This morning on The Broadcast I did a little Wine 101 with the hosts on how to sip and savor your favorite glass like a pro. Though I always follow the belief that you should drink what you like, when you like, paired with whatever you like…there are a few tips and tricks to follow if you want to get the most out of your wine enjoyment. Here are a few basics to think about next time you open a bottle.
1) Decanting – Most people think they should just decant an older, well aged bottle. Yes, this is often true as that wine has been sitting in that bottle a long time and can use a little air, however when decanting an older, well-aged bottle you could also run the risk of it dying out and losing its flavor very quickly, so you need to be ready to drink it shortly after it is opened and decanted. Most people don’t think about decanting very young wines – this however is the optimal wine to decant in my opinion, especially hearty, highly tannic wines that still would need some time in the bottle to help those tannins soften. Utilizing a decanter on young wines will help open them up by adding in air and help soften some of the tannins.
2) Glassware – Good glasses are important, and make even the most inexpensive wine better on presentation alone; invest in a set of Riedel or Spiegelau, and you can find them easily these days – even Target carries Riedel.
3) The Pour – When you pour wine into a glass for a tasting you only want a few ounces. I am amazed sometimes to see people pour half a glass or more of wine into their glass when they have ordered a whole bottle. Pouring too much wine into the glass defeats the purpose of a tasting as you need to be able to swirl the wine easily, without worrying about wearing the contents.
4) The Look – After you have poured a few ounces into the glass look at the wine, tip the glass a bit an notice the color, the texture and viscosity. Much about a wine can be learned from the color, mainly the age of a wine as older white wines tend to be a bit more golden or slightly starting to brown, as with older red wines that turn a deep brick, slightly brown or deep purple as they age.
5) The Aroma – After you have looked that the wine smell its aromas, think about the flavors and what it may remind you of. Then swirl the wine a few times to add air to the glass and smell again. The aroma is often my favorite part as you can learn so much about a wine, and I think about yourself, when you recognize various aromas – musty, earthy forest floor aromas and truffle aromas remind me of rich Barolo or hearty Burgundy , add in a bit of fresh berry and cherry and I am transported to Willamette Valley sipping classic Pommard clone based Pinot Noir. When you swirl the wine you will also notice the legs or tears slipping down the glass, this is an indication of the weight of the wine, basically the alcohol. The more defined the legs the more weight/viscosity the wine will have.
6) The Taste – And finally, the taste. As most winemakers today agree wine is made in the vineyard, the product in the glass should be a representation of what occurred in the vineyard. And, just as important as the actual grape variety grown is the soil the vines were grown in, the slope of the land and the direction of the sun the vines faced, and the amount of water the vines received. Each element will help define a wine, then add in yeast and lees aging, and various types of fermentation methods, from concrete to stainless steel to oak, to how the wines are aged. Each step adds layers to the wine, creating the final flavors, as well as a balance of acid with fresh, ripe fruit and balanced tannins.
And, the best part is, there are no right or wrong answers with any of this. The beauty of wine is that is it completely subjective. I know what I like, and the aromas and flavors that I can easily identify in a glass of wine, yet my husband might find completely different aromas and flavors. Naturally, they should be somewhat similar – like we can both agree that a wine has red fruit elements or coffee or spice, yet he may find more red raspberry and I find wild strawberry, or he finds mocha and I find espresso, he finds toffee and I find dark chocolate and caramel. The main thing we hopefully find together is a wine we can sip together and enjoy at the end of a long day while relaxing, or share over dinner. Don’t let it get too serious….wine should always be fun!