Everyone can enjoy a glass of wine every now and then. In my home, ever since I was a kid, we didn’t need a reason to open up a good bottle of wine except just to enjoy a nice family dinner. My parents would choose a bottle that complemented the meal and then pour one or two glasses for all the adults in the family (and a few sips for me until I was old enough to get a glass of my own).
However, as I grew older, I read about wine and discovered some common wine handling and serving techniques that are actually destroying the quality of the bottle. I’ve seen a lot of friends practice these mistakes, as well as my own parents every now and then. While enjoying wine is as simple as opening a bottle, pouring it into the glass, and taking a sip, if you want to get the full experience, you need to avoid these common mistakes.
Holding the Wine Glass from the Bottom
We’re all guilty of doing this at one point. When we’re at a party or social event and there’s no table or flat surface where we’re standing to put our wineglasses on, we have to hold the wineglass with a hand. And instead of using two or three fingers to hold onto the stem, we slip the stem between two of our fingers and use our fingers and palm to support the bottom of the bowl, keeping our hands in a natural position instead of using our fingers.
While this may seem like a small deal, it’s actually affecting the composition of the wine. Wineglasses have stems to keep our hands away from the wine and to avoid letting our palms transfer the heat on our hands to the glass to the wine. This heat can impact the smell and taste negatively. The wine’s stem is also an effective way to swirl the wine.
Serving Wine at the Wrong Temperature
I know some people say wine temperature depends on the drinker’s preference (some keep it ice cold, while others leave it at room temperature), but for some wines, there is a specific temperature where it’s at its best. If some fruit-based wines are too cold, for example, the fruit flavors remain frozen and you won’t be able to taste it. White wine, for example, locks down all the flavors and aroma when it’s too cold. On the other hand, if it’s too hot, the alcohol will taste overpowering against the other ingredients. As a result, it tastes flat and unappetizing.
If you like it that way, then there is nothing anyone can do to stop you. However, if you really want to taste all the flavors at its objectively best, then research the wine and see at what temperature it’s best taken in. VinePair has a helpful infographic on wine temperatures and how to quickly cool a bottle.
Keeping a Bottle Open for Too Long
Some wine connoisseurs have bottles that have been unopen for over a century, and when they finally open it, they can really taste and smell the flavors and aromas that have been brewing. However, you can’t keep a bottle for that long if you’ve already opened it because you’ve introduced air into the wine. It’s like a canned good: those cans in your kitchen can last for years even if it is meat, but the moment you open it, the expiration date changes from one year to about a week.
If you keep a bottle for too long, eventually the flavor will die out and it will taste flat. If you have leftover wine, keep it in the fridge or use a wine pump. If you think you won’t be able to finish the whole bottle, you can freeze the wine in ice cubes and add it to a drink or use it as an ingredient in a recipe.
Using the Wrong Wine Glass
There are about 18 kinds of wine glasses for red, white, and other types of wine. If you don’t have the money for an entire line of wine glasses, then one or two types can still be fine. However, as mentioned earlier, the stems have a purpose, and so do the shapes for handling the different wine compositions.
The Pinot Noir glasses, for example, have the widest bowl for red and wine glasses to ensure that the wine makes contact with as much air as possible to improve the aroma and flavor. It also has a shorter stem and a turned-out rim to direct the smell towards your nose and mouth. In comparison, the Bordeaux wine glasses are the tallest because it’s a bitter red wine and, when you drink from it, it travels easily down to the back of your mouth, making you taste its flavor without tasting too much bitters.
Home Stratosphere has a helpful chart on wineglasses that will help you understand the differences better.
Pairing the Wrong Food with Wine
It’s nice to have a meal with wine, but some people do not know how to match the flavors of food with the appropriate wine. If you’re having hard and salty cheese such as parmesan and gruyere, for example, you’ll want wine that contrast its flavor such as Chardonnay. Salty cheeses such as blue cheese and gorgonzola need a sweet wine such as Sangiovese. If you’re not sure what wine to pick for your meal, you can ask a waiter in a restaurant; otherwise, you can experiment and test out combinations.
Pouring Too Much Wine
Wine isn’t like beer you can fill up in a red solo cup. You’re not supposed to fill up the entire wineglass because you need room to let air linger in the wine and give some space to let your wine swirl. Swirling your wine allows you to release the aroma and flavor, giving you a better taste when you take a sip. And you can’t do that if your wine glass is full.
For red wine, fill up around a third of the glass, while for white wines, leave the glass half-full. For champagne and other sparkling wines, fill up about three-quarters of a glass.
By taking note of these steps, you can improve the way you handle wine and experience a better taste and aroma with every glass. Just remember to drink moderately and responsibly!