Aiming for a new and improved you in 2016? That’s tough. Improving your wine experience? That’s not hard at all.
Because if you want to drink better wine, the first step is drinking wine better. To help you get the job done, we asked the pros for their best wine drinking hacks that will make you a better person (or at least a better drinker).
— LEARN BY DEGREES
Aim for a middle ground when it comes to temperature. Good reds taste better with a little chill on them and good whites taste better when they’re not ice cold, says Joe Campanale, co-owner and beverage director for Epicurean Group, which includes the NYC neighborhood restaurants dell’anima, Anfora and L’Artusi. So if a red wine isn’t being pulled from a temperature controlled cellar or wine refrigerator, put the bottle in a refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes (or until slightly cool to the touch) before serving, says Jessica Pinzon, wine director of the Napa Valley’s Miminashi restaurant. “Wine shows more acidity and minerality at a cooler temperature, and more fruit and alcohol at a warmer temperature. Experiencing the transition of (wine) warming up in the glass will enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the wine,” she says.
— ADD A TOUCH OF GLASS
Use clean, clear glasses with a good stem, says Campanale, who hosts the weekly “In the Drink” program on Heritage Radio Network. He uses Bordeaux-shaped glasses (your basic red wine glass) for “pretty much all wine, including Champagne.” The stem plays an important role — keeping your fingers from warming the warm.
— AGE WISELY
Drink most white wines young, says Gordana Kostovski, general manager and sommelier/beverage director of the Volver restaurant in Philadelphia. And these days many red wines are made ready to drink on purchase, too. Big red wines, on the other hand — think French Bordeaux — may need a little more time. Wondering how long? That’s a hard question to answer since wines vary. You can ask for clues at the wine shop or sometimes the label or wine website will offer suggestions.
— DEVELOP A BUBBLY PERSONALITY
“Drink more bubbles,” is the advice of Andy Myers, master sommelier and wine director for Washington, D.C.-based chef Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup. His pick, Raventos I Blanc “De Nit” rose from Spain. And skip the flute, says Kosovski. Serve bubbles in a coup or regular wine glass.
— DARE TO DECANT
Decanting a wine is good all around. Whether young or old, a wine improves when exposed to a little air (which occurs naturally when pouring the wine from the bottle into a decanter). And careful pouring also means you leave any sediment in the bottle. “Decanters aren’t just for somber, candle-lit ceremonies to separate the sediment out of venerable, old bottles,” says David Kravitz, certified master sommelier and beverage director of The Smith Restaurants in New York. “Young, inexpensive wines are often improved with a good, hard splash decanting. Oxygen will open up the fruit and ease the tannins.”
Note: If you’ve got a decanter gathering dust at the back of the cupboard, now’s the time to use it. If not, simply pour the wine into a clean pitcher or vase, says Pinzon. And don’t limit this to reds, she says. Champagne, white wine or rose can benefit from decanting, too.
— PICK SAVVY STORAGE
Store wine on its side and in contact with its cork, says Kostovski. And if you’ve got a wine refrigerator, keep it in there at 55 F. If not, look for a spot in a basement or closet that’s shaded from heat and light. Organize your wine and know what you have so you don’t forget it and leave it too long. And, says Kostovski, think about investing in a Coravin, the device that allows you to sample wine repeatedly without pulling the cork.
Having friends over for dinner and plan to open a nice, older bottle of wine? Stand the bottle upright (ideally at cellar temperature, or somewhere between 50 F to 64 F) for a couple days before the dinner party, advises Pinzon. This allows any sediment that may have settled in the shoulder of the bottle to settle at the bottom instead, making serving or decanting cleaner and more ideal.
— PRIME THAT WINE
Drinking two wines at dinner out of one glass? Don’t rinse the glass with water to make the change, says Chloe Helfland, sommelier at Bazaar Meat in the SLS Hotel Las Vegas. Once the glass is empty, pour in a little of the second wine, swirl it, dump the rinse and you’re ready for a proper pour.
— SHOP SMARTER
There’s no hacking a really bad wine. Campanale recommends going to a good wine shop to get a head start. If you find a wine you like, make a note of the producer; you’ll probably like some of their other wines, too.
Learning about and developing an appreciation for wine is interesting, but don’t make it a chore. “Have fun and enjoy the wine; pair it with food and friends,” recommends Kostovski. And while you’re swirling and sipping — but not while pouring — try closing your eyes. “Feel the wine through your senses,” she says, “Wine is romantic!”
Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Locke_Michelle