Friday, October 12, 2007

Exploring Wines: Part 2, Tasting & Enjoying

In today's post on Exploring Wines, I'd like to share some information about how to serve and taste wine. Like anything, there are things that can be done 100% "by the book. The information I am sharing is intended to provide a familiarity with wine, without standing on ceremony. There are volumes of books and websites written on this subject, so I certainly won't be able to cover it all. If you want to read more, most bookstores have a selection of nice books on wines. Over the years I have purchased several nice coffee table books with beautiful photos of rolling vineyards, grapes at harvest time, and wines with such vibrant color.
Pouring & Tasting Wine
If you order a bottle of wine at a restaurant, when the waiter places the cork on the table, you can pick up the cork and look at the end that was inside the bottle. If it was stored properly, the end should be moist, and the color of the wine inside the bottle. If you see any mold on the cork, that's a bad sign. Feel the cork with your two fingers, to see if its mostly in tact and not crumbling and falling apart. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to smell the cork. When the waiter pours a small amount for you to taste, it is not so you can decide that you made a bad choice and don't care for it. The purpose is to be sure the wine is drinkable, meaning there is nothing wrong with it. Rarely does wine need to be "sent back", and if you taste wine that is "off" or bad, you'll know it right away. Once you confirm the wine is OK to serve, indicate something to the waiter such as: "That's fine, thank you".
Experience wine with your senses...
Above: When a glass of wine is poured, take a moment to look at its color. For red wine, hold the glass by the stem or at the top of stem, at the bowl. Swirl the glass to allow the wine to rise up the sides of the glass. Gently tilt the glass and observe the color- is it deep red like a Cabernet or Merlot, or a pale red like a Pinot Noir? The richness of color is fun to enjoy. Also look at the clarity of the wine. Sometimes holding it over a white linen or nearby a candle helps you see the color more easily.
Above: Smelling wine is part of the experience for sure. Hold the glass up to your nose, and don't be shy, put your entire nose inside your glass, (without letting the wine touch it). Close your eyes...and inhale deep. Try to imagine what flavors you smell within the wine. Rich fruits such as cherry or blackberry? Spices? It's fun to allow your sense of smell to go to work. When you eventually take a sip, also allow your nose to smell at the same time as you sip, so you get two sensations at the same time. It's an amazing feeling!
To Decanter or Not to Decanter, that is the Question...

Above left: Sometimes using a decanter is a great way to allow wine to aerate (or breathe), which usually improves the taste prior to consuming. Particularly older or more complex wines benefit from using a decanter. In a fine dining restaurant, feel free to request a decanter if you are ordering an expensive bottle. Above right: after you've had the initial taste, most wines are fine pouring right into the glass. There are different shapes of wine glasses, depending on the type of wine, but I'll cover that another day.
A Few Wines From My Collection...
While preparing for this post, I pulled a few bottles of red from the wine cellar and went to my favorite room in the house, the library to enjoy these wines. Here are just a few...
Above left: Jester Cabernet, by Peachy Canyon Winery & above right: Jacobs Creek Shiraz (sorry the flash was too washed out the label).
Above left: One of my favorite wineries, Ledson Harmony Club Meritage & above right: Fun for this time of year: Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon

Above left: Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon & above right: Marilyn Merlot

Next week, I'll be back with another installment on Exploring Wines. Thanks for reading today.
-Rick Rockhill


LouLou! said...

I cannot say enough about how wonderful Wine for Dummies is. It has a wide array of faux pas prevention tactics, how to pronounce those pesky little names for those who do not speak French.

I have to wonder, how is the VAMPIRE vintage? I remain afraid of the campy names.

Should you be out this way, there is a lovely Virginia wine - Naked Mountain Chardonnay -

You need to git you some of that!

marlupe said...

thanks for the wine tips, I'll be sure to use them next time I eat out!

Mags said...

I'm not sure why "Exploring Wines" didn't tip me off before, but that is the very same book we used in culinary school for our wine class! It's a wonderful book, but you make it much easier and nicer to read.

And now, I am thirsty. ;) (It's only 9am here!!)

Sheila said...

Rick, this is a great series. Our family graviates toward Italian wines but if we were near California, I'm sure we'd love those too. My first visit to a winery was Robert Mondavi many years ago, but I most enjoyed a trip to Italy one fall when my son drove me and his younger brother all over Tuscany. Of course, we bought a bunch of bottles.

Maybe you know about trends in corking. Last week we had a bottle of red wine with a glass stopper or cork if you will. I have gotten over the shock of plastic corks but this was new to me.

Great posts and thanks for sending your mom my way. I hope she starts a blog.

Steven said...

Thanks again for your tidbits. I feel like I need to take someone out to dinner tonight and enjoy a bottle of wine. Only this time I'll know what to properly do with the cork. :-)


Great! It's 1140am in chitown on friday morning and all I can think about is getting completely hammered off of red wine!
Great pictures..I love that last one -the Marilyn Merlot..
Maybe you could have some give-aways and mail out some wine! :)

Anonymous said...

Something I read in a wine magazine once: If you like reds, you are sultry and exotic. If you like whites, you are cool and sophisticated. If you like white zinfandel, you were raised on bubble gum and rock and roll. Been drinking white zinfandel ever since! And I'm proud of it, damn it!

Canadian flake said...

I am not a wine drinker at all so I can't say I have experience with any of this...but I still found it a very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.


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