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Drinking wine is an art that is perfected with time. It requires knowledge, sophistication and heightened senses to enjoy the full experience. But if you have not yet entered the world of wines, do not be deterred. This guide will equip you with all you need to know to hang out with your wine-aficionado friends. Also, see this wine tasting video to see Johndrow's advice in action.
Q - Swirling, smelling...what does it all mean? When I swirl a wine, what exactly am I looking for?
A - If you don’t know don’t do it...The challenge many people have is they either make a feeble attempt to spin the wine and it goes side to side rather than in a circular motion, or worse you spin it out of your glass and ruin you or your friends’ clothes. The key reason for swirling the wine is to inject oxygen into it as it has been pissed off in the bottle for some time and typically does not show up the best it can right off the bat. Most people do not tell you that spinning brings the alcohol up onto the sides of the glass – the wine snob technical term is “legs” – allowing you to more easily smell the fruit. The closer the “legs” are together the higher the alcohol content. The easiest way to spin a glass is put one finger on each side of the base of the glass and rotate in a circular motion. Do not try spinning while you are holding the body of the glass. You will look like a nerd and probably worse end up wearing more than you drink that night. SEE VIDEO
Q - What is the best way to care for a bottle of wine once you buy it? If I buy it during my lunch break, can I leave it in my hot car the rest of the day?
A -Wine is a living organism and should be treated as such. If you know nothing about wine then treat it like you would a gallon of milk. Would you buy it and leave it in a hot car? Temperature and light are killers of wine, particularly heat above 78 degrees and extreme cold. And keep it out of the sun, which will change the complexity of the wine and turn it to vinegar. If you plan to drink the wine shortly after you buy it, put it in a location that is out of the sunlight, does not change temperature by more than 20-25 degrees and never gets above 78 degrees. The ideal cellar temperature is 55 degrees and the ideal serving temperature in the low 60’s. If you are going to age your wine, go buy a $50 or less wine cooler; don’t make the mistake of investing in expensive wine without also investing in its care. SEE VIDEO
Q- What is a good vocabulary for referring to wine? In other words, arm me with some expressions or terms to pull out at a wine tasting and sound sophisticated.
A - If you do not know what a term means don’t act like you do. Instead, learn basic terms that describe wines you already like to drink. There are a lot of fancy terms out there, but here are some basics. SEE VIDEO
All wines contain acid or vinegar taste. Normally the amount is insignificant and may even enhance flavor. If it contains too much it will make the wine taste flawed.
The residual taste left in your mouth after you swallow the wine.
This is what you smell when you put your nose in the glass. Most wines that are aromatic smell like some form of fruit like bing cherries or flowers.
This is the best description for wines with high tannins mostly found in reds. This is that taste in the back sides of your mouth making you pucker.
Denotes harmonious balance of wine elements - (ie: no individual part is dominant). Acid balances the sweetness; fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol is balanced against acidity and flavor. Wine not in balance may be acidic, cloying, flat or harsh etc.
When a wine tastes or smells like the earth or a country barn.
Red wines made in a very ripe, fruit forward style. You will smell and taste fruit more than anything else.
I think this is self explanatory.
This only describes white wines. The malolactic fermentation process makes the wine finish with a real buttery taste.
I like this term. Chewy wines are high in tannins and they feel like you could chew them long after you have swallowed.
Bad wine. In simple terms, there is something wrong with the wine. This comes from the term that the cork failed and air got to the wine or the wine oxidized.
Mostly found in white wines when a wine smells like a bouquet of flowers...
Wines that have a high alcohol content are known as hot. The second sip is normally better than the first.
Wine that tastes berry-like.
Most wines are exposed to oak during their making either from an oak barrel or wood chips. The taste that comes from this is called oaky and smells like fresh split wood. It may also taste like vanilla or tar from the barrels.
Term used for spicy wines. Mostly found in Gewurztraminer among the whites, or in Zinfandels and Syrah’s in reds.
Sweet is typically found with wines that have a residual sugar left in the wine. Typical sweet whites are White Zinfandel and dessert wines; reds are sometimes referred to as sweet if they are berry-like or fruit-like.
This taste is the bitter component of wines and is derived from when the skins and seeds are allowed to stay with the juice during fermentation. This is the main challenge that white drinkers struggle with moving over to red wines.
David’s starter pack for new wine drinkers! Here are some basics you will need to purchase to start enjoying wine to the max.
The right wine glasses makes a huge difference. I prefer the Riedel glassware line. When buying glasses and drinking red wines, I like the “O” line and personally use the Riedel “O” Cabernet/Merlot/Bordeaux for all reds. For whites, I use the Chardonnay/Viognier Glasses. These glasses are easy to clean and can go right in the dishwasher. Soap is a killer of wine so you need to make sure that all of your glasses are rinsed well. Buying nice glasses can assist in enhancing your wine experience. BUY SOME NICE GLASSES!
This is obviously an important component if you want to taste your wine. There are two schools of thought on this purchase. (1) Buy a cheap opener or swipe one from a hotel. (2) Spend some money, and get a corkscrew that will assist you in opening more bottles without breaking the corks. I prefer the second approach. There are a lot of good wine openers, and I prefer the ScrewPull line. My favorite wine puller and the one I recommend is the ScrewPull Lever pull. You can buy some look-alikes for a lesser price, but my experience is you will be buying a bunch.
Letting wine breathe is imperative! I prefer to decant most wines if I can, and I decant older vintages for at least 30 minutes. If I cannot decant at a restaurant here is a trick. Pour out one glass so there is more air exposure to the wine. This will assist in opening the wine up. There are many great decanters out there so get one that fits your personality. Cheers!
This is essential in your arsenal and it will save your clothes and furniture if you spill your vino. I am not sure how it works. It just does. Just trust me, buy some.
Where to buy
Wine fridge – Ok, so you bought some really nice wine and now where do you put it when you get home? There are many wine fridges out on the market and if you are a serious wine drinker I highly suggest one of these for your red wine storage. I keep my fridges at 55 degrees for aging my wine. Some of the most popular wine fridges are Sub Zero and EuroCave. You can read more about this in my wine storage tips area.