How to Drink Wine

How to Drink Wine

red wineI am a successful mid career financial consultant by profession and a wine connoisseur and collector by avocation. Right after graduating from Stanford, my young wife, Carol, and I had the good fortune of landing in Napa, CA where we have been raising our family of two boys, now both in their teens. Every year, Carol and I visit two to three dozen wineries returning to old favorites and discovering new gems off the beaten path. Although I am passionate about wine, I am definitely not a wine-snob and would never tell you not to drink merlot and insist on pinot noir like Miles, Paul Giamatti’s frustrated character in the movie ‘Sideways’. Leaving it entirely to your preferences what to drink, I would just like to pass on some tips which have enhanced my own enjoyment of fine wine.

Early on, I learned about the importance of the correct serving temperature for different varieties of wine while attending a public lecture given by one of the professors in the Department of Viticulture (cultivation of grapes) and Enology (art and science of wine making) at UC Davis. The ideal long-term storage temperature for all types of wine is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit (F) at 65-70 percent humidity and protected from direct light. However, the ideal serving temperature varies over a range of about 20 degrees for different wines. Non-vintage sparkling and fortified wines, like Fino Sherry, should be served chilled at about 45-46 degrees F while vintage Champagne a couple of degrees warmer. Next, come the light bodied white wines, like Rose, followed by the medium bodied whites around 52 degrees F and full bodied white wines at 54 degrees F. The red wines are at the top of the temperature range with the light bodied reds served at 55 degrees F, medium bodied red wines at around 59 degrees F, and full bodied reds at 61 to 64 degrees F.

Over the years, I have learned not to agonize over the wine being a degree or two too warm or cold. I generally chill sparkling wines in the freezer for an hour before opening. After chilling, I let vintage Champagne sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes to warm a couple of degrees before serving. I serve white wines directly from the fridge, and I let fruity reds sit in the fridge for about half an hour before serving.

Of the various types of wine accessories, wine glasses are by far the best investment you’ll ever make. While a mediocre wine can’t be turned into a great wine by decanting it and serving it in crystal glass, all my connoisseur friends and I agree that the shape and size of the glass can definitely enhance the experience of the wine. Champagne should be served in long-stemmed flutes which have narrow opening to reduce surface area allowing the bubble to last longer while champagne saucers, frequently seen at weddings, present too large a surface area and allow the bubble to dissipate all too quickly. Wine glasses should have a stem and the bowl should curve inward on itself and should be filled to about one third capacity to allow the wine to be swirled easily.

Finally, over the years I have purchased several set of Riedel (pronounced Rhee-dell) glasses. Claus Riedel is generally regarded a the world’s preeminent wine glass maker. Riedel believes, and the majority of experts and amateur wine connoisseurs agree that the right shape and size of glass will emphasize the aromas, fruitiness, and tannin levels, and direct the wine to the right part of the tongue.