Wine 101

Choosing a good bottle of wine from the thousands available can be difficult without doing any prior research. However, a good rule of thumb is to choose a wine which states a specific vineyard or town rather than a region. This is because many poor wineries will try to benefit from the name of the region where they’re located, even if their vineyards are in undesirable parts of that region.

Including information such as the dates the grapes were harvested and the wine was bottled, whether the grapes were grown and fermented at the same place (called estate-bottling), and the phone number of the winery are all positive signs. Details such as these add to a wines authenticity and indicate that the wine producer cares about and has faith in their product.

Personal experimentation is necessary for you to choose the right wines for you. You should first taste a wine or two from the different types of wine available (Shiraz, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, etc.), and figure out which in general you like. Having decided on the general type of wine you prefer, you’ll need to look into which wines within that specific type are most agreeable to you.

You should store your bottles of wine by placing them on their side somewhere relatively cool and free from direct light. Keeping them at a temperature of between 50 to 60 degrees is ideal; though a range of 45 to 65 degrees is considered acceptable. The worst thing you can do to your wine is subject it to varying temperatures. The temperature should never fluctuate more than 5 degrees a day, especially with red wines, which suffer more temperature-related problems than white wines.

As for how long to store wine for, many factors contribute to the answer, not limited to the production technique, style of wine, and region where it was produced. In general though, you should drink whites relatively soon after buying them and age reds for five to 10 years. If you’re starting out, consult a free online aging chart to to assist you with this aspect of wine storage.

Standard white wines should be served at a temperature between 7 degrees and 10 degrees, whereas sweet white wines, inexpensive white wines and cheaper sparkling wines are best a bit colder, between 3 degrees to 7 degrees. You’ll probably have to place your wine in the fridge for an hour or so before drinking it to achieve this temperature.

The optimal serving temperature for red wines is between 13 degrees to 18 degrees, considerably cooler than room temperature in most modern houses. Therefore, many reds, unless stored somewhere cool, will benefit from being placed in a fridge for around 30 minutes prior to drinking them.

When you taste wine, it’s important to realize that little of the flavor that can be sensed actually involves the tongue. It’s your nose that does the tasting, even when wine is in your mouth. Breathe in and out through your nose whilst the wine is in your mouth; paying attention to the way the wine changes as you hold it there. Remember that a wines aromas can take on many different forms, and very rarely will it simply smell of grapes.

The taste of a wine can improve or worsen depending on the food that you drink it with. Although there are only a few combinations which really don’t work, learning the basics about pairing them will bring out the best in both. You can take one of two approaches: pair a wine with a contrasting food taste, or use a complementary combination, in which the food and wines share similar characteristics. Either works equally well, but which to apply varies on the type of food being served.

Pair beef with heavier red wines like Zinfandel, Bordeaux, or Cabernet Sauvignon; most of these wines go well with lamb as well, but this meat is complimented by white wines like Pinot Gris too. For poultry, look for whites or light reds when there is a heavy sauce – Pinot Noir and Beaujolais work well. Fish should always be served with whites, and Sauvignon Blanc makes a good choice.