October 26, 2014
Seven Deadly Sins of Wine
With Halloween right around the corner, this is the perfect time of year to understand these "7 deadly sins" of wine (but don't worry, these tips are applicable all year). Make your wine taste even better and increase your enjoyment by steering clear!
Aging wine for too long.
The adage goes, “Wine gets better with age.” This is probably one of the biggest wine misconceptions. Although some wine will “mature” and benefit from aging, most wine can be drunk “young.” All wines, even those that should be aged for many years will eventually be past prime. With this in mind, what wines should you consider cellaring? WineFolly put together a great chart for easy reference.
Drinking wine at the wrong temperature.
Optimal temperature yields optimal flavor. Many people drink reds a bit too warm and whites a bit too cold. While most wines are certainly drinkable at the wrong temperature, when enjoyed at the proper temperature they will have more depth and nuance. Don't have a climate controlled cellar or fridge and need a quick fix? Wine Spectator has the answer:
"If the wine is too warm, immerse it in a mix of ice and cold water—this chills a bottle more quickly than ice alone because more of the glass is in contact with the cold source. It may take about 10 minutes for a red to 30 minutes for a Champagne. If the wine is too cold, decant it into a container rinsed in hot water or immerse it briefly in a bucket of warm water—but don’t try anything with high heat."
Storing it incorrectly.
A wine rack on top of the refrigerator in a bright kitchen may seem like a great place to store your wine. But remember, heat and wine are enemies. Temperatures exceeding 70 degrees will age wine much more quickly than normal. “Cooked” wine will have very flat aromas and flavors. Cold temperatures typically go hand in hand with less moisture in the air, which will eventually dry out the cork. 55 degrees is usually cited as the perfect temperature for storage, but don’t worry if you are a couple degrees off. More important than the exact temperature is keeping things consistent, avoiding extreme or frequent temperature swings which could push the cork out or cause seepage.
Another enemy of wine? Light. Especially sunlight. The sun’s rays can degrade and prematurely age your wine.
Don’t forget to pay attention to bottle orientation. Store your bottles on their side with wine covering the cork. This is very important to keep the cork from drying out and is especially important if you are revisiting the bottle again and again with Coravin, since keeping the cork in great shape will protect your wine for the long haul.
Not letting a wine rest.
Three weeks after your trip to Tuscany a large box arrives. It contains an entire case of wine that is sure to transport you back to the tiny Italian vineyard where you spent hours eating and drinking on the patio with the wine maker and his family. You can’t wait to pour a glass right then and there.
But you should resist the temptation. “Bottle shock” or “bottle sickness” is a condition that sometimes occurs when wines are shaken during travel. It causes the wine’s flavors to be muted or disjointed.
The good news? Bottle shock is temporary and allowing your bottles to rest for a few days should bring them back to life.
Pairing the wrong food with the wrong wine.
Some wines simply are not good matches with certain foods. Components in each can compete, causing sickeningly sweet, bitter, or sour tastes. Creating the perfect wine pairings for a meal is an art. Some foods may even stump even the most creative oenophile. What should you pair with your sushi take out? How about chocolate (did you know that despite common thinking, dry red wine and chocolate aren't a match)? You could try to memorize common food and wine pairings but to create truly inspired pairings you need to understand how flavor components interact. Check out our recent blog post for more details.
Not letting wine breathe.
Giving your wine a little time to breathe in a glass or decanter before drinking is similar to stretching your legs after being cooped up on a very long flight. Exposing it to air for 30 minutes of so will allow the wine to open up, releasing aromas and softening the flavors. Very tannic or young reds may need a longer time to reach their best. Generally, the older a wine is, the more quickly it will decline after exposure to air.
People often ask us how wine can breathe when you don’t take the cork out of the bottle. It’s true, breathing begins the moment the cork is pulled. But if that is all you do the amount of surface area exposed to oxygen is very small. It is best to allow the wine to breathe in a decanter or glass rather than in the bottle.
Drinking the same wine every time.
It is easy to get stuck in a rut, buying the same wine every time and knowing you aren’t wasting money on something you don’t like. This approach is very limiting and you’ll be missing out on some truly remarkable experiences. To increase the chances that you will love your purchase, pick a wine made from the same grape but from a different part of the world. Or try something with a similar body.
It helps to find a great wine store with staff you can trust. One of our favorite wine stores in Boston, Urban Grape, uses “progressive shelving” to help you pick the perfect wine for your palate. Rather than organizing wine by region or varietal, they organize by body. This makes it easy to explore different styles, producers, etc., all without getting too far outside of your comfort zone.
Spend some time exploring the wine stores in your town. A knowledgeable and helpful staff will be able to guide you in your purchases and help you be more adventurous.