As the final millennials are now leaving college and flooding the wine market, the transition from college drinking practices to consuming adult beverages in moderation and pairing with food can seem a bit daunting. A glass with dinner adds class and makes a meal feel more like an event. In social settings, wine is often the grease that keeps the conversation flowing, but only when you feel confident enough to enjoy it. There's no need to be intimidated by wine. Sure, aficionados take things to a whole new level, but you can sample, store and serve your favorite vintages just like a pro.
You don't start with a good wine palate. Wine palates take time to develop. Don't dive right into dry and full-bodied flavors. Many people find it easier to begin learning to appreciate wine with crisp white varieties like a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. Moscato is another option, though some bottles are quite sweet.
When you taste wine, there are four components to a sampling: look, smell, taste and impression. The color and how the wine moves in the glass can say a lot about a vintage. Take a few seconds to appreciate the color and movement. Give the wine a quick swirl to help aerate it properly. Inhale a whiff of the wine. Identify fruit, herbal or floral notes before focusing on the more savory scents. Next, move on to your first sip. Suck up a sip like you're using a straw and swish it around your mouth. Then, take a moment to think about your impression of the wine. Start and end with, "Did I like the wine?" That's the most important question you can ask.
Buying wine can be overwhelming at first. Stores have hundreds of bottles to choose from, and there are dramatic price differences. Once you've made a selection, you might want to put it away for a special occasion or just have it on hand for the next time you're entertaining friends or relatives. So, what do you do with the bottle to keep the wine in good condition?
Unless you plan to start a serious collection, storing wine doesn't take much. All you need is a relatively dark spot with reasonably stable temperatures. Temperatures between 45-65 degrees are ideal. Too hot and wine ages more rapidly, and too cold could cause the wine to freeze. No, you don't need to keep your wine on its side unless you plan to hold on to it for more than six months or so. And even then, only wines with natural cork need the moistening effect. If you do want long-term storage, consider professional installation.
How you treat wine before serving can dramatically impact the flavor. Temperature plays a big role in the taste of that first sip. If you're serving sparkling wines, you want them to ice cold. That means pop them in the freezer about an hour before serving, or submerge the bottle in ice for at least 30 minutes and return a sparkling wine to the ice bucket in between pours. For white and rose wines, pop them in the fridge for several hours before serving. If you're short on time, you can also put them in the freezer for about half an hour. Reds should be served cool, not room temperature. About 30 minutes before you pour, set the red in the fridge to cool down.
With red wines, you'll also want to either aerate or decant the wine. This lets some of the undesirable elements evaporate off, leaving behind a rich and fruity aroma. Older wines are already settled and won't need aeration (in fact, too much air can ruin an older vintage), but they do need to be decanted to leave the sediment behind.
Drink and Enjoy
When you know how to handle glass and a bottle of wine, the only thing left to do is enjoy the experience. Try lots of different wine and discover what pleases your palate.