People are always asking for tips to improve their wine buying, storing and drinking experiences. With this in mind, I felt it was time to put these thoughts up on the blog. We all have to start somewhere, and it can literally take years to feel truly confident about your favorite region or variety. The following tips are not about where wine comes from or the style you might enjoy best; instead it’s a list of the nuts and bolts to help you enjoy your wine more, no matter what region or style you enjoy most.
Each of these points were learned through experience, which in some cases were very poor. I still remember, with remorse, the days that I had a wine rack above my refrigerator—always wondering why the wine in my home wasn’t as good as what I found coming from restaurant or retailers’ cellars.
While this list is in no way the end-all of wine-drinking mysteries solved, it does make for an excellent guide for the beginner and even intermediate wine enthusiast—you never know.
Where NOT to store your wine – A kitchen may seem to be a convenient place to keep a small wine rack, but the reality of it is that the constant temperature swings from your oven or the heat radiating up from the back of your refrigerator can cook a bottle in no time. By the same token, a room with a lot of windows may be aesthetically pleasing to you, but your wine sees it in a different light. Ultraviolet rays damage wine, and direct sunlight can cook it as well. Keep your bottles in a dark place where temperatures remain relatively unchanged, such as a hall closet or basement, and away from any hot water heaters or boilers. For any long term storage, you’re better off looking into professional storage or even building your own cellar.
Let it breathe – If there’s one thing I learned that has truly improved my enjoyment of wine, it’s to let it breathe. Almost any bottle will improve with exposure to air, however not all wines react well to decanting. To play it safe, I open the average bottle at least one hour before I plan to drink it. Right after popping the cork, I’ll pour a small half-glass sample so that I can evaluate it upon opening, versus how it improves an hour later. Also, this practice gives the wine a little more air exposure in the bottle, as the fill will come just under the shoulder. Red wine tends to want more air than white, yet some varieties and styles, like white Burgundy and Riesling, can truly come to life with a short decant.
“Room temperature” doesn’t necessarily mean room temperature – The flavors of the things we eat and drink change drastically with temperature. Wine is no different, but one thing to remember as a wine drinker is that the term “room temperature” for red wines is referring to a room of 65 degrees, which is far off from the average home or apartment. Whenever I have a red that’s a little warmer than I’d like, I’ll either give it twenty minutes in the fridge or chill my glasses before pouring. This is how these wines were intended to be enjoyed.
The colder it gets, the less you taste – Ever wonder why some restaurants serve their white wines at extremely cold temperatures? It’s because the colder the wine becomes, the less you will notice its flaws. I tend to drink my white wines at around 45-50 degrees, which can be easily achieved by pulling your bottle out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving. You’ll suddenly notice details that weren’t there before, as the bouquet opens up and textures come to life.
Smell is everything–well almost – It pains me when I see a glass of fine wine sipped before taking in the bouquet. The fact is that 70% of what you taste is first developed by what you smell. Think about how bland everything tastes when you have a cold. Not nosing a wine before sipping is literally robbing yourself of half the experience. So take your time. Taking in the aroma of a wine is a big part of the enjoyment.
Start a tasting group – The best way to learn about wine is to taste more than one bottle next to another. What’s the difference between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon? It’s easy to tell when they’re both in front of you. By starting your own tasting group, you can learn about wine and host a social event all at the same time, and you can even share the expense with other wine enthusiasts.
Pairing wines with food by region – What’s the easiest way to pair wine with food? Look to the wines that are made closest to the recipe’s origins. If you consider what the people who created the recipe liked to drink, you’ve already made a big step in the right direction.
Do you have any wine tips to share? I’d love to hear them.
By; Eric Guido