One of the really big turn-offs to people who simply want to enjoy wine, without going all geeky about it, is that friends and, sometimes, business associates (in most cities those are the same folks – not necessarily so in New Orleans) tend to get all uppity about how wine must be enjoyed.
And for something that’s supposed to be fun and a pleasure, having rules that are ironclad is not always inviting. “Yeah, well, you enjoy that Chateau Frou-Frou. I’ll take a beer.”
To be fair to all parties, there are some actions that add to the enjoyment of wine. They are simply stated: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Swallow or Spit, depending on what kind of a crowd you are with and how much wine you intend to come in contact with. Those suggestions about enjoying wine are not supposed to be a performance of "Hamlet," all dramatic, but they are suggestions. You know, like most of our laws.
On the other side of the ledger, there are beliefs that seemed to have crept into the wine lexicon and these are in need of complete banishment from the kingdom. If the real rules of wine appreciation are hard enough, who’s the bright bulb that keeps adding to them? You should know by now, it’s not me.
- If you have trouble swirling wine, which aerates the beverage and opens up the full experience of the aromas and the flavors, you have three ways to go: quit trying so hard; set the glass on the table to swirl the wine in it rather than holding the glass in mid-air; or just stop it. Luckily for you, there are no wrong answers here. What works for you is the correct choice. How often does that happen?
- Slightly chill your red wine, particularly in the summer months. Heresy? Hell, no. We serve red wine way too hot in this part of the world. Warm red wine is simply not as good as it is supposed to be. Stick that bottle of red wine in the refrigerator, bottom shelf, for about 15 minutes before you serve it. It will be better tasting and you’ll get more of the flavors the winemaker intended.
- The opposite corollary of No. 2 above is to quit chilling your white wine so darn much. Making a white wine too cold mutes everything about the wine, the delicate aromas and the full fruit flavor. If your chilled white wine causes condensation to form on the sides of the glass, cup the glass with both of your hands to warm it up and leave the wine out of the ice for quite some time. Condensation is a sign that the wine is not going to communicate its essence.
- Decanting a wine is good. There are exceptions, like very old wines that can’t stand long exposure to air, but decanting improves a lot of young wines, even white ones. Thankfully, if you don’t have a decanter – and a lot of us don’t keep them handy – consider the purchase of a decanting apparatus like the Vinturi, which will aerate a glass right out of the bottle. You won’t regret the purchase of a decanter or a Vinturi. Your wines will blossom.
- I’m not trying to tell you what you should or should not like, but you should try everything. If you close your mouth and your mind to new experiences, then you are passing by a lot of surprising pleasures for the sake of what you think you believe. Trying a wine you already made your mind up not to “like” is all about partaking of one of life’s great rewards. Maybe your viewpoint was obtained because you once had a (fill in the blank) and you thought it was horrible. Well, maybe that wine style has changed, or maybe you have. Maybe you had a bad bottle, or one that was not of the quality of the bottle sitting in front of you right now. Lots of maybes here. You need to solve that by being a good sport. Dive in.
- This one should be self-evident but it often is not. Be nice. If you are the one in the group with the wine/beer/spirits knowledge, your demeanor should be gracious. I’ll bet everyone in the room has some knowledge that you don’t, and if you ever get into a conversation with them about the merits of cell phone operating systems, or hybrid automobiles, or some other esoteric topic, you would want decent treatment and patience in consideration of your ignorance on that topic.
Here are the easy suggestions: If you are tasting wine, and your brow is furrowed, you are doing it wrong, or you are tasting a bad wine. Change. If you are tasting wine and you are judging other people, you are doing it wrong. Change.