A Guide to Wine

Not Sure What You Like? When To Swirl? How To Sip? Some Of Our Region’s Top Wine Experts Share Both Basic And Insider Tips.

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What are some things folks need to consider when choosing a wine?

SH: Select an app on your Smartphone that can suggest great vintages for specific areas and varietals. This step could save you from drinking a bad wine from a good producer.

CR: Ask your sommelier or server if there area any staff favorites, consider the likes/dislikes of your guests, and ask about the availability of wines not seen on the retail shelves. 

JS: If you don’t know what you like, find out what you don’t like. Also, experiment. If you are a fan of a chardonnay with a kiss of oak, try an old vine Verdejo from Spain (for example Bodegas Naia Naiadas).

MS: How the wine was stored prior to buying it is very important. Remember, wine is a living fruit that can be damaged by heat, sunlight and oxygen. What a shame to purchase a nice bottle and find out only after you open it that it is bad due to how it was stored.

What are some insider tips on wine?

SH: Slow down! Gulping wine before you even smell or look at the wine is something I see all the time in the restaurant. There is so much to enjoy by letting the wine slowly change over time.

AS: My super secret trick at home is that I put red wines in the fridge for 15–20 minutes before I serve them. It actually gets them closer to the historic version of “room temperature,” before rooms were kept at a perfect 72 degrees all winter long.

CR: Ask for a wine recommendation from the people who work there, and give the staff monetary parameters on what you feel is the appropriate amount to spend on wine for the evening.

JS: Classically styled Champagne (Taittinger) deserves an appropriate glass. Try a glass of champagne in a flute side by side a glass of champagne in a white wine glass.

MS: Red wines should be served at 65 degrees then opened to allow them to blossom. Whites and champagnes should be chilled to 42 degrees and should be allowed to warm up a little as you enjoy it, so no need to bury the open bottle under icy water while drinking.

How would you recommend someone learn more about wine?

JH: The best way to learn about wine is to taste it. Go to your local wine shop when they are doing a tasting and ask questions. Usually whomever is running the tasting is knowledgeable about what they are pouring.

SH: Push your palette. Just when you think you’ve found THE wine, keep moving. There are so many types of grapes to try and so many regions of the world to explore. You’d be silly not to try as much as possible.
CR: Start building a relationship with somebody who does it professionally for a living. This could be a local retail shop, restaurant, or even local wine events when they are in the area.

JS: Drink up, read a lot and travel.

AS: It’s hard to learn about anything without a vocabulary to talk or think about it.  I recommend starting by getting a copy of Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course—a fun read for bright folks that don’t know a lot about wine. After that, make some notes as you go—even if it’s only before you go to bed—about the wines you had that night.

MS: I would suggest getting the Wine for Dummies books. They break it all down very well and make it simple to understand. At Zoes, I also teach wine classes on Sundays every other month.

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