Wine Cheat Sheet: 7 Things You Should Know About Wine
But let’s face it, for the uninitiated, all the swirling, sniffing, swishing and sipping can be very intimidating.
With so many different types to choose from, selecting your next bottle can leave you wondering what exactly you should be looking for — is it the flavor, a rating, the price point?
Whether you’ve got a good grasp on what varietals you like, are struggling to pronounce “sommelier” (we can help you with that one: suh–muhl-yei), or just want to be less clueless when it comes to Cabernet, we joined forces with the experts at wine club Firstleaf to help.
From that first sip to storage, our cheat sheet will answer some common questions about wine.
Tasting: Am I doing it right?
Tasting is an important part of the wine selection process. When you order a bottle in a restaurant, the server will often pour a small splash into your glass so you can get a taste and give your approval before committing to the entire bottle.
With that first sip of wine, what you’re looking for balance.
“If a wine is balanced between alcohol, acid, sugar, tannin, and fruit then you are drinking a well-made wine. The formal tasting experience will help you move step by step, from assessing the wine color, the wine aromas, the wine tasting notes, and more,” the Firstleaf Wine Concierge team tell us.
Why do people swirl their wine around before taking a sip?
There’s a good reason you see so many people swirling their wine around and examining it before taking that first sip.
“Swirling a wine glass causes rapid aeration which releases more of a wine’s aroma. By swirling we can closely assess the color of the wine, we can see the texture of how it moves in the glass, and we can release different aromas in a glass of wine that were hidden before,” the Firstleaf Wine Concierge team explained.
Far more than a habit you may have picked up after watching Sideways, swirling is an easy way to enhance the flavor of wine before you taste it.
What does “breathing” mean? Do I have to let my wine sit before I drink it?
Some days you might need to take a deep breath … and so does your wine.
“Breathing is the process of adding oxygen to a newly opened bottle of wine. Wine is a living thing. It changes as it sits in the bottle, but sometimes even a good wine needs a little time to breathe before enjoying it,” the Firstleaf Wine Concierge team shared.
When long-term aging oxygen is the enemy, but when you open a wine “you want it to breathe to open up and express all the nuance it can,” the Firstleaf Wine Concierge team said.
Thinking about “breathing” and swirling as two ways to accomplish the same thing: Getting air into your wine to release its scent and flavors. For a little extra oxygen, some wine lovers invest in a decanter, a glass vessel that encourages aeration.
How long does a bottle of wine last once it’s opened?
Didn’t finish your whole bottle? Fear not, you’ve got a little bit of time.
“You can put the cork back in the top and put it in the fridge. Make sure that it is standing vertically as this minimizes the amount of wine that comes into contact with oxygen,” the Firstleaf Wine Concierge team explained.
This will ensure your wine stays good for another day or two. But after that, beware. It will begin turning to vinegar.
At what temperature should wine be served?
Fantasizing about a chilled rosé on a warm summer day? There’s a reason it hits the spot — because temperature can have a dramatic effect on how wine tastes.
According to the Firstleaf Wine Concierge team, wine served warm (between 59-64°F) will highlight the aromas, accentuate sweetness, mask tannins or astringency, and vastly increase the bubbles in sparkling wine.
Depending on the type of wine you have, there are optimal temperatures that will highlight the best aspects and mask the negatives.
- Sweet dessert wines should be served (well chilled) between 43°F and 46°F
- Sparkling wines should be served (well chilled) between 43°F and 50°F
- Light & medium-bodied whites should be served (chilled) between 45°F and 50°F
- Medium & full-bodied oaked whites should be served (lightly chilled) between 50°F and 55°F
- Light-bodied reds should be served (lightly chilled) between 55°F and 59°F
- Medium/full-bodied reds should be served (room temperature) between 59°F and 64°F
How should wine be stored?
Have you been gifted more wine than you can drink? Saving a bottle of something special for your next date night? When storing wine, there are three things to consider: position, light and temperature.
According to the Firstleaf Wine Concierge team:
- Wine must be stored horizontally. Horizontal storage ensures that the cork stays moist, and therefore stays expanded. If the cork dries out, it will shrink, and outside air can enter the bottle and ruin the wine.
- Wine should never be exposed to direct sunlight or high temperatures. When wine gets too hot, even for a few minutes, it will lose flavor.
- The ideal temperature for wine storage is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For short-term wine storage, anything between 45 and 65 degrees is acceptable (as long as the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much).
- Wine that you plan on storing for months or years should go in a refrigerated wine cooler or wine cellar.
How can I learn more about wine?
The best way to learn more about wine is to drink it! Consider Firstleaf your teacher. Sign up for Firstleaf and you’ll get 50% off your first order and free shipping. Their wine school features lots of information to increase your wine knowledge while improving your tasting techniques, learning about food pairings and more. Interested in signing up? Read our Firstleaf reviews.
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