People are sometimes put off by the mystique that surrounds viticulture (the culture of winemaking), but you don”t have to be a wine master to enjoy wine tasting. Nor do you need to be a wine expert to age wine in storage. All you need is a little wine advice.
Wine Etiquette and Pouring
Much mystique seems to shroud wine serving and pouring. Perhaps you”ve seen the most impressive method of wine serving, where the bottle neck is heated with special tongs and sliced off with a saber.
Such spectacle is all very theatrical and impressive, but completely unnecessary. The only real rule to wine etiquette is to serve the wine correctly. There are really only two considerations to keep in mind: temperature and timing.
Temperature and Wine Serving
Different wines taste best at different temperatures. No wine master would dream of serving Champagne at the same temperature as a Riesling. Those of us who aren”t wine experts might not be as demanding, but can still get maximum pleasure out of our wine by following this temperature table:
|Asti Spumanti||41 degrees||5 degrees|
|Beaujolais / Rose||54 degrees||12 degrees|
|Champagne||45 degrees||7 degrees|
|Chardonnay||48 degrees||9 degrees|
|Chianti / Zinfandel||59 degrees||15 degrees|
|Ice wines||43 degrees||6 degrees|
|Pinot Noir||61 degrees||16 degrees|
|Red Burgundy / Cabernet||63 degrees||17 degrees|
|Riesling||47 degrees||8 degrees|
|Sauternes||52 degrees||11 degrees|
|Shiraz / most reds||64 degrees||18 degrees|
|Tawny / NV Port / Madeira||57 degrees||14 degrees|
|Vintage Port||66 degrees||19 degrees|
Unless you”re a wine master, don”t worry if you”re a degree or two off for your wine. Get the temperature as close as you reasonably can and your wine will taste at its best.
Opening the Bottle
Timing is as important as temperature when wine serving. Generally speaking, a red wine should be opened an hour before drinking, to let it ”breathe” (let it come into contact with oxygen and develop its bouquet). In contrast, white wine is best served immediately after opening.
Pouring the Wine
The glass you use is important when wine serving. A red wine glass has a wide bowl that allows you to fully experience the complexity of the wine. White wine glasses are narrower; augmenting the taste of the wine while limited the amount of oxidization that occurs at the wine”s surface.
Wine Tasting Etiquette
A wine tasting party sounds intimidating, but again, you don”t need to be a wine expert to enjoy one. You”ll be greeted by the host, usually a wine master who”ll provide you with glasses and explain what wines are available for tasting.
A wine tasting has a set order: white wine is served first, followed by reds, and finally dessert wines. Sip the wine and consult the accompanying tasting notes to see what aromas and flavors you should be taken.
It”s quite acceptable not to drink all the wine in your glass: In fact, most wine tastings have buckets where you can pour out unwanted wine. Water and plain food may be offered to cleanse your palate between tastings.
While some wine tastings are free, others charge a tasting fee.
Corked or Tainted Wine
If there”s one wine question that stands out above all others, it”s how to salvage corked or tainted wine. The sad answer is not much. It is, however, important to understand what corked wine really is.
Wine is not ”corked” if the cork breaks while opening. A broken cork can usually be removed and the wine enjoyed, although you might have to fish out some cork particles!
Truly corked or tainted wine occurs when chemicals produced by mould reacts with chlorine used to sanitize the cork. This chemical, tri-chloro-anisole (TCA), leaves wine tasting flat and unpleasant. If you”re lucky the tainted wine is so badly corked it gives off an unpleasant, moldy aroma. Otherwise the wine just lacks taste and you might not know you”re drinking tainted wine.
Corked wine does not occur as often as people believe. Only two percent of corked bottles result in tainted wine. Unfortunately, there”s not much to be done with a tainted wine other than to pour it down the sink.
Storing wine is reasonably easy if you have the right environment. You need an environment that is cool, dark and maintains a constant temperature. If this environment isn”t available, consider a temperature controlled wine cabinet.
Store wine on its side, so the wine comes into contact with the cork. The exceptions are sparkling wines and Champagne, with can be stored upright.
There”s a myth that bottles of aging wine need to be turned. All this does is mix up the sediment that develops with aging and promotes chemical changes in the wine will eventually impair the taste.
Some wines store better than others. Some wines are best opened immediately others require up to a decade of aging to develop their full potential.
Here are some suggestions for how long wine should age:
|Cabernet Sauvignon||3 to 10 years|
|Cabernet-Merlot Blends||2 to 8 years|
|Cabernet-Shiraz||3 to 10 years|
|Chardonnay||0 to 5 years|
|Merlot||2 to 5 years|
|Pinot Noir||2 to 5 years|
|Port (non-vintage)||0 to 5 years|
|Port (vintage)||5 to 20 years|
|Riesling||0 to 8 years|
|Shiraz||2 to 5 years|
|Sparking wine (non-vintage||0 to 2 years|
|Sparking wines (vintage)||5 to 8 years|
The best source of information on how long an individual wine should be ”laid down” is always the winery that produced the bottle. Don”t be afraid to contact a winery and ask for aging recommendations.