Find Me a Wine

Clear

We Also Sell

How To...

Taste wine - Whilst one could argue it's simple to taste wine, you just drink it, there is a whole heck of a lot more one can do to fully appreciate the finer points of the wine and get the most enjoyment from the drink.

Firstly lets look at the wine. The wine, be it whte, red, fizzy or sweet, should always be tasted at the appropriate temperature. See the Chill Wine section below for a guide to the ideal temperatures. If the wine requires a bit of breathing before opening, or decanting, ensure this is done beforehand. It's unfair on the wine not to give it a fighting chance should it need one. A good way to do this for a wine is to pour a little into a glass, lowering the level of the wine in the bottle to just below the neck. This increase the surface area allowing more wine to contact the air and for it to breathe more easily. 

Secondly lets look at the apparatus. You'll need a glass, preferably a tulip shapes ISO Tasting Glass, but if not a good sized clear glass with enough room in the bowl to give the wine a good swirl without covering the carpet. Make the glass is clean and has no funny smells before you pour anything in there (glasses fresh out of the box often smell of cardboard, this doens't help a tasting session). I deally you'll need a white background you can look through the wine to, allowing you to clearly see the colour and clarity variations. Good lighting helps this no end. Lastly, I'd recommend a sheet of paper to make notes on and a pen. A no brainer i know but I've forgotten them before. 

Now we need to put the wines in order. If you are only tasting one wine, you can probably work out the order. If it's more than one, perhaps 10 wines, the general rule of thumb is fizzy (acidic and dry) then lighter drier crisper whites, onto the fuller bodied whites, moving onto the lighter reds, then the fuller richer reds, before finishing off with the sweet wines. There are exceptions and it may not always be possible to know the wine styles before tasting but if you can work to this generalisation it'll work well. The idea is to try and preserve your palate as you go through. If you start of a big knockout red, you're likely to struggle to then move onto a delicate white straight away.

Once you've got the wines in order, before you get started, make sure you've some water available and some flavourless biscuits, normally Carr's Water Buscuits, on hand. These are a great help to help cleanse your palate every now and then as you go through the wines.

Right, now you can start to taste the wines. Pour a little into the glass, around a cm deep. Give the wine a good swirl around the glass and then hold it at an angle over a white background. This way you can have a good look through the wine at it's finer details. 

Next you can give the wine a good whiff. This is one reason why you swirl the wine around, the increase in the surface area means more of the wine evaporates, giving a stronger aroma for you to assess. I generally find I can learn more about a wine from its smell than it's taste. 

Finally you can take some wine into your mouth. Don't just gulp it in one go though, try to take a portion in and get it all round your mouth, preferably with some air as well. This explains the funny slurping you might see a professional doing as tasting. This gives the wine the full chance to express itself to all your various taste buds around your tongue. The palate of the wine should, in theory, back up any judgmements you have made by smelling the wine, but this isn't always the case. 

And thats is the best technique for tasting wine. If you are not driving and it's a social event, i recommend you drink the wine. I'f there are a large number of wines to get through, I'd spit each out after tasting. You can always go back to your favourites for a second go, but if you swallow 150 wines (there could easily be 150 wines at a big tasting) you'll be on the floor before you know it and you'll not be able to find your way out, let alone try all the wines properly. 

Assess wine

Open wine - This one is really very simple, but there are a few tips to help it along.

Firstly a tip if its a screw cap; when you are unscrewing the cap, with your other hand hold onto the rest of the cap/foil at the neck. sometime rotating the top cap can rotate the whole thing, so best to secure it with one hand whilst the other un-screws the top cap. And when you are putting the cap back on always screw it on tight, that should hopefully re-seal the bottle and prolong its life after opening. 

More importantly though there are a few things you can do to help you with the standard cork stopper in a wine bottle. Firstly use a good quality corkscrew with a decent, long screw on it. Short screws will lead to broken corks and generally annoy you. Carefully and firmly screw the pointed screw part into the centre of the cork. Ensure that as much of the screw is inserted into the cork, but ideally dont break through to the other side inside the bottle. This reduces any waste cork in the liquid. 

Once you are sure that the screw is the correct depth in (as far as you can without breaking through) place the bottle between your legs with one hand holding the neck of the bottle, hold the corkscrew firmly and with a straight arm if you can. Then carefully straighten your back, this will pull the cork out without too much strain on any one bit of your body. (Note: I am not medically trained in any way, all I can say is this method works best for me, if you have a bad back you can try pulling with just your arm, but i find that pretty hard).

ps. if you are using a waitiers friend style corkscrew, this is all a bit moot. Ensure the screw is fully screwed in as above, but then you dont need to really pull the cork, just use the leverage mechanism on the corkscrew to remove the cork. 

Store wine

Chill wine - This is relatively simple. For white wines, rosé,  sparkling whites, sweet whites and sherry a couple of hours in the fridge should do the job. Just make sure the fridge isn't too cold, you can over chill wine. For some reds such as Beaujolais, you may want to serve them slightly chilled. Perhaps half to one hour in the fridge, or just store them in a cool place before serving, such as a larder or cellar.

If you need to chill wine in a hurry though you'll need ice. Fill and ice bucket one third full with ice, top it up with water until the ice is just covered, then get the bottle in there. It'll chill in around fifteen minutes. The water is important, it helps conduct the heat away from the wine. If you just put the bottle in ice it will take a little longer, say half an hour. 

If ice isn't an option, there are wine cooler sleeves. These are frozen beforehand in the freeer and wrap round the wine. This will take around fifteen minutes for a basic chill ,but a bit longer to properly chill the wine, probably around half an hour.

If you're lucky enough to be somewhere with snow, thats an easy solution and frightfully glamorous. Just dunk it deeply in the snow for fifteen minutes, packing the snow around it. After that just open, pour and enjoy.

If you've access to a wine thermometer, you are ideally looking to achieve the following temperatures. For sweeter and sparkling whites, around 6°C to 8°C. For lighter bodied whites through to medium bodied, around 8°C to 10°C is ideal, and for fuller bodied dry whites such as oa good White Burgundy, around 10°C to 11°C is preferable. 

Light reds, such as Beaujolias should be around 12°C to 14°C. Medium bodied reds should be slightly warmer but a little less than room temperature, around 14°C to 16°C. Bigger reds can then be served up to room temperature, around 18°C but ideally not much more. The wine will start to feel flabby in the mouth.

Let wine breathe

Decant Wine or Port

Open Champagne - There is a number of ways to open Champagne, and since its a celebratory drink to some and a fine wine to others, all methods are correct and all are wrong. So here I will only tell you about the standard, i feel safest and surely traditional way to open Champagne and i will tell you about a party method. 

So the safe, standard way is to carefully remove the foil, then with one hand round the neck and the thumb from that hand on top of the cork, carefully undo and remove the wire cage with the other hand. Then the trick is to secure the cork with one hand (the thumb on top hand is best as its already there) and with the other hand at the base of the bottle; carefully and slowly twist the bottle. As you feel the cork rotate, it will naturaly slide out under pressure. Keep hold of it and keep rotating the bottle. Ideally you can control the release of the cork and instead of a loud pop (which looses bubbles and can lead to spraying) you want a slightly dissappointing muffled pop sound. This is ideal. 

The party method i know, which is fun, dangerous and certainly eye catching, is with an axe. Firstly remove the foil from the bottle but leave the cage fully tightened on the bottle opening. Then with the heavy backside of the axe, slowly run this heavy back side up and down the seam of the bottle quite gently. Then hold the base of the bottle and hold the bottle pointing away from you. With the sharp edge of the axe give and a controlled gentle cuting motion tap the sharp edge of the axe to the underside of the lip of the bottle, where the cage is secured. Good aim and correct hitting force of the axe should simply pop the cork and the cage and the glass ring around the bottle top off. Bad aim aim too much force and the bottle will probably explode. Either way the champagne will spay out so have a glass or two handy to pour into straight away. 

Preserve wine once open

Cook with wine - I'm not going to tell you how to cook here, thats a broad and diverse subject and I'm not an expert. But when cooking requires the addition of wine, there are a few pointers i can give to help you. 

Firstly don't use off wine or wine that has been opened for weeks. Wine deteriorates after its been opened, so if you have an opened bottle thats been sitting there for a few weeks, it'll be way past it. Don't cook with this. This first point nicely leads to my second tip.

Secondly; if you wouldnt drink it, dont cook with it. If the wine is corked or past it, you eouldn't drink it, so why you would add it to your food i don't know. If it's not good to drink, it's not good to cook with.

Thirdly, try if you can to match the style of wine to the style of dish. So if you are cooking a rich red meat dish with a full, rich sauce, you'll be better seerved adding a full bodied rich red, instead of a light fruity red. 

Fourthly, for extra richenss to a sauce, fortified wines, pudding wine or ports are great to cook with, they can transform a dish and really add that umph. 

Fifthly, don't spend a fortune on wine to cook with. I've seen receiped calling for high end burgundies to be used. Unless your wallet is limitless, this is a waste, better to drink the good stuff and cook with a cheaper alternative. I can pretty much guarantee you wont be able to taste the difference in the dish. 

Tell if a wine is off

Serve Port

Minimize the hangover 

Get red wine staines out - There is a thousand and one different theories about how to get a red wine stain out of something, say a carpet. But some are down rifht wrong and some arent very good. From experience (multiple carpet spills and one major one in particular) I think this method works the best.

As soon as you spill some red wine, firstly get some kitchen towel down on it and stand on it, try and soak up as much of the liquid as possible as fast as possible. After this pour some water on it (fizzy water seems to work even better, but any water will do), don't be afraid to be livberal with the water. Then get a load more kitchen towel on it and stand on that, again getting as much liquid out as possible. Then repeat the water and soak up step again and possibly again after that. This will leave a wet patch, but it should dry clear, the aim is for the water to dilute the red wine as much as possible, then get soaked up. By the third time of watering and soaking up, the liquid soaked up should be pretty clear. Thats it, nothing technical but it works.

Do not add salt (seems popular but salt sets a dye in when youre dying clothes so i assume its a bad idea for a carpet). Do not counter it with white wine, this just makes a larger rosé stain. Dont rely solely on carpet cleaners like Vanish. Youre better off just getting as much of the wine up as possible before soaking it with water and getting that up.