YOUR GUIDE TO BECOMING A VIN GEEK
What's the best temperature for serving wine?
As a general rule of thumb:
Red wine, 15-18°C
White & rosé wine, 5-12°C
Sweet Wines, Champagne & other bubbly, 5-7°C
To get to those temperatures reds can normally just be kept in a cool cellar or closet. This is also called "cellar temperature." Whites and rosés can be put in the fridge for a few hours, and the bubblies longer.
It is actually easier to use an ice bucket though. Fill the bucket up with ice about 4/5ths, cover the ice with water. If the "room" temperature of your reds are over 18 degrees, immerse them for five minutes; whites and rosés for ten minutes; and bubblies for fifteen to twenty minutes. (Light, acidic reds such as Bardolino, Valpolicella, Nouveau and plain ole Beaujolais, and others of that weight should soak nearly as long as the whites.)
If you don’t like the taste of a wine — for example, it is too tannic for you, or too acidic; too tart or too sweet; unbalanced — the wine is not necessarily flawed. It’s just not for you!
How long can I keep a bottle of wine?
When it comes to aging, every bottle has a different potential. Certain grapes, such as Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, are generally suitable for longer aging, thanks to their tannic structure. But this is all dependent on vintage and producer as well. Ask our team of Sommeliers for the best advice in regards to storing a specific bottle of wine.
How Long Does an Open Bottle of Wine Last?
1–3 days in the fridge with a sparkling wine stopper Sparkling wines lose their carbonation quickly after opening. A traditional method sparkling wine, such as Cava or Champagne, will last a little longer than a tank method sparkling wine like Prosecco. The traditional method wines have more atmospheres of pressure (more bubbles) in them when they’re bottled, which is why they tend to last longer.
Light White, Sweet White and Rosé Wine
5–7 days in fridge with a cork Most light white and rosé wines will be drinkable for up to a week when stored in your refrigerator. You’ll notice the taste will change subtly after the first day, as the wine oxidizes. The overall fruit character of the wine will often diminish, becoming less vibrant.
Full-Bodied White Wine
3–5 days in fridge with a cork Full-bodied white wines, like oaked Chardonnay and Viognier, tend to oxidize more quickly because they saw more oxygen during their pre-bottling aging process. Be certain to always keep them corked and in the fridge. If you drink a lot of this type of wine, it’s a really smart idea to invest in vacuum caps.
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3–5 days in a cool dark place with a cork The more tannin and acidity the red wine has, the longer it tends to last after opening. So, a light red with very little tannin, such as Pinot Noir, won’t last open as long as a rich red like Petite Sirah. Some wines will even improve after the first day open. Store open red wines in a chiller or a dark cool place after opening them. If you don’t have a chiller, your fridge is better than letting the wine sit out in a 70°F (21°C) room.
28 days in a cool dark place with a cork Fortified wines like Port, Sherry, and Marsala have very long shelf lives because of the addition of brandy. While these wines do look marvelous displayed on a high shelf, they will lose their vibrant flavors more quickly from exposure to light and heat. The only wines which will keep forever when open are Madeira and Marsala–they’re already oxidized and cooked! Just so you know,the sweeter the dessert wine, the longer it will last open. The same temperature-based rules apply here: best to keep them stored in the fridge.
Do old wines require special handling?
Like humans, wine can become somewhat fragile in its later years. For one thing, old wine doesn’t like to travel. If you must move old wine, give it several days’ rest afterwards, before opening the bottle. (Red Burgundies and other Pinot Noirs are especially disturbed by journeys.)
Older wines, with their delicate bouquet and flavors, can easily be overwhelmed by strongly flavored foods. Simple cuts of meat or simply hard cheeses and good, crusty bread are usually fine companions for mature wines.
If you’re going to drink an older wine, don’t over-chill it (whether it’s white or red). Older wines show their best at moderate temperatures. Temperatures below 15.5°C inhibit development in the glass.
Decant red wines or Vintage Ports in order to separate the clear wine from any sediment that formed in the bottle. Stand the bottle up two or three days before you plan to open it so that the sediment can settle on the bottom. An important concern in decanting an old wine is giving the wine too much aeration: A wine in its last stages will deteriorate rapidly upon exposure to air, often within a half hour — sometimes in 10 or 15 minutes.
When you decant an old wine, taste it immediately and be prepared to drink it rapidly if it shows signs of fading.
Why do people slurp wine?
When wine professionals slurp wine, they’re essentially doing the same exact thing you’re doing when you swirl wine in the glass, just on steroids. Both swirling in the glass and slurping through your mouth are introducing oxygen to the wine, opening up aromas and allowing more pronounced flavors to come to life.
What are legs?
People tend to make a big deal about the “legs” or “tears” of wine, but really, all they indicate is alcohol percentage. When you swirl your wine, if the legs that run down the side of the glass are thin and move quickly, the wine has a lower alcohol content. If the legs are thicker and move slower, this indicates a higher alcohol percentage.
What are Tannins?
Tannins are simply the compound in wine that makes your mouth feel dry. Tannins come from skins, stems, and seeds in grapes, which is why red wines are generally more tannic than whites. Tannin can also come from wood, so wines aged in oak may have some tannic presence, but wood tannins are generally less harsh than grape tannins.
What makes a wine buttery?
The “buttery” sensation you get in your wine could be one of two things. Oak aging in wine can impart soft, creamy sensations to a wine’s feel, similar to that of butter, but is often more associated with vanilla and baking spice flavors. Buttery tastes could also come from diacetyl, a byproduct of malolactic fermentation, which is the process of introducing lactic bacteria to a wine to convert tart malic acid into creamier lactic acid.
Any suggestions for sweet wines?
Yes! Many wonderful sweet (also called "fruity") wines are available practically anywhere. Try Riesling, Vouvray, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Sauternes, Icewine, Tokaji, Port or any late harvest wine.
Don't let anyone tell you that sweet wines are just for dessert. This really depends on your individual taste preferences. People with very sensitive taste buds often prefer sweet wines over others that seem to them too harsh. And sometimes taste preferences will change as you experiment with more wines.