If you’re a causal wine drinker, you may know the basics when it comes to enjoying wine at home. It doesn’t take much though to take your next wine drinking experience to a new level. You can easily enjoy a professional level experience at home with just a few small changes to your wine setup.
Wine Storage 101
Your first step on the journey to professional-level sommelier skills takes place before you even open your wine. Properly stored wine can last for decades, while improper storage can ruin even the nicest bottle.
Temperature is Key
To make sure you’re storing your wine like a pro, you’ll want to store it at a consistent temperature. Around 13ºC should be fine for most wines, but check with a wine’s manufacturer for specific instructions if you’re unsure. To serve your wines at the correct temperature, keep in mind that reds should be served slightly chilled at about 12-19˚C, whites should be served even more chilled at 8-12˚C, and champagne should be coldest at 5-8˚C.
The Ideal Wine Setup
You’ll want to make sure to store your wine bottles horizontally to keep the cork moist and avoid premature ageing. Your wine should also remain in the dark as much as possible, as UV rays can alter its flavour and aroma. Other considerations like humidity levels or cross-contamination from food odours could become factors, in which case investing in a separate wine cooler might be your best storage option.
Storing Opened Wine
A bottle of wine that’s already been opened can maintain its quality for roughly 3-5 days if stored properly. Re-cork an open bottle quickly and tightly using wax paper around the cork to ensure no parts of it end up in the bottle. If the cork was discarded after opening or splintered in the process, a rubber wine stopper can be used instead. If you want to get really fancy, invest in a wine vacuum pump, which creates an almost airtight seal.
Identifying Wine Faults
To truly enjoy your wine like a professional, you’ll have to refine your nose and palate enough to recognise when something’s not quite right with your bottle of wine. Picking out faults in wine can be tricky if you’re not a practised connoisseur, but keeping your eyes peeled for a couple common faults could make you the hero of your next dinner party.
Before you ask, yes most international wines are corked while many Australian wines have screw cap lids. However, “Corked” wine doesn’t refer to wine sealed with a cork, it refers to a wine that has been contaminated by a chemical compound called 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) which infests corks with a type of airborne fungi. The TCA then seeps into the wine, leading to an unpleasant, musty flavour. While not dangerous to drink, corkiness can leave a bottle of wine virtually undrinkable. To detect corked wine, you’ll want to sniff around for dusty aromas of wet newspaper or damp basement as both are signs of corked wine.
Wines that have been exposed to too much oxygen, either during the wine-making process or due to improper storage, have become oxidized. Oxidized wines look and taste differently than they would when fresh, so look out for wines that have lost their brightness. Reds will turn a flat brownish-orange colour and whites will become ruddy and may begin to smell more like Sherry.
To serve your wine as a true professional, you’ll need to choose the right glass. The shape of your wine glass affects the way aromatic compounds enter your nose which may sound like crazy-talk, but aromatic compounds actually produce much of the flavour in wine.
- White wines should be served in smaller bowled glasses which help maintain the cooler temperature and preserve floral aromas and acidity.
- Red wines can be served in a variety of glasses depending on their aroma and flavour. Bolder reds like Cabernet Sauvignon should be served in a larger “Bordeaux” glass. Medium- to full-bodied reds like Shiraz can be served in a standard red wine glass. Lighter red wines with more subtle aromas like Pinot Noir work well in a “Bourgogne” glass which has a larger, rounder bowl.
- You may also want to invest in specialty glasses like champagne flutes if that’s something you drink often.
You’ve stored your wine at the correct temperature, you’ve checked it for faults, and you have the right glassware. Finally, time to enjoy your wine knowing you’re well on your way to becoming a true wine professional. If you need recommendations or would like to enjoy a quality Australian wine, visit The Good Wine Club to learn more about our wine club subscriptions.