Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Wine Lovers: 101 (buy, store, and drink better)

People are always asking me for tips to improve their wine buying, storing and drinking experiences. So, I felt it was about time to put some on my most common tips down on paper to share. While this list is in no way the end-all of wine drinking mysteries solved, it does make for an excellent guide for the beginner and even intermediate wine enthusiast.

Shopping wine on the information highway - One of the biggest revelations in my wine collecting life was the discovery of Wine-searcher is a free service that allows you to specify the wine you're looking for and the area you'd like to find it in, whether it is your state or country. Add to that the ability to check prices and retailer ratings, and you have a website that is a must for any wine enthusiast.

Where NOT to store your wine - A kitchen may seem to be a convenient place to keep a small wine rack, but the reality of it is that the constant temperature swings from your oven can cook your bottle in no time or on a warm day. In the same token, a room with a lot of windows may be aesthetically pleasing to you, but your wine sees it in a different light. Ultraviolet rays damage wine and direct sunlight can cook it as well. Keep your bottles in a dark place where temperatures remain relatively unchanged, such as a hall closet or basement, and away from any hot water heaters or boilers. For any long term storage, you’re better off looking into professional storage or building your own cellar but this tip will keep your go to bottles safe.

Let it breath – If there’s one thing I learned that has truly improved my enjoyment of wine, it’s to let it breath. Almost any bottle will improve with a small amount of exposure to air, however not all wines react well to decanting. To play it safe, I open the average bottle of wine at least one hour before I plan to drink it. Right after popping the cork, I’ll pour a small half glass sample for myself so that I can evaluate it at opening, verse how it improves an hour later. Also, this practice gives the wine a little more air exposure in the bottle as the fill of the bottle will come just under the shoulder.

“Room temperature’ doesn't necessarily mean room temperature - The flavors of the things we eat and drink change drastically with temperature. Wine is no different, but one thing to remember as a wine drinker is that the term "room temperature" for red wines is referring to a room of 65 degrees, which is far off from the average home or apartment. Whenever I have a red that’s a little warmer than I’d like, I’ll either give it twenty minutes in the fridge or chill my glasses before pouring.

Let it settle - Wine is a living, changing thing (maybe not by strict science), but one thing that many collectors and enthusiasts will swear by is that a bottle is better when given a short rest period after transport. Try buying a bottle the day before you need it so that it can have some time to rest. If you're having it shipped to you, give it at least a week or two of rest. The wine will be in better spirits when it's time to pour and your chances of getting a glass full of sediment will be significantly reduced.

Start a tasting group – The best way to learn about wine is to taste more than one bottle next to another. What’s the difference between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon? It’s easy to tell when they’re both in front of you. By starting your own tasting group, you can learn about wine and host a social event all at the same time, and you can even share the expense with other wine enthusiasts.

Pairing wines with food by region – What’s the easiest way to pair wine with food? Look to the wines that are made closest to the recipes origins. If you consider what the people who created the recipe liked to drink, you’ve already made a big step in the right direction.

Do you have any wine tips to share? I'd love to hear them.


  1. In my opinion, one consideration is how the wine is stored. A sign of a good quality wine shop is when the store carries more than one vintage of a particular wine.

  2. What I'm happy to see, in the last few years, are more and more stores paying attention to storage conditions. We're not talking about the average Wine & Liquor store, but many wine oriented shops are now trying to store their back-stock in temp controlled locations.

    Another big problem, is actually many of the importers/distributers, who are still happy to let wines sit in the back of trucks over the course of a hot summer day while making delivers. If they care that little about how wine is transported to the store, what does that say for the rest of the chain.

    Thanks for the comment.

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