September is almost over, and fall has arrived. The leaves are turning, the days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are beginning to cool down. Soon, the holidays will be here; have you thought about what gifts you’ll be giving this season? It’s always a problem, albeit a fun one, to choose gifts for friends and family they’ll appreciate and enjoy. Then there are those gifts for people you don’t know all that well, but feel obligated to give a gift – your husband’s boss, a healthcare professional or caregiver, or a teacher. Have you considered giving these folks a bottle of wine?
Wine is a venerable beverage. One of the earliest known traces of wine was found in modern-day Georgia (the country, not the state) around 6000 BC. This is two thousand years before the wheel was invented in Mesopotamia, and five thousand years before the Trojan War. The earliest wines were made from wild grapes and berries; grapes weren’t domesticated until the time of the first dynasty in Egypt – around 3200 BC. Wine has been prized for pretty much its entire history; in ancient Persia, wine was considered a divine gift. Wine grew up with the world; by the Middle Ages, wine was served at every meal, both red and white. Granted, it was watered down a good bit – after all, one couldn’t spend every day drunk as a skunk. It was also not aged during this period, as consumption threatened to outstrip production. Aging of wine began at a later period. Wine’s history continues to the present day, where it is a global industry now, not just a French one. The major wines of the world still originate mostly in France, but wines from the New World are gaining in acceptance.
Before giving wine as a gift, you need to know if the recipient likes the idea. Giving a bottle of Dom Perignon to a teetotaler is not the best idea in the world. Gourmet cheese or chocolates would be better suggestions in this case. If your intended recipient does drink wine, knowing their level of expertise in the subject is useful; if you give a gift of rare vintage to a newbie, it’s not going to be appreciated as much as it would be to a genuine oenophile. Conversely, giving the oenophile a bottle picked up at the grocery store will fly like the proverbial lead balloon. So, first know if the intended recipient drinks wine, and then learning about their level of expertise is a good start. Finding a good wine shop with an expert sommelier on staff will help prevent gaffes.
Before choosing a bottle as a gift, you need to know how much you can afford to spend. A gift for a true oenophile can cost a bundle, so let the person helping you choose at the wine shop know your range before he starts making suggestions. A hostess gift can be purchased at the grocery store – some stores have really good wine sections – or at a package store. A gift for ̀someone you want to impress, you should look at a store dedicated to wine.
The genre of wine you select depends on the recipient, you, the time of year, do you intend for them to use it immediately, or did you buy it for their cellar. Reds are investment wines; they get better with age, and better translate to more valuable. Reds can be bought for the recipient’s cellar, if they have one; any good Bordeaux works here. Whites are also good for long-term storage; be sure to know if your recipient likes whites, and if they store them. Roses are not intended for aging; your recipient may like one anyway, but if you’re looking for a cellar item, skip these wines. Where your recipient lives is also a factor; in some large wine producing countries, such as Argentina, wine is considered too common for a gift. However, other wine-producing countries, such as South Africa and Portugal, consider their wines as superior, and would not appreciate a gift of French wine, for example.
Wine is always a good gift idea, but you need to know a few things about your intended recipient before purchase. Wrap it in pretty paper, or put it in a gift basket with other wine-associated items, such as cheese, crackers, and chocolate. You can find a wine to suit both your pocketbook and your intended recipient, and this, as Martha would say, is a good thing.
There is nothing more decadent than enjoying a glass of wine, paired perfectly with a scrumptious meal. Wine has an indescribable way of extricating the most subtle flavors from the cuisine you’re enjoying and from the spirits themselves. Traditionally, white wine is served chilled, whereas red wine is presented at room temperature. Red wines don’t typically fall under the umbrella of refreshing, chilled beverages. But did you know that some reds actually benefit from being chilled? Some reds, such as Pinot Noir, Boujulais, and some Zinfandel’s taste wonderful and more robust when sipped chilled.
Years ago, wine cellars and natural room temperature is what determined the febricity of wine. White wines were served at cellar temperature, or perhaps chilled in an ice bucket just prior to drinking. Reds were served as is, without tampering with their temperature. However, today castles and wine cellars are few are far between. Consequently, white are served at refrigeration climate, which is generally in the 40s. On average, a centrally heated apartment or home is likely to be in the mid-70s range, so most red wines end up being too warm and white are too cool.
Why not enjoy both reds and whites chilled? Chilling both wines can bring out luxurious flavors and enhance your wine drinking experience. But careful, you don’t want to get them too cold, or it can kill the flavor. Follow these steps for chilling your wines for the ultimate in wine satisfaction!
Full-bodies reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Bordeaux exhibit their flavors well between 60° and 65 °, however, if you serve it a bit colder, the acidic and tannic flavors surface even more, releasing all kinds of hidden flavors. Store your red wine at room temperature, but simply lay it in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving to enhance the flavors. More tannic reds like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon should be a bit warmer, but with Pinot Noir and Merlot, go ahead and chill them down an extra 15° to 20°. Don’t fret if the wine gets chillier than you intended because it will warm slightly as you hold it in your hand. If you’re serving chilled red wine at a party or dinner, just lay it on top of an ice bucket in between drinking, but not plunged into the ice. This will keep it relatively cold, without dropping its temperature too far.
White wines are a smorgasbord of flavors when they are served chilled. They pair harmoniously with lighter fare, such as chicken, turkey and fish. The best way to chill white wine is to fill a bucket ¾ full of ice mixed with water. Simply bury the bottle into the ice, base first, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Whites can also be chilled in the refrigerator but it will take a solid three hours to get cool enough. Never put a bottle of wine into the freezer thinking that you’ll speed up the chilling process. The freezer will alter the flavor of the wine, essentially ruining it. Place the bottle back into the ice bucket in between serving to maintain its temperature.
Whether you’re in the mood for light and fruity white, or robust and bold red, you can enjoy the opulence and richness of either wine, chilled to perfection! View our info-graphic on chilling both red & white wines and visit us as www.vintagecellars.com, contact us or call 800-876-8789 for personal service.