No-Cost Steps to Better Wine

Practicing what I preach.

After decades as a sommelier, wine educator and just a guy enjoying wine with others, I can confidently say budget is not the main roadblock to having better wine experiences. Here are three no-cost steps that will add more to your enjoyment of vino no matter what wines you drink.

The right wine temperature

Almost everyone drinks red wine at far too warm a temperature. Think of how many times you consumed a bottle stored at room temperature when the restaurant or your home temperature was in the 70s or 80s. This ruins more wine flavors than any other single factor, so stop doing that right now.

Do not be afraid to ask for an ice bucket when you are out or put the bottle in your refrigerator for a short time. The general optimal temperature range is between the low 40s F to mid-60s F and proceeds from sparkling wines to light whites to rich whites to light reds to full-body reds.

Using those temperatures as a starting point, also consider the temperature of your environment. It’s a good idea to go cooler in a warm environment and warmer in a colder one.

Structured red wines benefit most from decanting, but don’t be afraid to pour other reds or big-bodied whites in the decanter.

The proper glassware

Think clean, right size and shape and one size fits all. Look for a modern Bordeaux- or Burgundy-sized and shaped glass (see photo) that has a reasonably large bowl and tapers at the rim. These will even work with Sparklers if you pour carefully. Champagne experts recommend a non-fluted glass, as well.

If you insist on every different model of Riedel Glass, then prepare for dozens of different styles and the space in which to store them — and to take out a second mortgage. Crystal versions from any maker do have advantages, but they are fragile and the size, shape and cleanliness are more important. Stemless crystal is fine unless you are constantly holding the bowl.

Tools of the trade.

Decant the wine

This is a verb for which you will need the noun decanter. Boldly structured red wines benefit most from decanting, but don’t be afraid to pour other reds or big-bodied whites in the decanter before imbibing. This not only aerates your wine, it helps integrate molecules that are not dancing together in a bottle at rest. In addition, it allows some molecules that help with graceful aging, but are not the best for smelling and drinking, to blow off. Finally, if you pour slowly, it leaves unwanted sediment in the bottle.

Don’t even try to follow these rules perfectly, but do try them while following each day’s wine journey and I guarantee more wine fun. Cheers.