Editor’s note: It’s our favorite part of the month, #WineWednesday with Marissa! This time she’s back and you’ll definitely want to bookmark it. She’s packed this post with all kinds of amazing tips to elevate your wine drinking in the most practical sense. Check out this edition of Wine Wednesday: Practical Tips for the Everyday Wineo.
Wine Wednesday: Practical Tips for the Everyday Wineo:
One of the things I love when I tell people I’m a wine professional is the wide-eyed, excited questions that often follow. “What is your favorite wine?” It changes seasonally, but I’m always pretty obsessed with Beaujolais Cru. “What do you pair with beef tacos?” Lambrusco! I just made some last night! Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE talking, and talking about WINE?!?! I could do it all day. Since I’ve started writing for Georgia, I’ve gotten a lot of back-to-basics questions from her readers and on my Instagram posts (@mreibstein). We thought it would be fun to answer some of those here.
I know how intimidating it can be to walk into a wine shop when you’re not that confident. The wine shop employees seem to know everything and you feel like you are an imposter so you just buy the prettiest bottle you see and get out of there. But trust me — they are not judging you!
Rule #1: GET TO KNOW YOUR WINE SHOP EMPLOYEES! Ask them what they’re excited about drinking right now, and you’ll likely score some great wines. They’re around the juice all day! And once you get a recommendation that you like, keep going back to that person for suggestions.
Rule #2: Try new things. Instead of buying the same Sauvignon Blanc you always get (because it’s delicious, I know!) why not branch out and explore a bit? Try a new country (How about Germany or Croatia or Portugal?) or a new grape (Always drinking Chardonnay? Try a Viognier or Chenin Blanc, or Torrontes). It’s a great way to expand your pallet and wine tasting vocabulary.
Rule #3: Check out some online retailers too. There are a lot of great wine buying options online. Lately, there are a TON of wine clubs popping up and it can be overwhelming. I’m working on a review of both popular and lesser-known clubs, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I have two go-to sites that I have to recommend. WTSO.com aka Wines Till Sold Out. It’s basically like Rue La La for wine. Yep, flash sale wines! WTSO sells lovely wines, heavily discounted, and they always have a great variety. Their descriptions are thorough so you know what you’re buying, and they also have videos from time to time. It’s a nice way to sample a bottle (or 5) that you wouldn’t ordinarily.
The other online supplier I’m OBSESSED with is Garagiste, check out their website HERE. You sign up for their email distribution list, and you’ll get daily (sometimes multiple!) offers on wines. Each email contains incredibly detailed descriptions of the wines and links to reviews. The wine is shipped only by the case (so you need to reach 12 bottles purchased before a shipment) and during favorable weather conditions — not too cold, not too hot. So if you live in NYC like me, you’ll get your wines a few times a year. If you live in Seattle, where Garagiste is located, you can pick up your wines in person so you’ll get them more frequently. I have ordered lots of wine from Garagiste, and they have all been FABULOUS.
How to Store Wine
Think of wine as a living, breathing thing and you’ll have a better idea of how you should store it.
Rule #1: Please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT STORE YOUR WINE ON TOP OF YOUR FRIDGE. EVER. It is my number one pet peeve. The heat that emanates from the top of the fridge heats up the wine and cooks it. For real. Your wine will be ruined. I don’t know how this trend started, but I’m here to tell you — stop. Remove. And let’s go from there…
Rule #2: Store your wine on its side. Let your ladies relax, dahling. This keeps the wine in contact with the cork, so it doesn’t dry out and crumble, thus ruining your wine. A lot of wine these days has screw off caps, which are great, and storing on the side doesn’t matter as much because they are going to be kept fresh. When in doubt, store your wine laying down. It can’t ever hurt to lay the bottle on its side AND you can usually stack more this way on a wine rack, which is a major bonus.
Rule #3: Store your wine away from direct sunlight and in a place with a consistent temperature. Wine is a moody lady. She needs to brood somewhere out of the sun and in a dark cool place. If you have a basement, you are a lucky human. Put your wine down there and you’re golden. If you’re like me and live in a small apartment, you need to just make sure that your wine isn’t stored near the windows, near a radiator, or close to any appliance that gives off heat. One other important factor is you don’t want your wine to have swings in temperature. When the temperature goes up and down it isn’t good for the wine and it can cause it to go off. Now, if you’re reading this and you think, “Okay, I’ll just keep all my wine in the fridge all the time.” NO. Don’t do that. Your fridge is way too cold to keep wine in there for long periods of time. That can kill your wine too. You really don’t want to store a bottle in there for longer than 10 days or so.
Rule #3.5: If you have $200+, buy yourself a wine fridge. I’ll admit, this is a luxury. But, if you love wine and you have the funds, I strongly recommend it. You can set the temperature (57 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal) and not worry about your stash. Basic models will set you back about $200 including shipping, and hold about 12-24 bottles. This is a great inexpensive option you can find at Bed Bath & Beyond, HERE. If you want a bit more variety, try Wine Cooler Direct, HERE. (WCD is where I bought my first one when I started getting serious about wine.) If you really want to splurge, go for the EuroCave. I purchased one for myself a couple of years ago and it is literally my favorite thing in my apartment. EuroCaves keep your wine at a steady temperature AND also control the humidity — which is key if you are buying wines that need to age for long periods of time (yes, I have a Bordeaux addiction.) Mine holds 144 -170 bottles depending on the configuration. Check out Wine Enthusiast if you’re serious about buying one. They have a great selection and excellent customer service.
Rule #4: If you’ve opened a bottle and you aren’t going to finish it — PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE SEALED TIGHTLY. Even if it is red wine, still do it. I used to always leave my red wine out on the counter with the cork in it because I thought the cold would ruin it. Not so. Now that you’ve opened it, you want to make sure that it stays fresh for as long as possible. That means keeping oxygen out. So, buy one of those plastic wine stoppers that lock out all the air, pop it in the fridge, and drink it within a couple of days. There are lots of fancy gadgets and contraptions you can buy to keep wine fresh longer…and I have a lot of them because I am an OCD wine drinker. But honestly, the everyday wineo does not need that stuff. Just a few quality wine stoppers will do.
How to Serve Wine
I could teach a whole seminar about how to serve wine, but I don’t have the time or space to be exhaustive here. So, I’m just going to give you a few overarching suggestions to make drinking wine more enjoyable.
Rule #1: Use decanters. You don’t have to get the pricey Riedel decanters (BUT, they are super amazing if you’re looking to invest), you can just buy a simple one from Crate and Barrel or another inexpensive retailer. The point is, wine needs to breathe. Especially young wine. If you have a bottle that’s 4 years old or less, and you’ve got the time, decant it. If you don’t have time, use an aerator. There are hundreds to choose from. I just buy the kind that pops into the top of my bottle and also serves as a pourer. Gotta love a two-in-one gadget.
Rule #2: Glassware is pretty important. This is where I will allow a bit of snobbery to come out. Listen, I know that mason jars and those cute little Italian “vino” glasses look cool, but they really aren’t super for wine tasting. Wine is optimally served out of glasses with a stem and a thin rim. The stem is there so you don’t warm up the wine with your fingers. And, the thin rim doesn’t disrupt the flow of wine into your mouth. If you don’t believe me, try drinking wine out of a glass with a thin lip and then out of one with a thick lip and tell me what you think.
Also, you want to be able to swirl the wine so that you can release the aromas. If you only buy one glass, get a tulip shaped one like these. I know the description says red wine, but you can absolutely serve white and sparkling wines out of these too. Speaking of sparkling…I’m about to make a pretty divisive statement but I stand by it: Champagne flutes are BS and not needed. They look nice, are festive, and let the bubbles dance up the glass for sure, but you can’t get your nose in there and really enjoy all the fabulous aromas and flavors the same way that you would out of a wine glass. Any somm will tell you the same.
Rule #3: Temperature makes a difference. Raise your hand if you’ve ever put ice cubes into your white wine. Come on, own up. We’ve all done it. I learned it from my mom and I’m gonna be honest, sometimes it’s kind of awesome. But, in general, it’s really not a great practice if you want to get the most out of your wine. (That doesn’t mean I will stop doing it on really hot days.)
There are some general guidelines for serving wine. Serve sparkling wines WELL chilled (42-50 F). Lighter bodied wine white wine and dry rose, serve chilled (44-50F). And white wine with more body or oak on it should be served lightly chilled (50-55F). The reason for serving it a bit warmer is because when a wine is really cold, the aromas aren’t released as much and you can’t fully appreciate all the nuances of the wine. It’s just a little too sharp. When it comes to red wine, serve lighter style wines at cellar temperature, approximately 57 degrees give or take. And, fuller bodied reds just shy of room temperature, around 62-68F. That might sound cold to you, but I firmly believe drinking warm red wine is one of the most unpleasant experiences.
ALL this said… when in doubt, serve and drink the wine as you enjoy it most. But do try my suggestions and see if you agree ;).
Rule #4: Have some bottles on hand for impromptu guests OR to bring as a host gift for dinner parties. This topic is the one I get questions about more than any other. It’s pretty difficult to suggest just one type of wine, but when in doubt, go for sparkling. I always try to keep a couple bottles of prosecco or champagne on hand at my place. It’s so versatile. You can drink it with or without food, it pairs well with just about every kind of cuisine you can serve (especially cheese and other appetizers that typically are out at a dinner party) and, it can be mixed into cocktails, which is nice if your guests/hosts aren’t big wineos. You also don’t have to spend a lot to get a lovely bottle (see my previous post on bubbles on a budget for ideas).
If you’re invited to a dinner party and you have a little more time to prepare, I think it’s nice to ask what they’re serving and then try to buy a wine that pairs nicely with the meal. It’s a thoughtful touch and your host will really appreciate it. But a little etiquette reminder because I get this question ALL THE TIME: Don’t automatically expect to drink the bottle you bring. It’s up to the host to decide if they’re going to uncork that precious bottle you picked out, so just be aware that if you bring a $60 bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape you’ve been dying to try, you might not get to.