Wine can be great – it’s great for socializing you aren't craving for the good ol' beer. But when faced with a large wine menu, how do you start picking one out, and what aspects of the bottle of wine should you consider so that you get your money's worth? We’ve come up with a list of 10 things nobody told you about wine, because we all have to learn somewhere.
1. You lose out by getting wine by the glass at restaurants
It has been said that a glass of wine at the restaurant goes for the cost of manufacturing the entire bottle itself, so by two glasses you have already paid for the cost of the bottle, and more. Also, it is not uncommon for restaurants to serve wine from a bottle that has already been open, and wine spoils quickly in an opened bottle. The best way to avoid these problems is to buy the by the bottle instead, or if a glass is really all you need, order the one that might be the most popular.
2. Let your wine sit for a while
The fancy swirling action people do with wine glasses? That aerates the wine. This is a complicating matter – wines go through two processes when exposed to the air: evaporation and oxidation. Evaporation rids the unpleasant chemicals in the wine, like the sulfides added to prevent premature oxidation, which leaves you with the better aromas of the wine. Oxidation however, makes your wine flat. Put simply – you want evaporation of the undesirable compounds, but you don’t want your wine to oxidize into a flat tasting juice.
And because leaving your wine exposed to the air does both processes, you need to find the optimum time to open a bottle of wine. Old wines could have been oxidizing over time in the bottle, and you want to have it shortly after opening. But you have to consider the fact that older wines have sedimentation that aerating and decanting can prevent you from pouring into the glass itself. The older the wine, the faster you should drink it.
3. The anatomy behind different wine glasses
Let’s start with the different parts of a glass itself. The rim is where you place your mouth, and it should be as thin as possible to facilitate better tasting. The bowl is where the wine sits in and aerates. The stem is pretty self-explanatory – it’s the long glass rod that connects to the base of the wine glass. And the base makes sure your glass doesn’t topple over.
Now, the reds. When you’re having red wine you should look for a glass with a wide, tall bowl and a narrow rim. This is for a couple of reasons – the wine bowl allows for optimum swirling and aerating without spilling, and the narrow rim allows the taster to smell the aromas that have been oxidized. For older red wines, you could have it in a white wine glass which has a smaller bowl, but still a narrow rim. This allows it to evaporate the undesirable chemicals faster.
White wine is best served chilled, so the stems of white wine glasses are usually longer. This prevents the heat of your hand from warming up your wine (don’t hold the bowl of the glass unless your wine is too chilled for your liking!).
Sparkling wine flutes just look fancy. You could have champagne in white wine glasses, but what’s the fun in that?
4. There's a way to open a bottle of wine
Just a fun short tip – poke the tip of your corkscrew slightly off center, so that the worm of the corkscrew screws into the cork right in the center. Wind it until the second last ring of the worm, so that it doesn’t break the cork. For longer corks, you can wind it all the way down if you wish.
5. Not all wines are good to keep
Some people (I hope not most) think that wines could be aged as and when, and however. Some people store bottles of wine, and find that they taste bad when they do get to it a year or two later. There are four key things to ageing wine, but the most important is determining if your wine can, or rather should, be aged.
Acidity: the more acidic, the more susceptible to storage and ageing.
Tannin: wine with a higher amount of tannin tends to be more forgiving when it comes to aging. Tannins are a component in wine that comes from the grapes, or oaks in oak ageing.
Alcohol: the lower the amount, the longer your wine can taste good. Alcohol could risk your wine turning into vinegar.
Glycerol: The sweeter the wine, the longer it can last.
6. Vintage variation
Vintage Variation simply put is how the wine changes year to year, affected by the weather or climate conditions where the vineyard is. Your wine could be from a reputable vineyard, but the quality still depends on the weather conditions of the harvest year.
7. Women tend to get tipsy faster.
Women have biologically less enzymes in the stomach to metabolize the wine, leaving men more resistant to getting drunk off wine. This could be helped of course, when you eat – so if you know you don’t have a high tolerance, make sure your tummy isn’t empty!
8. There's a method to preventing wine from staining your teeth
Its no hidden fact that wine can and will stain your teeth, but this is because it’s acidic and the tannin in the wine. Tannins chemically merge into your teeth, leaving behind a long-lasting stain. A common myth is that only red wines stain your teeth (fallacious logic, but I can see why that mistake is being made), but because white wines are also acidic, they can stain too. Well, an interesting fact is that proteins in cheese help against staining, because it creates a sort of layer above your teeth. We all know cheese and wine go together, and now we know it’s more than because it tastes good.
9. Wine legs serves as an indicator to the alcohol level in your wine
When you swirl your wine, the “legs” dripping back down into the bowl of your glass is an indicator of how much alcohol there is in the wine. More legs, higher alcohol content. Many people think it’s insight into how sweet or fluid or how good your wine is, but they’re wrong.
10. What to actually do with your wine.
Going back to fact number 3 - when you smell your wine, you want to stuff your nose into the rim of your glass, because that’s where all the aroma’s at. People can tell if the wine has been corked, which is when the bottle is opened and re-corked, and we all know by know it’ll taste bad.
Also, the best way to appreciate your wine is not to swallow right away, but hold it in your mouth for a moment and savor it. Let your taste buds accept the different complex flavors of the wine.
There we go – 10 facts nobody really tells you about wine, but are really integral when it comes to the appreciation of a good glass of wine. If you are curious as to how you can start on appreciating wine by practicing wine etiquette, then head over to our interview with local wine sommelier, Vasu K Chia for more knowledge!