Drink the wines you love and love the wines you drink.
If you are looking for an affordable bubbly for a group, it's hard to go wrong with Cava from Spain.
Keep a mixed case of wine around the house in a dark place with a fairly constant, moderate temperature -- like the bottom of a closet
11 Mostly asked Wine FAQs n condensed form:
In each case, the answer could be far more extensive, with all sorts of to-be-sures and howevers — in fact, in every case we have written at least one entire column on the issue over the years. But if we had to answer in about 100 words or less, this is what we’d say. They are listed from the 11th-most-asked to the most asked. Don’t peek.
You can find more comprehensive answers to many of these questions and others in other areas of this How-to Guide.
11. What’s the best glass?
We prefer a large glass — around 20 to 22 ounces is good — because it feels generous in our hands and we can swirl around the small amount we pour into it. Look for clear, thin glass; a long stem; and a slight curve inward at the top. We prefer inexpensive glasses so we don’t worry about breaking them. Over the years, we have found good glasses at a wide variety of stores, including Pier 1 and Costco (though we haven’t seen our favorites at either place recently). Vino Grande Burgundy from Spiegelau, which is owned by Riedel, is our everyday glass.
10. Where are the best values coming from these days?
This has leaped onto this list in the past year, for obvious reasons. If we had to answer in one word, it would be this: Chile. Look especially for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. But Argentina (especially Malbec), New Zealand (especially Sauvignon Blanc) and South Africa (also Sauvignon Blanc) are good bets, too.
9. What wines should I serve at a party (or to any large gathering)?
For a white, Chilean or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a winner. For a red, we used to recommend one of the cru Beaujolais (such as Fleurie) and we still like that advice, but Argentina’s Malbec is so popular right now and so widely enjoyed that we’d recommend that instead. If you are looking for an affordable bubbly for a group, it’s hard to go wrong with Cava from Spain.
8. How do I remove labels?
We’re thrilled to be asked this so often because it means people are drinking wines they want to remember. You could take a digital picture, of course. But if you want to remove the actual label (as we do), most labels these days work with the oven method: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Turn it off. Put the empty bottle in for a few minutes until it gets really hot. Wearing serious oven mitts, carefully remove the bottle, lift a corner of the label with a fingernail or a knife and peel right off. (Some labels still need to be boiled off, so we try that next, after the bottle has cooled. If all else fails, many wine stores sell large, sticky strips that basically peel the label off.)
7. Should I decant?
Generally, no — at least, not at first. We enjoy tasting a wine from the first sip to the last and it will get plenty of air in those big glasses while we swirl. If we taste a wine and it’s so tight that it needs decanting, we can decant; if we decant first and then find that the wine lost some fruit to the air, there’s no going back. (Of course, if a wine needs to be separated from sediment, that’s another matter.)
6. Do I have to store my wine in a temperature-controlled cellar?
If you simply want to keep a mixed case of wine around the house for a short time — and you should — find a place in the dark with a fairly constant, moderate temperature. The bottom of a closet is often fine. If you have fine wine you want to store for longer, get one of those wine refrigerators. They are more affordable, available and space-efficient than ever and they’re worth it. If you want to lay down a bottle in that temperature-controlled cellar for your newborn — and this is also a question we’re often asked — we’d suggest Sauternes.
6a. What is the correct cellar temperature, and do whites and reds need to be different?
Classic cellar temperature is about 55 degrees. We keep reds and whites at about 57 because we find that it’s a good starting point for serving both. Most reds are served too warm and most whites are served too cold, especially at restaurants. We might want to chill our whites a bit more or warm our reds by leaving them on the table as we sip them, but 57 is a good starting point.
5. I want to find a bottle I had at a restaurant (or that I read about); how do I get it?
Try wine-searcher.com, wineaccess.com and winezap.com. Chances are you will find it. Even if it is not listed for sale at a local wine shop, you might be able to have it delivered from a faraway store. If you can’t do that, perhaps because of local laws, try calling a store that has it and asking the merchant to look at the label and give you the name of the distributor, whom you can call. This is one of many reasons you should have a good local wine merchant, because he or she can help find it.
4. I love X wine; what do you think of it?
We’re surprised how often we are asked this. Our answer is: It doesn’t matter. We think you should drink the wines you love and love the wines you drink. Don’t let anyone, including us, tell you what’s good and what isn’t. In fact, though, this does touch on a very good and much more important question, one that you should regularly pose to that helpful wine merchant you need to find: I love X wine; what else do you have in your store that I might like at around the same price? That’s how great wine journeys get started.
3. Why does wine give me headaches; sulfites, right?
Wrong. Sulfites cause very severe allergic reactions in a small number of people, even death in extreme cases, which is why there’s a warning on the bottle, but sulfites don’t cause headaches. Wine headaches are a serious issue, but the causes are highly personal. Some people get headaches only from red wine and some get them just from, say, German wine. It has to do with histamines and all sorts of other complex science. It really is best to talk with your doctor about this.
3a. But wines in Europe don’t have sulfites, right?
Wrong. All wines contain sulfites (it’s a natural byproduct of the winemaking process) and almost all wines contain added sulfites, all over the world. It’s just that the U.S. has required a sulfite warning for many years and Europe started doing that more recently.
2. I’m going to a wine region; what wineries should I visit?
Whether you are going to Napa, Piedmont or Châteauneuf-du-Pape, our advice is the same: Drop into the little places you’ve never heard of. You are more likely to meet the actual owners or winemakers and have a better time. Not only that, but these are the wines you could never buy at home, so here’s your chance.
1. I have this one old bottle; how much is it worth?
As we were working on this column, we received, within 26 minutes of each other, two notes. In one, a woman told us that she and her husband had been given a bottle of 1974 Lafite Rothschild to celebrate the birth of their son. “Any idea what it is worth?” she asked. In the second, a woman said she and her husband had been given a bottle of 1976 Lafite many years ago and her husband had died. “How much is it worth?” she asked. We get similar notes every single day and the answer is always the same: Your bottle is worthless — and priceless. In terms of selling it for money: While it’s always possible that someone will buy anything, the likelihood of a merchant offering to buy a single bottle from an individual is small at best. For example, Ben Nelson, senior vice president of consignments at Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart, a wine auctioneer and merchant, told us his firm is looking for bottles in excellent condition, with clear provenance, that have been well-cellared as part of a larger collection. His general advice about a single, special bottle is the same as ours: Open and enjoy. These bottles are priceless because of what they hold inside — not the wine, but the memories. Which brings us to…
1a. When will this wine be at its peak?
First, remember that most wines are made to drink when they are released. In terms of fine, ageable wines, there are all sorts of online sources that will give you a ballpark idea of theoretical peak readiness. But every bottle is different and there are many variables, such as storage conditions and personal taste. Open a special bottle when the moment seems right to you. If you have an old bottle like those old Lafites, make a special meal, open the bottles and celebrate the memories. If you simply can’t stand to do that alone, remember that Open That Bottle Night is the last Saturday of February. That’s when you can join others like you, world-wide, in opening their special bottles.
This article was adapted from a Tastings column by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher published in February 2009.