The road to wine enjoyment is often paved with potholes of snobbery and trepidation. Are you drinking the right wine? Are you pairing it with the right dish? Are you serving it the right way?
It’s enough to put you off your pinot.
Don’t waste time worrying. Here are seven do’s and don’ts to help you navigate the path to vinous enjoyment:
1. Don’t invest in the latest bottle-opening gadget
Rabbit to the Frog, these newfangled contraptions require an instructional video, and as soon as you master one, another comes along. Save yourself the trouble and cost and steer clear of these passing trends. Take a tip from sommeliers and hone your skills using the classic wine key. It’s easy to use, fits in your pocket and will never go out of style!
2. Do trust your palate
Wine snobs love to tell you all about wines you shouldn’t drink. Next time, turn the tables and tell them about all the wines you like. Don’t become a slave to a wine critic’s points or other people’s opinions. Sample a variety of wines from around the world to develop your palate and base your decision solely on your own experience and preferences. If Sauternes is your favorite wine of all time – so be it.
3. Don’t serve red wine at room temperature
The ideal “room temperature” is the 50-55 degrees of an English wine cellar. Nothing tastes worse than a glass of cabernet sauvignon served at 80 degrees. Serving red wine with a bit of a chill (ideally 55-60 degrees –or about 45 minutes in a refrigerator) enhances its fruit, rounds out those tannins and makes the wine’s alcohol level more seamless.
4. Do take food into consideration
If you’re throwing a dinner party at home or selecting wine for a group at a restaurant, be sure to keep everyone’s entree in mind. You might be in the mood for a full-bodied, tannic Bordeaux, but that might obliterate another diner’s lemony snapper meunière. In order to appeal to a variety of palates and preferences, always choose both a white and a red wine for the table. You’ll have happy diners on your hands, and you’ll look like a pro.
5. Do invest in some good stemware
Having the right stemware can make a considerable difference in your perception and enjoyment of wine, but there’s no need to run out and invest in a different glass for each grape variety. Master sommelier Andrea Robinson has created a cleverly designed line of stemware called The One, so named because there’s one glass for white and one glass for red. As if that weren’t great enough, the glasses are also break-resistant, dishwasher safe and affordable.
6. Don’t smell that cork
We’ve all seen movies where a sommelier deftly removes the cork from a bottle of wine and hands it to a diner who takes a whiff before giving the go-ahead to pour. While it certainly looks glamorous, smelling that cork will not tell you anything about the wine. Even if a cork breaks and crumbles into the bottle, always sample the wine before rendering judgment. It would be a shame to miss out on a perfectly good bottle based on the condition of its closure.
7. Do serve wines in the right order
In order to appreciate the nuances of the wines you’re serving, always go in order of lightest to heaviest, and driest to sweetest. Bubbles come first, followed by light whites (e.g. sauvignon blanc, dry riesling), heavy whites (i.e. chardonnay, viognier), rosés, light reds (i.e. pinot noir, barbera), heavy reds (i.e. cabernet sauvignon, malbec) and then dessert wine.
Stephanie Miskew is a certified sommelier, wine educator and proprietor of The Wine Atelier, an online wine boutique. She also runs the The Glamorous Gourmet, a website dedicated to wine and entertaining.