These three pointers will help you enjoy wine without anxiety that you may be violating some obscure law of oeno-etiquette.
Are you tired of being wine shamed? There are plenty of people who will tell you what you’re doing wrong with wine. News articles, supposedly intending to make you feel more comfortable in social settings involving Bacchus’ largesse, instead scream, “YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!”
A quick Google search comes up with clickbait headlines such as “8 Wine Mistakes You Might Be Making.” Like the familiar “You’re holding the glass wrong” refrain. “The Most Common Wine Mistakes Everyone Makes” warns at the start, “You’re probably making mistakes with your wine that lead to big disappointment once the bottle is opened.” (Makes me want beer instead.) “The 9 Most Common Wine Mistakes” chastises you for buying wine at a store instead of online. Excuse me while I clean my computer of the rosé I just spat out.
Who needs that sort of criticism? We are judged on so many things in life. Wine should not be one of them.
We can enhance our enjoyment of wine without the derision of the Vino Snobs who want to make us feel inferior. Those negative articles sometimes contain some good advice, but they shouldn’t be adding to our fear of wine. Rather, they should encourage us to enjoy wine secure in our own tastes and preferences. So here are a few of my suggestions of how you can enjoy wine confidently, without looking over your shoulder to see if someone has arched a disapproving eyebrow.
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— Serve wine at the right temperature. We tend to drink white wines too cold and red wines too warm. That’s because we pull whites right out of the fridge, around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature may make the wine seem refreshing at first, but isn’t that like cold water? We want fruit and acidity, nuance, etc. That comes with moderately cool temperatures. If you keep wine in the fridge, take it out about 30 minutes before you want to drink it. If you doubt this, pay attention to the wine as it warms up. You’ll notice more flavors. Full-bodied whites, such as some chardonnays or the “orange” or “amber” wines fashionable today, are often at their best just barely cooler than room temperature. (Secondary advice: Don’t drink the wine too fast.)
Reds should be served at “cellar” temperature, not room temp. A proper wine cellar is kept around 57 degrees (compared with 40 degrees for refrigerators and 70 degrees or more for modern houses). So stick your bottle of red in a bucket of ice and water for about 20 minutes.
At restaurants, don’t be shy: Pull your bottle of white out of the bucket and leave it on the table if it’s too cold, and plunk your red in the ice bath instead.
— Invest in good-quality stemless wine glasses. After the recent state dinner hosted by President Donald Trump for French President Emmanuel Macron, the internet went ballistic over a photo of the bromancers toasting each other. Trump, a noted teetotaler, was holding his glass of whatever by the bowl, supposedly a sure sign of a wine rube. The sophisticated Macron, in contrast, held his glass properly by the stem. Of all the things history will evaluate Trump by, the way he holds his glass should not be one of them. And never mind that other photos showed Macron clutching his glass by the bowl.
We hold our glass by the stem or foot for two reasons. It facilitates swirling, which helps release the wine’s aromas. It also avoids getting our oily fingerprints on the bowl, which makes it harder to appreciate the wine’s color and clarity, and which could (theoretically) warm the wine a fraction of a degree over the precise ideal temperature. Oh, brother.
That’s why I like stemless glasses. They may not be appropriate for formal state dinners, but they avoid embarrassment because there’s only one way to hold them and they are harder to knock over. They also fit much easier in a dishwasher.
— Learn to recognize the most common wine fault. Okay, this one will take some work, but it will help you avoid some bad experiences.
Cork taint is caused by a chemical that can infect a cork and affect the aroma and flavor of the wine. It’s not harmful, it just ruins the wine. If your wine smells like your brother-in-law’s moldy wet basement, it’s probably corked. Even small amounts of cork taint can mute or deaden a wine. Call the sommelier over and ask for another bottle, or take it back to your store for an exchange. Some people say dropping a copper penny in the glass will neutralize the taint, but who has copper pennies anymore?
This list could go on for a lot longer. But these three pointers will help you enjoy wine without anxiety that you may be violating some obscure law of oeno-etiquette. And if you think someone’s frowning, smile back, grab your glass by the bowl and take a long gulp.