How to Drink Wine
On the surface, drinking wine sounds simple. You open a bottle, pour it in a glass, and serve it. Then, you tip the glass and drink.
That’s actually not how to drink wine, though. It’s a much more involved process than most people realize. When you do it correctly, you will appreciate the flavors and nuances that are available in the different bottles.
Follow some tips and you will drink wine like a connoisseur. Then you will feel confident drinking wine with friends or at wine tastings across the world. You’ll appear to be a seasoned pro, even if you’re just getting started with your wine journey.
Make Sure the Wine’s at the Correct Temperature
Most people get this step wrong. There is a belief that white wines should be cold and red wines should be at room temperature, but neither of those commonly held beliefs is correct.
If you were to ask a professional how to drink wine, he or she would tell you to stop over-chilling your white wine. When the wine gets too cold, the aromas don’t come through, which reduces the pleasure you’ll get from imbibing. Bubbly wines, such as champagne and prosecco, need to be chilled to about 45 degrees. Keep other white wines around 50 degrees. Bump the temperature up just a bit if the white wine is lighter bodied, and bring it down a bit if it is fuller bodied. This will allow you to get the most out of each sip you take.
Now, let’s look at the red wines. People who know how to drink wine understand that lighter bodied red wines should be chilled to anywhere from 57 to 61 degrees. These wines include pinot noir, zinfandel, and port. Chilling the wine a slight bit increases the flavor. You can keep heavier bodied wines at room temperature, since they don’t need a boost when it comes to flavor. They’re already full of flavor and ready to drink.
Let the Wine Breathe
If you want to get the best flavors from your wine, you need to let it breathe a bit. There are two schools of thought with this. Some people think they need to take the cork off the wine to let it breathe, while others think they need to place it in a decanter. Not only does this let the wine breathe, but it also makes you look fancy. Fanciness goes good with wine, so this must be the right choice, right?
Actually, it depends on the age of the wine. If you have a younger wine, go with a decanter. This will open the wine up and make the aromas and flavors more expressive. Your wine will taste much better after spending some time in a decanter.
However, if you have an older wine, putting it in a decanter would be a mistake. First, older wines are much more fragile than younger wines are. Putting an older wine in a decanter can actually kill the taste and the aroma. Your wine will taste like a dud, even if you spent good money for it.
Also, these wines often have sediments in the bottom that will end up in the decanter. That sediment will make its way into a wine glass, which will hurt the wine drinking experience.
Regardless of the age of the wine, breathing is necessary. At a minimum, take the cork off the bottle and let it breathe. The amount of time the wine breathes depends on the wine.
Red wines under eight years old tend to be very strong and should breathe for one to two hours. Red wines that are over eight years old aren’t nearly as strong in tannic acid, so they just need to breathe for a half hour.
Very old wines don’t technically need to breathe, although you will have a slightly better taste and aroma if you leave the cork off the bottle for a few minutes.
Many people don’t think they need to let white or blush wines breathe, but all wines benefit from some aeration. The flavors will be so much fuller if you take the cork off and expose the wine to air for at least a few minutes. Let your wine breathe for different periods of time to find out what you prefer. Some white wine drinkers just like to keep the cork off for five minutes, while others prefer to let the wine aerate for a half hour. It’s a matter of personal taste, so experiment to find out which option works best for you.
Pick up the Glass
People will immediately know that you don’t know how to drink wine if you hold the wine glass improperly. Novices go for the middle of the glass, but that is wrong. Simply use the stem when using stemware. Grip the stem right below the glass so you look like a pro when you drink your wine.
Swirl the Wine
After you put the glass in your hand, you need to agitate the wine. This is easy to do. Swirl the wine around in your glass a bit to bring out the aromas and flavors. This increases the wine’s exposure to oxygen so you will get a much more pleasurable drinking experience. Don’t swirl your glass too hard or you’ll end up with wine everywhere. Just swirl it gently, using your wrist to move it around and agitate it. Do this a few times to bring out the best flavors and aromas.
Use the Three Senses
Drinking wine is about so much more than taste. It’s also about seeing and smelling. You should engage the three senses to get more out of the wine drinking process. When you see, smell, and taste it, you end up with the best wine drinking experience. You also look like a professional wine drinker who really understands the process.
Look at Your Wine
The process should begin by looking at the wine. You can tell quite a bit about a wine just by looking at it.
The age is the first thing you will notice. If a red wine looks violet, it is young. On the other hand, if it has a brick color that isn’t nearly as intense, it is an older red wine. If a red wine has aged too much, it will be dull and might even have a yellowish tint. Those who know how to drink wine understand to leave dull, yellowish red wine alone. It won’t taste good because it has aged too much.
While red wines get lighter with age, white wines get darker. These wines are usually at their best when they are nearly clear. If they turn a yellowish-brown color, they aren’t good anymore. These wines have aged too much and should be thrown out instead of consumed.
You’ll also want to look at the thickness of the wine. Sweet and dry wines have different consistencies. Sweet wine has a ring of clear liquid located near the top of the glass. These are wine tears. If you see the tears in the wine, you also know the wine has more alcohol. That means you need to be careful about how much you consume. You will start to feel this wine much faster than a wine that doesn’t contain as much alcohol.
Take in the Aroma
Bring the glass up to your nose and smell it as it comes to life. Close your eyes so you can focus on the smell alone. Begin by holding the glass still and smelling it. Then, move the glass from left to right to awaken more smells.
The smells will come in stages. First, you will get a whiff of the primary aromas. This is where you’ll get those fruity, spicy, or floral smells.
The secondary aromas will follow that. These are the smells that occur during fermentation.
Finally, you’ll end up with the tertiary aromas. These smells form during the aging process. The smells depending on the aging process used.
At first, the smells might be overwhelming, but the more you practice this, the better you will get at identifying the various smells. Take your time and keep your eyes closed. You need to focus on the smells alone, without letting your vision get in the way.
Sip the Wine
Now, it’s time for the best part. You’ve done so much preparation, and you can finally down that delicious wine.
Slow down a second. You don’t want to take it in one massive gulp. Wine isn’t meant to be devoured. It’s meant to be sipped and savored.
You actually want to put the wine in your mouth and experience it. If you just throw it back, you won’t get the complete experience.
Take a sip of the wine and let it stay there for a moment and enjoy the experience. Check for the different flavors that you’ve smelled. Do you taste the fruits or the nutty aromas you picked up when smelling the wine? Does your mouth feel dry? That’s because the wine has aged and is strong in tannins. You should also ask yourself if the wine is sweet, bitter, or balanced. Wines that are well balanced are typically well made.
You can swish the wine around in your mouth a bit to expose it to all of your taste buds, but that isn’t necessary. Give it a try, though, to see if you like that method.
You can engage your senses more with a little trick. Keep your head forward and open your mouth just a little bit. Bring in some air while keeping the wine on your tongue. This will send some of the wine’s volatile compounds toward your nose’s smell receptors. That will allow you to engage your sense of smell, which will enhance the taste. Just keep in mind this trick will cause you to make a slight gurgling noise, so you might not want to break it out at a fancy dinner party. You’ll get a couple of looks for sure.
Finally, swallow the wine. You will notice that the taste stays on your palate for some time after you swallow it. The longer it stays on your palate, the higher the quality.
What if You Don’t Like the Wine?
From the time you were little, you learned that spitting out food and drinks is a big no-no, but that actually isn’t the case for wine. In fact, people who taste wine are prone to spitting it out so they can sample various wines without getting intoxicated. You are more than welcome to spit out a wine that you don’t like, but do it with confidence. If you are apologetic about it, you will look like anything but a pro. Spit it out and move on to the next wine. You are certain to find one you enjoy if you keep sampling wines.
Save the Rest of Your Wine for a Rainy Day
If you don’t finish the entire bottle, you don’t need to throw your wine away. You do need to remove the oxygen, though, or it will spoil. Use a vacuum pump to remove the excess oxygen. Seal it up with the pump, and it will keep for up to a week. If you don’t get to it within a week, it’s best to throw it out and get a new bottle of wine. The wine will break down, and all of these amazing aromas and flavors you identified with disappear.
Taste with Confidence
Now that you know how to drink wine, you can sip with confidence. Don’t let wine connoisseurs make you feel as if you don’t know anything about wine. It is a learning process, but if you proceed with confidence, you can sip and spit with the best of them. It won’t be long before you’re giving people tips on how to enjoy wine.