The more you learn about wine, the more you will begin to appreciate the subtle variations that different varietals and wine styles offer. As we say at Mount Pleasant, “Life’s too short to drink bad wine.”
Sight – Hold the glass towards the light. Note the color, clarity and brilliance of the wine. If the wine is cloudy or discolored that indicates something wrong with the blend. Older red wines will often have more orange tinges on the edges than younger red wines. Older white wines are darker than younger white wines when comparing the same varietal at different ages.
Swirl – Swirling the glass sends oxygen through the wine and releases the wine’s aromas. Swirl the wine in your glass for a solid 10 to 12 seconds by lightly holding the stem of the wineglass and rotating your wrist. Notice how the wine hits the sides of the glass. This will give you clues as to how full-bodied the wine is.
Smell – Place your nose just over the edge of the wine glass, enabling the aromas to bounce off the edge. Keep your mouth open. Close your eyes to take in the full impact of the bouquet. A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics.
Sip – Take a sip and let the wine roll over your taste buds for several seconds. Consider the texture and flavor of the wine. On the second sip, try swishing the wine around in your mouth. Some tasters “chew” the wine.
Swallow – Exhale through your nose as you swallow, allowing your taste buds and sense of smell to work together. After you swallow, note the finish and length of the wine. The finish is the aftertaste and the length is the period of time that it lingers.
Stemware – The type of wine glass you use can affect the flavors and the aromas of the wine. A well-designed glass creates a “chimney” so that the aroma of the wine is concentrated and wafts toward the nose. It is generally accepted that a white wine glass has a longer stem and narrower bowl, while a red wine glass has a shorter stem and wider bowl. For an optimal wine-drinking experience, Mount Pleasant recommends Riedel glassware. Riedel has designed a different glass to meet the unique characteristics of each varietal of wine. A glass of Missouri’s Norton sings in your mouth when served from Riedel’s Norton glass.
To taste the wine at its best, you must serve it at the appropriate temperature. Different wines are best served at different temperatures.
Blush, rose and dry white wines: 46-57F
Sparkling wines and champagne: 43-47F
Light red wine: 55F
Deep red wines: 59-66F
The process of decanting can make any wine come to life. Transferring the wine from the bottle to a decanter allows the wine to slowly aerate the wine, bringing its flavors and aromas to life. Pour the wine directly into you decanter and let it rest for around 15 minutes before serving.
Pour the wine slowly, being careful not to drip. Fill the glass until it reaches slightly below the widest section of the glass, usually about half full. Once finished, pull the bottle up and back while slightly twisting your wrist counter clockwise.
While most wines you buy are made for immediate consumption, there are many wines that are best stored and aged. At Mount Pleasant, our Estate white wines are designed to be stored for 2-3 years. Red wines, such as our Cabernet Sauvignon, can be stored and aged anywhere from 2-10 years in order to mature. Our Port wine can be aged for over a century due to its higher alcohol content as long as the bottles are stored properly.
It is very important that all corked wine bottles are stored on their side. If stored upright for a long period of time, the corks will dry out and the air will eventually get to the wine destroying it’s original flavor. The best storage location for all wines is a low-traffic area that is dark and has a low consistent temperature. Try not to move the wine, which may negatively affect its evolution. Make sure to store your wine separately from other foods, especially those with a strong smell. The smell could permeate through the cork and contaminate the wine. Store wine away from light. The UV rays from direct sunlight or fluorescent bulbs can cause wine to be ‘light struck,’ which give them a disagreeable smell. If you do not have a dark place in your home to store wine, keep the bottle lightly wrapped in a cloth.
It is also necessary to keep temperature cool and constant. Even a below-ground cellar is often not cool enough for the extended aging of wine (over one year). Refrigeration is the best option. For most wine storage, between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit is generally accepted as the best practice. However, if you can, it is an even better option to store wine at the temperature that best suits that particular variety.
Red Wine: 55-70 degrees (F). Typical cellar temperature. When red wine is too cold, its tannins turn bitter and mushy. Too warm and it gets heavy and tastes like alcohol.
Port & Dessert Wine: 55-65 degrees (F). A little cooler than dry wines. Should be kept at a constant temperature and humidity to preserve taste.
Champagne & Sparkling: 38-50 degrees (F), though some prefer to serve icy cold. The bubbles keep the flavors naturally balanced in a way that still wines cannot match.
Pair Sweet/Spicy/Savory Foods with Light Wines
Dishes that are sweet, spicy, protein dominant or low in salt will make a wines texture stronger. The wine will have more of an acidic taste and if the wine has been aged in oak barrels, it will also seem more bitter. Red wines will also become more tannic. Therefore, the recommended style of wine for these dishes is off-dry and light styles of wine.
Pair Acid/Protein Dominant Foods with Crisp and Fruity Wines
Dishes that have dominant acidity will make a wine milder or softer. You will perceive less acid in the wine, which will make a wine milder or softer. You will perceive less acid in the wine which makes it taste milder and sometimes more anomic or fruitier. Since these foods are also usually low in salt, the wines should not have as much oak influence or tannin. For these dishes, crisp, light intensity wines will pair best because they also tend to be relatively high in acid.
Pair Balanced Foods with Most Whites and Most Reds
Dishes that are seasoned properly with salt will not only develop more complex flavors in the food, but will pair well with the widest variety of wines. If a dish is also high in sweetness and protein, the addition of some acidity is quite common in many cuisines. This develops more flavor and another result is that it balances the dish so that it does not react with the wine’s acid balance as much. Dishes with this balance of salt seasoning and acidity will pair well with all wine categories.
Pair Desserts with Sweet Dessert Wines
Virtually all desserts are sweet and not a lot of salt is added to them. The general rule of thumb is to serve a dessert wine that is sweeter than the actual dessert. This is because they are all acid balanced and the acid will become more pronounced when you have a sweet dessert. When the wine is sweeter, you won’t notice a change in the wines acidity as much. Most people assume that a sweet wine will combine with the sweetness of the dessert but actually it is just the opposite.