Enjoying Wine, Part One: A Few Basic Considerations
(Part 2 will focus on general classes of wine and finding ones that you enjoy)
As we get older – no, more mature, sophisticated, and worldly – our tastes in food, drink and entertainment change. Many of us have migrated over the years from the club to beer on the back porch to the quiet and engaging wine bar with friends. But there may be something important missing – a little knowledge of the world of wines.
As the House Spouse generation matures, wine bars, wine stores and even the wine corner in the local supermarket are popping up everywhere. Wines come in many types, many colors, from many countries and many prices. So that begs some questions…are cheap wines no good? Are expensive wines better? Are you supposed to refrigerate them? Or not? What wines go with what food? Or no food? So, let’s get started.
Although it is still possible to find wine that is barely suitable for drinking, good wine is now available from many different locales and often at reasonable prices. Due to improved manufacturing processes and increased competition, we are in an era of bountiful variety of excellent quality with wines that will please nearly every palate. Here we will look at some of the steps to handling wines properly, and in Part Two we will look at a few suggestions on which types of wines deserve a try for those just beginning to appreciate the bounty. So go to wherever you keep your wines in your house and let’s get started. (It’s okay if you keep your wine bottles under the kitchen counter or in the decorative rack on the corner table or in the fridge – really.)
Keeping Your Wine
Assuring that a wine retains the optimal taste starts with the purchase. Wines are sensitive to light and heat, and either one (or both) increase adverse chemical reactions in the wine. These reactions can happen quickly, so even allowing a bottle to sit in sunlight on the drive home can be bad. If it will be a few hours before you get home with your wine, and the temperature in your car’s trunk can get above ninety degrees or so, consider taking along a cooler to keep the wine reasonable cool inside the car. Once you get home, heat and sunlight can can still cause bad things to happen to your wine, so keep your wine in a cool environment away from sunlight. If you do not have a wine refrigerator, an interior closet or basement will likely suffice. The standard kitchen refrigerator is cooler than the desired storage temperature for wine, but if there are not alternatives, it will work. Temperature fluctuations can play havoc with wine stability, so try to keep it in a consistent temperature range (usually fifty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit is optimal. A kitchen refrigerator is normally about forty degrees.) Small wine refrigerators holding around eight bottles have adjustable temperature settings are widely available, but a small dorm-sized refrigerator can also be used at the proper setting and used exclusively for wine.
It is best to keep “corked” wine bottles horizontal when possible, particularly if they are to be stored for extended periods. This keeps the cork wet and helps seal out oxidation, thus preserving the wine. Many long established wineries would not consider sealing their bottles with anything other than cork, but there is an increasing number of wines marketed with screw caps. With a screw cap, there is little reason to require the horizontal storage position for these bottles. Today’s processes for using screw caps on wine appear to provide the same level of quality protection as wine bottled with a cork – plus it is easier to open. So – there is nothing wrong with drinking wines with screw caps!
If a bottle cannot be consumed completely when it is opened, it is always a good idea to plan to finish drinking it within a couple of days of opening it; going beyond that assures that the last glass from the bottle will not be as enjoyable as the first. As much air as possible should be removed from the opened bottle before it is placed back in refrigeration. A tool called a vacu-vin pump is available inexpensively, used to withdraw air via a slotted rubber stopper placed in the neck of the bottle. At the very least, make sure that the opened bottle is sealed with the cork or the screw cap.
Drinking Your Wine
Wine glasses come in different shapes, sizes and price ranges. The traditional wine glass consists of the bowl, stem and base. These glasses are designed to be held by the stem so that the wine is not unduly warmed by the hand being around the bowl.
Red wine glasses routinely have large bowls which are designed to promote some oxidation of the wine and allow aromatics to be inhaled by the drinker (this is why you see folks swirl the glass and sniff deeply before drinking).
In contrast, white wine glasses have a narrower bowl to allow less oxidation. Also, white wines usually have less aromatics for the olfactory sense to appreciate. The extreme are the narrow champagne glasses which discourage oxidation and maintain the bubbles longer.
Recently, stemless wine glasses have become widely available. These have an advantage in being less easily knocked over but the risk of the wine being warmed by the hand holding the glass.
Nice wine glasses (ex. Riedel, Spiegelau) have very fine rims (not rolled) and fit comfortably in the hand. The magnificent scarlet-purple colors and fragrances of good red wines are enhanced by an elegant glass. That said, a good wine does not really taste less good in a less expensive glass (although a true oenophile–wine lover–may try to convince you otherwise) . The wine may be a little offended but it will still deliver a pleasurable experience.
Getting Ready for Part Two
So here is your homework. Get the wine in the house together and store it properly. It may be helpful to make a list, including color, year, and how long you have had a certain bottle (make a guess!) Then look at the wine glasses that are hidden in the cupboards, sort them out and put them back so that you can properly utilize them.
Then, and only then, will you be ready for Part Two!
Part Two will discuss types of wine and discovering what you like! In the meantime, here is a brief You Tube video about Wine Tasting to get you started!
www.Spiegelau.com Spiegelau Glasses – The Class of Glass
www.Riedel.com Reidel – The Wine Glass Company
www.Vacuvin.nl/286/270Wine-saver Taking the air out of opened wine bottles
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