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Wine How To




·         How To… Serve a Wine

·         How To… Decant a Wine

·         How To… Taste a Wine

·         How To… Choose the Best Wine Glass

·         How To… Store Your Wine

·         How To… Store an Open Bottle of Wine

·         How To… Clean a Decanter



How To… Serve a Wine

1.       Setting Up - For the simpler reds and whites, leave until mealtime. For your more interesting selections from the cellar, bring to the table 2-3 hours prior to mealtime in order to warm slowly to room temperature.

2.       To Breathe. … Air can be the ally and the enemy of wine. When you pull the cork on some of your cellar selections, allow the wine to interact with the air for 30 minutes for older reds up to an hour (or more) for younger brawnier reds. If you are patient this process helps the aromas develop and eases the flavors out from their constraints.

3.        …Or Not To Breathe - With a delicate wine, or most commercial wines, there's little need to practice the above restraint. It may even prove fatal for the more volatile mature wines - just uncork and enjoy!

4.       Time to Breathe - To set the process off, either leave the bottle standing, cork off, or, better still, pour into a decanter. This will not give the wine nearly as much airing as when it is left in the bowl of a glass. Younger, more closed wines need longer, and the more complex show their class with time.

5.       How Chilled is Chill? - Most light crisp white wines will drink best at 40-45 F. Lighter reds sometimes do better slightly chilled, but not as much so as the whites.   Beware, as there is such a thing as an over-chilled wine. 

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How To… Decant a Wine

1.       What is Decanting? Decanting is the transferring of wine from its original container to a fresh glass receptacle, leaving the sediment behind.

2.       Deposit - It is best to stand the bottle upright for 3-5 hours (sometimes a bit longer) before decanting to let the sediment settle.

3.       The First Step - Hold the bottle in a way that you can watch the wine travel through the bottleneck as you pour. Pour slowly. When the sediment reached the neck stop. 

4.       Before you Pour - After pulling the cork, clean around the top of the bottle to avoid any possible mould or such that can alter the flavors inside.

5.       Don't Over Do It - Allow the wine to interact with the air for 15 minutes for older reds up to an hour (or more) for younger brawnier reds. But if you are most people, pull the cork and pour, the wine will take on different nuances as you progress through the meal.

6.       And What About White Wines? - Save your effort. Most whites need to be swirled and drunk. Some of the bigger, California Chards might do well with a little air.

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How To… Taste a Wine

If you are simply into the fact that good wine makes meals better then avoid all of this gibberish.  If not then here are some thoughts on tasting wine in a more formal approach.

1.       Pouring - Glasses should not be filled to more than 1 ½ to 2 ½ ounces. Leave sufficient room in the glass to be able to swirl.

2.       Looks matter - The first aspect of the wine to observe is its appearance. You can tell a lot about a wine by the way it looks: maturity, concentration . . .

3.       Give it a swirl . . . Once you've had a good eyeful, to get the aromas flowing a wine needs air contact. The glass should be swirled around, steadily, to let the wine inside circulate.

4.       The Nose - think more about youthfulness, depth of fruit and complexity.

5.       Taste - As for smell: look for acidity, body, tannin presence, length and finish. And the bigger picture: overall balance and elegance.

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How To… Choose the Best Wine Glass

1.       The shape of things - Glasses should have different shapes to allow for the full expression of the aroma and nose. The bowl should also allow for the drink the ability to aerate the wine.

2.       View from the Outside - Color in wine is often the first indication of the "shape" a wine is in.  Our advice is to avoid colored wine glasses

3.       Lead or other - While lead crystal surely has a better "feel" to it, the weight of a glass will not effect the quality in pour into it.

4.       Does size matter? - One size can fit all, when it comes to wine tasting. There is one style of glass recognized as the ideal tasting apparatus, the ISO (International Standards Organization) glass: the stem is about 5cm tall, bowl 10cm tall (at its broadest 6.5cm wide).

5.       Bigger is sometimes better - The larger the glass, the more exposure to air, ergo the more evolvement will take place inside, awakening the hidden aromatic depths and balancing tannic power and fruit. The younger (and more closed) the wine, the bigger the bowl required.

6.       Champagne Glass - Any glass with more bottom area has a tendency to lose their bubbles quicker. And there is nothing worse than flat champagne. The flute - tall bowl, tapered in at the top - is the only way to drink bubbles - a wide, tapered bowl keeps them small and in several streams, released slowly.

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How To… Store Your Wine

1.       Wine should be kept in a cool, dark place: the ideal temperature is about 10oC. Though cool, it must be frost-free (avoid unheated garages for this reason). Humidity is important to keep the seal of corks - and thus the wine in good condition.

2.       Don't keep white wines in the fridge for weeks on end as this can deaden the flavors when you do come to drink them.

3.       Always store table wine lying on its side to ensure that the corks don't dry out. Champagne and other sparklers can be stored upright - the layer of carbon dioxide in the neck of the bottle protects the wine from contact with the air.

4.       Keep fine wines in their original wooden cases until you are ready to drink them. There's no safer way to store the precious bottles, and the official packaging should certainly be retained if you might want to sell at auction later on.

5.       To prevent damp damaging labels on bottles, try sealing them with a blast of unscented hair spray.

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How To… Store an Open Bottle of Wine

1.       The obvious solution to this problem is not to let it occur at all, however, in the unfortunate circumstance that they eye is bigger than the appetite help is at hand.

2.       Use the Fridge - A well-sealed, fairly full bottle will remain fresh in the fridge for a week or more (remember to let it warm up to room temperature before polishing it off). On the whole, red wines last far better than white.

3.       When putting a cork back in a bottle - be sure to put it back the way it originally came out. This is particularly important for older vintages where you don't want the wine exposed to the dirt and mould, which may have built up under the capsule.

4.       When storing a re-corked bottle stand it up to ensure the minimum surface area of wine is in contact with the air: oxygen is the enemy of wine.

5.       Save those half bottles! Pour unused wine into a clean half bottle to reduce oxidation. If the bottle is full and sealed with a clean, fresh cork the wine inside may keep for years. Note: Don't wash your halves out with detergent or washing up liquid, the residue may taint the wine.

6.       Sucking the air out of the bottle with a Vacu-vin can help a wine keep longer. These devices, available from supermarkets and wine shops for about $8.00, use a pump and a special rubber bung to create a partial vacuum in the bottle, thus reducing the amount of air in contact with the wine.

7.       A layer of inert gas can help protect wine from oxidation. Several systems exist, but the most suitable for home use is Wine Saver, which squirts a mixture of nitrogen and CO2 into the bottle. The gas covers the surface of the wine and prevents air from getting to it.

8.       A Champagne saver is a vital accessory for any sparkling aficionado. The best designs have arms, which clip down over the collar around the neck of the bottle - the press down variety has a tendency to fly off rather dramatically. Check for a good strong spring to ensure an adequate seal.

9.       Some premium Champagne bottles, such as those of Dom Perignon or Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne have necks which are too narrow for many Champagne savers. While there are some old tales of placing a silver spoon in the neck of the bottle, we believe that the only real solution is to finish the bottle off. Champagne will never taste better tomorrow.

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How To… Clean a Decanter

1.       The first thing never to let near your decanter is dishwashing soap it's almost impossible to get rid of all the residue of detergent.

2.       Get a brush - The long, wire handled brushes used for cleaning babies' bottles are ideal for getting out the dregs of that 1955 vintage port cakes at the bottom.

3.       Dissolve those red wine stains with white wine, the more acidic the better - use the end of any unfinished old bottle you have around the house.

4.       For those really stubborn wine stains, get serious with vinegar, soaking the decanter in it overnight. White wine vinegar is more effective than malt. Don't use any of the flavored varieties.

5.       The odd white deposits, which appear on crystal decanters, particularly old or antique ones, are lead salts, which have leached out of the glass. Through the decanter is perfectly safe to use, due to the range of exciting effects that lead has on the human body (it doesn't do the flavor of the wine much good either, though it can make it slightly sweeter) it is very important to clean them off before use.

6.       When all else fails, there can only be one solution: chemical warfare! False teeth cleaning solution is sovereign for cleaning decanters: simply fill and leave overnight, but be sure to rinse it extremely thoroughly to avoid any tell-tale smell or taste.

7.       Dry your decanter carefully with a lint-free cloth to avoid water stains. To quickly dry the inside, try Suck-ups. These newly invented sock like bags filled with a high tech water absorbent substance make short work of polishing the interior of a decanter.

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