Our new Etiquette Gal Samantha von Sperling shares her secrets to drinking great wine!
My good friend Steve Shaw Jr. of Steve Shaw Vineyards has come to share a bottle of his Pinot Grigio. Pop goes the cork, and my palate and sensibilities come alive with anticipation, and I start to think about all the important elements that go into serving and savoring a great glass of wine. Here’s some things you can think about the next time you hear that pop.
To Cork Or Not To Cork?
We both agree that the symbolic salute of a cork popping is far more exciting than the click of a screw top. I know that many wine makers, in an effort to cut costs, have turned to the cap, but itΓÇÖs just not the same. Pavlov’s dog has already been trained to perk up her ears at the sound of the pop!
The sound brings forth not only the anticipation of the wine, which one always hopes will be good, but also the anticipation of the evening. How many juicy conversations and laughter have been shared over a bottle? And considering wineΓÇÖs association with divine influence in several religions, itΓÇÖs not surprising that a substance of this importance comes with itΓÇÖs own set of etiquette and protocol.
The Look of A Good Pour
As Steve pours the cold golden liquid into my glass I notice the generous pour. I ask, ΓÇ£IsnΓÇÖt white wine supposed to be poured a bit on the shallow side into the glass to ensure that it stays cold?ΓÇ¥ He smiles. “Yes, but itΓÇÖs just the two of us.”
I look at the lovely color, sunny and inviting ΓÇô- the first wine my friend Steve was 100 percent involved in. I gently swirl it in my glass to open up the taste and smell of the wine as it starts to oxidize. ItΓÇÖs the same reason that wine gets decanted, and she has great legs! (Legs refer to the sugars in the wine that make it drip slowly down the sides of the glass.)outside.
Breaking It Down Glass by Glass
I bring the wine to my lips and the taste is crisp, slightly fruity and delightful. The bouquet transports me to summer brunches. The ΓÇ£noseΓÇ¥ refers to the first impression wine gives: its aroma. The ΓÇ£bodyΓÇ¥ or ΓÇ£heartΓÇ¥ refers to the flavors in the wine, such as tobacco, leather and cherries for reds and citrus, buttery and nutty for whites. The ΓÇ£finishΓÇ¥ is the aftertaste, what you taste when the wine hits the back of your tongue, and it’s your last impression of the wine. Climate, soil and type of grape make up its ΓÇ£terroir,ΓÇ¥ which affects the structure and taste of the wine and provides a blueprint for its specific characteristics.
Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em
I hold my glass by the stem so as not to change the wine temperature with my body heat. (I get annoyed when people hold the bowl of the glass in their palm as if it were a cognac glass, designed to keep the cognac warm) But I must be patient, we are still a country that is only really beginning to take food and spirits seriously by educating ourselves about what it is we are consuming, how and why. Did you know that each kind of wine has a specific kind of glass that was specifically designed to show it off in its best light? ItΓÇÖs like finding the perfect little black dress for your figure. As general rule of thumb, glasses for red wine have a rounder, wider bowl, which increases the rate of oxidation. To preserve the crisp, clean flavor of white wine, the glasses often have a smaller mouth, which reduces surface area and in turn, the rate of oxidization. In the case of sparkling wine, such as Champagne, a smaller mouth is used to keep the wine sparkling longer in the glass.
Get That Bottle Right!
I tell Steve a story my mother told me about an older, very proper woman from Spain who recounted a story of a family friend of her youth who broke off his engagement to his betrothed because she had picked up a wine bottle by its neck! Instantly he had understood that that clearly she did not have the finesse and required level of refinement to represent his household. Steve laughed out loud and said, “Yep, for me itΓÇÖs a White Zinfandel!ΓÇ¥ I laugh and he smiles, and in an instant there grew between us an unspoken multilayered understanding.
Don’t Be A Cheapskate, or a Cheap Host
When bringing bottles of wine or Champagne to people, it is preferable to bring a decent bottle if you can because it is also considered protocol for the recipient to open the gifted bottle and share it with you and their guests. It is considered rude to bring a fine bottle to your host for them to say ΓÇ£Oh thanks, IΓÇÖll save it for a special occasion,ΓÇ¥ and then serve you some horse piss. Any time you are together with friends and family is a special occasion.
Finding The Perfect Bottle
Fine wine is closer than you think. ItΓÇÖs right here in New York. “Try any one of Shaw Vineyards wine makerΓÇÖs dozen varieties,” Steve suggests, “and explore and support locally grown Artisanal wines.ΓÇ¥ Fueled by his own juice, Steve continues, ΓÇ£I wish big wine companies would stop pouring for the bottom line instead of educating the American consumer. Small indie brands are the driving force and the trendsetters in today’s market.”
Remember, there is a story in every bottle! So whip out your phones and make a plan to share a good bottle of wine and some delicious conversation with a friend today. Cheers!
photo credit: Paul/FDP.net