Drinking wine is, in theory, simple enough: You buy a bottle, open it, pour it into a glass (sometimes), and drink. But by doing *just* this, you apparently are missing out on all sorts of flavors and deliciousness. (Not to mention, you paid for it. Shouldn't it be as delicious as possible?) We chatted with Susan Lueker, director of winemaking at Simi Winery (opens in new tab), to get the deets on all the ways you're probably doing this whole wine thing wrong. (Though really, no judgment. I mean, I pair mine with french fries (opens in new tab).)
"Over-chilling whites is the mistake I come across most often," says Lueker. "When a wine is too cold it deadens the aromatics. It should only be chilled to about 50°F, a little less for fuller bodied wines and a little more for lighter bodied wines." For bubbly wines (AKA champagne, AKA prosecco for us basics), temps should be closer to 45° F.
Yes, you can (and should) be serving some of your red wines at a chillier temp. "Lighter bodied reds including Pinot, Zinfandels, and Port wines show (AKA taste) better with a slight chill around 57 to 61°F," says Lueker.
You know when you learned that you need to open your wine, pour it into a decanter (or some other clean vessel) and then let it sit for a bit so your wine is better/you're a more sophisticated lady? Turns out, it's not always the best thing to do. "You don't always need to decant older wines. Sometimes this can kill a fragile older wine," says Lueker. "Young wines can take a little abuse, decanting will open them up and make them more expressive. Older wines can have sediment, so it's best not to dump the last of the bottle into your glass—or your guest's. It could end up murky and chewy, but not in a good way."
"Letting all wines breathe just a bit after opening will help them show their best," says Lueker. "One thing I learned from a master of wine is that white wines can really benefit from breathing. Experiment with it and see what happens."
"Rinsing the glass with water will dilute the wine, which will impact the flavor in a negative way—much more than few drops of wine would," says Lueker.
"Wines are like people and can be described the same way you describe your friends," says Lueker. "'She's a little uptight until you get to know her and she opens up.' Don't overthink it. You can analyze wines the way you size up people. Over the top, super boisterous, mellow, easy going, friendly, simple, hot, and spicy—wine speak is easier than you think."
"Not all wine get better with age. I often find wines that are past their prime in my cellar. It's disappointing not to drink a wine when it's showing its best," says Lueker. "Most whites show best within 1 to 2 years of the present vintage, so if it's 2015 don't buy wine older than 2013. Reds can get better within about 3 to 5 years unless they are more expensive or higher tannin varietals such as Petite Sirah, those can age for 10 to 20 years. My favorite Simi wine is our 1996 Reserve Cabernet. It's going on 20 years and still tasting great."
Lueker isn't playing around: "If you're drinking wine from stemware, make sure you use the stem!" It's there to keep your hot little hands off the wine. "If your wine is too cold, caress the glass with your hands and swirl. This is what I call giving it some love. As the wine comes to a better temp it will reward you and become a more expressive wine."
The American equivalent of a French Bordeux Blend, many people pronounce the word/wine "Meritage" incorrectly. "It's fully American—a combo of merit and heritage—so it's not meant to be pronounced with a French accent," says Lueker. So stop saying meri-TAHJ, and start saying Meri-TIJ. Like heritage. Because this is 'Merica.
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Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.
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