Wine. It's a beautiful, complex, full-bodied, floral, oak-aged thing—with notes of tar, peat and cat urine (if you're lucky). And it's mystifyingly complicated for the uninitiated. If you're just Joe Next Door, simply picking up a bottle for a casual get together can cause a person to....well, drink. Luckily we have friends in high places.

We managed to pull Dan Amatuzzi, Beverage Director at Eataly, away from being awesome under 30 for a few minutes to pick his brain about some hot button issues we have regarding the viticultural world.

This label is pretty. But, uh... what exactly is it trying to tell me?
Wine labels reveal the producer, the name of the wine and sometimes the grapes used to make the wine, but the easiest way to pick something is to head to a wine shop that has a helpful, knowledgeable staff and ask what they're jazzed about. Shop owners/Sommeliers are always in the know about what's good. Head in knowing how much you'd like to spend, describe the wine you're looking for and see where it goes.

I'm heading to a holiday party. Is it more proper to bring red wine or white wine?
Neither! Nothing says, "Thanks for having me, now let's start this party," better than a bottle of sparkling wine. This doesn't automatically mean champagne, so it doesn't have to break the bank. Prosecco, cava and other sparkling wines from around the world should fit the bill.

I'm keepin' it classy with some left overs tonight. What's the best wine to go with Thai food? Pizza?
Common recommendations for Thai food are white grapes like gewurztraminer, muller-thurgau and riesling. There's usually some shared aromas in these wines, such as Asian spices, lychee and other tropical fruit flavors.

For pizza, there's nothin' like a bottle of beer [twist!] to wash down all that tomato sauce and cheese. Try Birra del Borgo's Extra Reale from Southern Italy. If there was ever a perfect beer, this is it. [Available at any reputable beer store. So, Eataly of course.]

Boxed wine: Yay or Nay?
Nothing wrong with it. It's great for the environment and that's cool in my book. I havn't seen too many premium producers jumping on board, due to the image factor, but there's nothing wrong with boxed wine, albeit they're a bit large for the traditional stocking stuffer.

Everyone wants to sound smart about wine. Any key phrases we should utter to help us fake it?
Being honest about wine makes you sound the smartest. No need to posit that the wine in your glass "reminds me of a cooler right-bank Bordeaux vintage of the '80s." Just stick to your guns and talk about the way the wine makes you feel, or what you like about the taste/aroma, and you'll be fine.

Did we forget a question? Ask Dan yourself! He'll be teaching a Chef's Kitchen course at Eataly about the food and wines of Calabria in January. Oh, you're still worried about December and all the holiday stuff? Well then reserve a table at one of Eataly's six restaurants for their Christmas Eve and New Year's celebrations!