Separating fact from fiction: How much do you actually know about wine?
If you’re a wine novice and feel unsure about the dos and don’ts of enjoying your first glass, heed these useful tips that even the experienced vino drinker will benefit from.
Serve wine at room temperature
We’ve been told that wine tastes best at room temperature and that you never decant a chilled wine into your glass. The truth is this idea is as stale as last week’s loaf of bread and certainly holds no water in the 21st Century. In fact, drinking wine stored at room temperature harks back to 18th Century Europe. If you enjoy drinking a chilled wine, especially on a hot day, then why shouldn’t you? There is a slight catch however, as not all wines should be chilled. It’s best to chill the lighter, fruitier wines, such as Pinot Noir, and store the full-bodied wines, such as Shiraz, at room temperature. Something else you should remember is that wine should never be ice-cold – 45 minutes in the fridge will suffice. Zesty whites and rosés can be served straight from the fridge too.
Swirl your glass before sipping
If you’ve ever been on a wine tasting tour, you may have noticed that vino virtuosos tend to swirl their wine in their glass before taking that all-important first sip. Perhaps you have even done so yourself? After all, you’ve been told that swirling your adult grape juice is the correct wine etiquette so you go along with it because of course you don’t want to come across as ignorant to other wine drinkers. You may have even heard via the grapevine that swirling before drinking releases the wine’s aroma and flavour. The truth is, wine should have minimal intervention if it’s good quality. Swirling wine actually weakens its flavonoids and chemical structure, resulting in a drink that’s lost its original state – this means the months of careful crafting and maturing would ultimately have been in vain. Instead, what you should be doing is gently tilting the glass to allow the wine to roll to one side and then back to the other side.
White wine goes with fish and red wine goes with meat
The idea that white wine goes best with white meat and red wine with red meat, is as old as time itself. We know this, and so do our parents and grandparents. The thing is, who cares? Choose the wine you fancy most and enjoy it with your meal. It’s really as easy as that. The only matter worth considering is if it’s the wine or food that should be the star of the evening. If you’re preparing an expensive and impressive meal, such as lobster or prawns, it’s best to select a wine that will complement the meal rather than steal the focus and overwhelm the flavour and texture of the dish.
A screw-cap indicates low-quality wine
Many wine snobs are quick to snub a wine that is packaged with a screw-cap because of a perception that corked bottles are far superior in taste and quality to bottles that don’t. A few years ago, this may have been true, but it is no longer the case. Wineries experimented with screw-on caps and found that it is easier to control the quality of wine in bottles that have screw-on caps than those that have cork seals. When purchasing a bottle of wine that has a screw-cap, you also needn’t worry about a crumbling or rotting cork spoiling the wine in the bottle. Screw-caps outshine corks by ensuring an airtight lid-to-bottle fit, which prevents oxidation that ruins the wine.
Old wines are the best wines
Many of us have friends or family members who are the proud collectors of vintage and rare wines. In self-made cellars, kitchens or lounges, dusty bottles of wine lie stacked neatly in wine racks, waiting for their owners to decide if the occasion is special enough to remove the cork from the bottle and share its contents. Even if these bottles aren’t opened by their owners, the thought of auctioning them off for a pretty penny is comforting because the older the vintage, the higher the asking price. Unlike a painting, an expensive bottle of wine is not a good investment because wine is perishable and will only retain its quality for up to a year, at most. Nowadays, most of the world’s wines are made to be consumed within a year and don’t age well over time like we thought – having said that though, there are always exceptions, of course. If the wine is carefully and skilfully produced and stored in a cellar, and monitored by knowledgeable wine-makers, the shelf-life may exceed a year. Once a wine passes its maturity window, tasting notes and aromas begin to deteriorate, leaving a rather vinegary taste on the palate and you wishing that you’d open that bottle of Shiraz ages ago. The bottom line is that not all wines improve with age, so open that beautiful bottle that’s gathering dust and savour each and every sip.
If you plan on opening a bottle of wine but think it may be past its consumption date, read this article and find out if it’s still drinkable.