdo it, says Josiah Baldivino, co-owner of Oakland shop Bay Grape. "Your whites shouldn't be ice-cold," he says. "When you do that, it's like putting a plastic cover on a leather couch. As soon as you put it on ice, it's going to cover all [the wine's] nuances. Chill it, open it, let it breathe and stay open, and let it get a little warmer. The first glass is going to be kind of cool, it's going to warm up over time, and you're going to see that change and experience that change. Same thing with red. Red wines should be a little chilled."

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Talking About Money Is Not Taboo

Something echoed by nearly everyone we spoke to was that the more you can tell a shop owner or sommelier about your budget, the better. If this feels awkward, try this tip from New York City sommelier Kimberly Prokoshyn, of Rebelle: "If you don't feel comfortable saying out loud how much you'd like to spend, use the prices on the page as a silent guide. Point to the price and ask for something 'like this,' and the sommelier will understand. It narrows down the list, and helps us recommend a great bottle for you."

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Expand Your Horizons

Even the most-devoted oenophiles can fall prey to what John Keife, proprietor of New Orleans wine and cheese shop Keife & Co., calls "varietal tunnel vision." Maybe you have a favorite grape, he says, but "there are literally hundreds of grape varietals available in the United States. You're missing out if you only drink Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir." A better approach, Keife suggests, is to describe to the merchant or sommelier the traits you'd like in the wine. Try on words such as "full," "light-bodied," "earth-driven," "fruit-driven," and even "young and lively" versus "mature and reserved," he says, and you may find your new favorite bottle.

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