The Basics


If you are new to the world of wine, do not let it be intimidating.  Taking time to learn about wine, whether just some of the basics on this page or delving deeply into the wine-making process, the wine regions around the world, health benefits, or any other wine topic can make the experience so much more enjoyable.

The information below provides some basic information, and will be expanded with additional topics in the future.

Wine Production

There are several basic steps, illustrated here, in the wine production process. Wine makers may follow these step but add their own variations to make each wine unique. Throughout the ages the process has remained pretty much the same, but technology has greatly increased the ability to increase production, although some small wineries still use old techniques.

Storage

The optimum temperature for wine storage is 55°F.  Since many persons do not have a wine storage refrigerator the most important thing to remember is to store your wine in a dark, cool, space and try to avoid large fluctuations in temperatures. Suggested serving temperatures are include in the table below. If needed, you can always chill bottles of white in your home refrigerator, or take reds out of cool storage to sit out on the counter for 30 minutes or so to allow them to reach the desired serving temperature.

A few words of warning; be careful if you try to chill wine faster in the freezer. If you forget that it is there, the wine can freeze and push out the cork. Also, if you store wine in a hot location, the heat can cause the cork to pop out. A winery owner told of a couple that was upset because a case of wine blew its corks. When asked where it had been stored, the reply was “on top of the refrigerator”.

Glasses

Although everyone may have a preference, there are many types of wine glasses designed in various shapes intended to enhance the overall wine experience. Just remember; always hold the glass by the stem in order to maintain the proper temperature of the wine for a longer period. Holding it by the bowl transfers the heat from your hand and warms the wine quicker. Here are some examples of typical applications for various wine glasses.

Serving

Sparkling

Serving Temp: 40-45°F
Alcohol by Volume: 9-14%
Calories / 6 oz: 120-160
Lasts when open: 2 days

Wines:
Champagne (French), Prosecco, Cava, most sparkling wines.

Sweet White

Serving Temp: 45-55°F
Alcohol by Volume: 9-14%
Calories / 6 oz: 110-170
Lasts when open: 7 days

Wines:
Gewurztraminer, Moscato, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Torrontes

Dry White

Serving Temp: 45-55°F
Alcohol by Volume: 9-14%
Calories / 6 oz: 110-170
Lasts when open: 7 days

Wines:
Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muscat (Muscato), Trebbiano, Gruner Veltliner

Bold White

Serving Temp: 50-60°F
Alcohol by Volume: 9-14%
Calories / 6 oz: 110-170
Lasts when open: 7 days

Wines:
Chardonnay, Marsanne, Roussanne, Semillon, Viognier

Rose

Serving Temp: 50-60°F
Alcohol by Volume: 9-14%
Calories / 6 oz: 110-170
Lasts when open:  7 days

Wines:
White Zinfandel, Includes most dry Rose and blush wines.

Light Red

Serving Temp: 50-55°F
Alcohol by Volume: 10-15%
Calories: 120-180
Lasts when open: 2 days

Wines:
Chianti, Pinot Noir, Garnacha

Medium Red

Serving Temp: 55-60°F
Alcohol by Volume: 12-17%
Calories: 150-200
Lasts when open: 4 days

Wines:
Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenere, Sangiovese, Tempranillo

Bold Red

Serving Temp: 60-65°F
Alcohol by Volume: 12-17%
Calories: 150-200
Lasts when open: 4 days

Wines:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdo, Zinfandel

Dessert

Serving Temp: 60-66°F
Alcohol by Volume: 14-20%
Calories: 190-290
Lasts when open: 30  days

Wines:
Brandy, Cognac, Port, Tawny, Sherry, Other Late Harvest Wines

Preservation

The table above shows the approximate time a bottle of wine lasts once open. When wine comes into contact with air it starts to deteriorate over time. There are several things you can do to slow down this process.  First, the leftover wine (white and red) can be recorked and placed into a refrigerator. The cold storage will slow down the deterioration rate.  Second, you can pour leftover wine into a smaller bottle to minimize oxygen exposure in the container.  Third, you can purchase and use a wine pump to extract the air from the bottle. There are many different wine preservation options you can purchase.

Food & Wine Pairing

There are no clear cut rules when it comes to matching wine with food, or for us wine lovers “food with wine”. Although my rule of thumb with wine is to drink what you like, but when adding food to the equation there are ways to make the experience even more enjoyable.

Here are a few basic principles of successful food and wine pairing:

Acidity – Acids are found in both food and wine, and should be paired accordingly. The acidity in the wine should be at least equal or greater than that of the food. Vinegars, including salad dressings, tomato sauces, lemon juice, green apples, olive oil, and certain greens are included in these foods. High-acidity wines compliment fatty foods like smoked salmon, pork, or some white meats. Wines to consider with them are Barbera, Barolo, Chianti, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc, Albarino, or Riesling..

Salt – Salty brings out sweetness, so salty foods are enhanced by sweet wines or fruity red wines. Snacks, ham, cheeses, briny seafood, salted caramels, Asian foods, bacon, and other salty foods pair well with sparkling wines,

Tannin – Tannin is the component of wine that can cause dry mouth and that bitter, puckering taste in the back of your throat. Tannins are prominent in red wines and come from the skins of the grape. Tannins need fat for balance. Think Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, other bold red wine with fatty foods such as duck, prime rib, or lamb.

Sweetness – Sweet wines should always be equally sweet or sweeter than the food served. Sweetness also balances the saltiness in foods. As such, a sweet wine, such as a port would pair just as well with fudge or other such dessert as well as with cheeses or other salty foods. In addition, heat needs sugar. If you are serving a spicy food, a sweet wine with lower alcohol content will help reduce the intensity of the heat.

Weight – Wine should be paired to the weight and dominant flavors of the food. So, the typical rule of thumb, which says to match whites to fish and poultry and reds to meats is not always correct. Instead rich bold reds or whites might pair equally well with red meats or heavy dense foods, while more delicate whites and light reds might compliment fish and poultry. Sometimes the dominant flavor may be a sauce, marinate, spice, lemon juice, or other component that should be considered when selecting the wine.