Posts Tagged ‘serving wine’

Time for Thanksgiving Wines

November 17th, 2011 No comments
A Wild Turkey

“Wild Turkey” photographed by MONGO

If you’re planning to host a fancy Thanksgiving, why not pull all the stops?  Instead of serving one wine with the meal, liven things up by serving several in graded succession.  For example, start with an apéritif either on its own, or with some light appetizers.  Muscat is an excellent choice, and helps prepare the palate for courses yet to come.  If your main course consists of turkey, consider serving a light white to accompany the subtle flavors of this bird.  Dry whites are especially nice, but for guests with sweeter tastes consider pairing the bird with a sweet Riesling.  To keep family and friends happy, offer them these wine options, or (better yet) let them sample each.  As a third choice, a nice bottle of Pinot Noir will always be a winner.  For dessert, pair your pie with a tasty glass of port.  For pies on the more tart side, consider a tawny port.  For sweeter pies, ruby port is a nice match.  This Thanksgiving, serving a variety of wines throughout your meal will help to make your Thanksgiving feast a classy wine adventure to remember!  In fact, this holiday may even be the perfect occasion to use your new Riedel Riesling Grand Cru wine glasses, or to pass around a set of lovely Vintage Port glasses… Just food for thought!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wine Review: Oracle of the Wind Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2009

August 10th, 2011 No comments

Oracle of the Wind Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2009This delicate white hails “from the sun, the rain, the wind, and the soil” of South Africa.  Though described as a “light yellow with flashes of green,” my glass appeared a surprising golden yellow of medium intensity, usually indicative of mature, concentrated whites.  Being a very affordable wine (I only paid $7.99 for a bottle), I knew not what to expect.  Although the nose is pleasant-but-weak, and somewhat plain, the wine makes up for it with a soft, creamy body and light crispness.  Flavors are subtle and playfully elusive.  They include guava, gooseberry, subdued mango, and other tropical flavors.  There are even light hints of lime and lemon.  This is not a “big” wine, and so it must be remembered that although this wine is well-structured, it is very delicate.  It will take many sips to appreciate and, like all wine, it gets better as it opens.  It is also a wine that can only be fully appreciated when chilled.  Serving this wine at room temperature will ruin it.  We recommend serving this wine between 46ºF and 48ºF.  For wines such as this, a Marvel Wine Refridgerator like the 23-Bottle Wine Grotto Wine Cellar  will help you attain the perfect serving temperature.  As a final note, if you’ve been following our blog, remember that long-term storage temperatures differ from serving temperatures, so don’t confuse the two!  Enjoy!

30 Bottle Marvel Wine Grotto wine refrigerator

What’s Up With Tannins?

July 13th, 2011 No comments

Recently, we recommended serving a Cabernet with steak and butter-rich foods, partly because of the wine’s tannins.  But what are tannins, actually?

Tannins are polyphenolic compounds naturally found in plants that bind to proteins and other organic compounds.  In other words,  they are naturally found in the skins, stems, and leaves of grapes, and they are attracted to proteins, like those in meat.  Thus, pairing highly-tannic wines with protein-rich dishes makes them seem less astringent, much smoother.  The wine’s tannins race toward the meat instead of your saliva!

Grapes that have very thick skins, like Cabs, naturally give rise to more tannic wines, as do juices that spend more time sitting in their skins after being pressed.  This is why red wines have a greater tannic content that whites; juice from white grapes is not kept in lengthy contact with the skins after pressing.  A wine’s texture is also impacted by the volume of tannins.  An astringent, dry, tart-like quality can be “felt” in youthful reds with high tannic content.  Because tannins mellow over time, however, older well-aged reds do not possess this feisty quality.  (This is one reason why aging wine appropriately is important.)

Because tannins are produced naturally, you may not be surprised to hear that several of your favorite foods also contain them: walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, cloves, cinnamon, red and white beans, smoked fish and meats, and chocolate liquors, just to name a few!  Tannins have even been known to display antibacterial properties, according to a study conducted by Hisanori Akiyama, Kazuyasu Fujii, Osamu Yamasaki, Takashi Oono and Keiji Iwatsuki.  For more info about tannins and related topics, check out the article “The Science of Aging Wine” in Vintage Cellars’ Wine Storage Education Center.

bowl of strawberries and blueberries, fruit with tannins

Image courtesy of

Should You Decant Port?

July 8th, 2011 1 comment

“Do you decant Port?” is a question that often arises in whispered tones.  Though literature on the subject of decanting this special wine is extensive, most folks aren’t aware of it, and those who are are often scared off by the seeming complexity and effort such decanting–and timing– entails. Person pouring with Riedel Tyrol Wine Decanter
The other night I enjoyed a fantastic glass of Dow’s Late Bottle Vintage Port from 2000.  Though bottled in such a way to avoid getting sediment in the bottle (and supposedly not requiring decanting), this “meant to be enjoyed immediately” quasi-vintage Port underwent a decanting miracle.  With a complex bouquet of wild berries, floral notes, and even a hint of caramel, this rich, full-bodied wine was a symphony of plum, black cherry, fig, apricot, and even dark chocolate on my tongue.  Providing a satisfying, long-lasting finish, this exceptional wine made quite the impression! Interestingly enough, my friends who brought the bottle over were astonished that this was the same wine they selected; it was one of their favorites, too!  Apparently, they had never decanted their Port before, and were experiencing its magical transformation via decanting for the first time.

Decanting Port is often of greater importance than decanting other wines.  Port wines that age in bottles such as Late Bottled Vintage, Crushed Port, and Vintage Port, as opposed to those in casks, are not filtered before they are bottled.  This means that there are more deposits that will form in the bottle.  (Tawny Port, up to 40 years, has its deposits filtered before bottling so it won’t continue to age.)  If you’ve ever been turned off from Port because you once had a glass that contained solid, bitter sediment, your Port was not properly decanted.  But decanting, in addition to removing this safe-yet-unpleasant sediment, is essential to opening up a Vintage Port to bring out its bouquet and flavor.  Because such Ports contain a bit of sediment, it’s often suggested you stand a bottle upright a day or two before opening to get the majority of deposits to sink to the bottom.   Once you’re ready to open your Port, experiment until you find the tool that makes the task easiest for you.  There are a number of tongs, screw pulls, lever pulls, etc. to help you remove the old cork.  Beginners often find Port tongs the most difficult to master, and screw pulls the easiest.  (Many times, because of its age, the cork will break. Do not be discouraged; decanting will help you remove bits of cork that may have fallen into the bottle.)

Once opened, slowly and calmly pour your Port into the decanter of your choice being careful not to stir up the sediment at the bottom by moving the bottle back and forth too much.  Do this in a well-lit area, and with a clear decanter such as a Riedel Vinum Magnum Wine Decanter, so you can see what you’re doing.  When you observe the deposits rising to the neck of the bottle, stop pouring.  If you’re insistent on drinking the little bit of remaining sediment-rich wine, an unbleached coffee filter can be used.  With practice, your decanter will be filled by a majority of sediment-free wine.  Once in the decanter, let the wine sit for a few hours.  Typically, Vintage Port less than 20 years old should be decanted for 2 hours more more before drinking.  Vintage Port less than 10 years old requires more oxidation and should be decanted for three or four hours.  Older bottles are more difficult to gauge because of numerous variables.  That said, 40 year old bottles should receive one hour of air time, and older bottles can be decanted and served immediately.  Opinions on the proper amount of decanting time do differ, but I find these guidelines appropriate for the most common circumstances.  In short, decant your Port!  You’ll be amazed at how good it can be.

Riedel Vinum Magnum Wine Decanter

Decant, and Taste the Difference!

June 20th, 2011 No comments

In a previous post, Dine With Open Wine, we discussed some of the benefits of decanting wine.  While it’s one thing to read about what decanting does to a wine, experiencing it is another matter.  And what better way to experience the dramatic impact decanting has than to conduct your own comparison of decanted and non-decanted wine at home, or with a group of adventurous guests?  You’ll obviously need a good bottle of wine–try this with one of your favorites to really appreciate the effect–and a decanter such as the Riedel Cabernet Wine Decanter or, if you really want to impress, the Riedel Ultra Magnum Decanter.  Next, make sure the glasses you’re using match the wine you’re serving.  (For instance, don’t use white wine glasses if you’re pouring Merlot, etc.)  Wondering about the variety of wine glasses available? Check out our article on types of wine glasses in the Education Center. Ready to shop? We have a full line of Riedel glassware.

After you have selected your wine, open it and fill a set of glasses with it directly from the bottle.  Next, gingerly pour the remaining wine into the decanter of your choice.  (N.B. Most decanted wines begin to open in minutes, so it’s best to serve them shortly after decanting.)  Have your guests smell and taste their wine which came directly from the bottle.  Now, pour the decanted wine into a second set of glasses, and let your guests compare the boutique, taste, and finished of the decanted wine with that which was not decanted.  It’s a guarantee you’ll see many wide, pleasantly-surprised eyes!   While decanting will not make a “bad” wine into an instant winner, it will certainly enhance the appeal of average wines, and substantially augment the pleasure of exceptional wines.  Still not convinced?  Try hosting a decanting party and taste for yourself!  The reward is worth it!  For more detailed information about decanting, or other wine-related topics visit our Wine Storage Education Center online.  Happy decanting!

Look at Those (Wine) Legs!

June 8th, 2011 No comments

wine glass

With appropriately-matched, quality wine glasses like Riedel Sommelier Wine Glasses or Riedel Vinum Extreme Wine Glasses, it is not only easier to notice the characteristic fragrances and tastes of your selected wine, it is also easier to see the beauty of your delicate beverage.  With a clear wine glass, the clarity, color and depth of your wine are highlighted like never before, allowing you to more accurately judge your wine’s age, the types of grapes used in its making, and even the climate of the vintage.  You can even learn about your wine when swirling to open it.  When swirling, your wine will create “legs” (or, in the more poetic French, “tears”).  These are the small droplets that form in the ring above the surface of your wine while you swirl it.  It was once believed that the more legs a wine had, the better its quality.  However, this is untrue, as various atmospheric conditions (and physics!) have expunged this myth.   What is true is that the speed of falling legs can tell you about the wine’s sugar concentration and richness.  Generally, slower falling wine legs denote richer wines high in sugar content as opposed to thinner wines with less sugar.  Try examining the tears of both a sweet and a dry Riesling with Riedel Sommeliers Riesling Grand Cru Wine Glasses.  You’ll be in for an educational treat!  While aroma and taste play such an important part in wine appreciation, paying attention to appearance, too, greatly enhances the tasting experience.  In fact, visual cues can even suggest additional possibilities to your palate you may have initially filtered out!

Riedel Sommelier glasses

Dine with Open Wine!

May 27th, 2011 1 comment

wine decanter
Want to learn the basics about decanters and decanting? Check out our Decanting article in the Wine Storage Education Center!

There’s something refreshing about properly-decanted wine, especially when served with the main course!  Some savvy restaurants practice the art of decanting so that your wine will open to its fullest by the time your meal arrives.  The arts of cooking, serving, sipping, and eating all depend on timing.  One disruption to the balance of a prepared meal is a carefully-selected wine that is closed come mealtime.  Waiting for it to open may make your food go cold, and it also disrupts the pace of the dinner.  In short, decanting is a terrific way to help make your wine-paired dinners as well-timed as those you experience in your favorite restaurants.

Though you may already be decanting wine at home, the use of a specialized decanter helps your wine oxidize quicker while adding an element of visual grace and elegance.  In particular, Riedel wine decanters are carefully shaped to allow a greater amount of wine to come into contact with the air.  Unlike a common water pitcher, the Grape Riedel Wine Decanter is crafted for “full oxygenation” which definitely improves the taste and aroma of your favorite wine.  The graceful, mouth blown Riedel Amadeo Lyra Decanter, launched in 2006 to celebrate Reidel’s 250th anniversary, adds additional elegance and style to your wines’ presentation.  The Riedel Extreme Decanter, dubbed “The Work of Art Decanter” by the New York Times, is designed to encourage young wines to open, as well as vintage wines.  (Decanting older wines just before serving helps keep a wine’s brilliance and clarity from being impaired by sediments that may have developed over the years).  No matter what Riedel wine decanter you choose, you’ll be bringing the best of the science of oxygenation and hand-crafter art together, with wine, for a memorable dining experience.

Riedel decanter


All Good Wines Take Time

February 22nd, 2011 No comments

GrapesServing wine is a ritual for the senses, similar to having British tea. There’s the artful process of wine selection followed by bottle presentation, uncorking, pouring, relishing the initial aroma of the nose, taking the first sip followed by a lengthier taste to judge both body and finish, and so on. The process of serving wine is not meant not be hurried; this ritual is meant to be savored. Even the glassware and wine opener should be selected with care to evoke the occasion’s desired mood. A cheap corkscrew will clearly not evoke the same aesthetic response as a beautiful, antique-plated Rogar Champion wine opener, for example.

Although some people attempt to rush the ritual, wine cannot be hurried. Its flavors open in their own time. While several products exist to help speed up the aeration process, allowing wine time to naturally aerate in the glass or a decanter is essential to any exciting tasting journey. Sipping a very closed wine, then experiencing how its flavor changes as it begins to open make the wine tasting experience a delight. There’s something magical about how a closed wine will, in a few minutes, begin to breathe, allowing its taste to be unlocked more fully. The expectation and surprise that arise as a wine opens is also symbolic of timeless adage that “all good things take time.” There are certainly many good things that take time in this life, and should! Wine tasting–like most aspects of wine’s creation and enjoyment–is definitely among them.

The Thanksgiving Leftovers Solution

November 21st, 2010 No comments

The thing about Thanksgiving is that when the dishes are done and the last stray family member has been gently coaxed out the door, there are always leftovers.  I’m talking about two kinds of leftovers, one good, one bad.  The food leftovers are the wonderful ones: almost better than Thanksgiving itself is a perfect Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich with roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce inside.

But the leftovers you’re sad to find in the kitchen?  The half-empty wine bottles that collected on the table and in corners.  Whether you’re opening a new wine for each course, or pleasing everyone with one white and one red, you’re bound to have a couple of strays lingering in corners, unnoticed until after the guests have left.

Throwing out this kind of Thanksgiving leftovers would be sacrilegious to any true oenophile.  But what to do?  They’ll go bad before you can finish them off.  Meet the WineKeeper, a wonderful invention for wine lovers all year round, but especially useful for the adult version of Thanksgiving leftovers.

The WineKeeper is a wine preservation system to that allows you to keep your bottles perfectly fresh for weeks.  It works by

WineKeeper's 4-bottle "Napa" model

replacing the oxygen in the top of an opened bottle (which is what speeds up the aging process–too much exposure causes the wine to spoil), with nitrogen gas, which doesn’t react with the wine.  The bottle is hooked up to a tap, so that you can easily pour yourself (or a guest) a fresh glass whenever you please.

The WineKeeper is a great product for wine lovers, because it allows you to keep open several bottles at once.  Say you and your spouse feel like drinking different wines, or you’re hosting a small dinner party in which you show off your expertise by matching the perfect wine to each course.  A wine preservation system allows you to keep several bottles open at once without ever worrying that your hard-earned investment will end up down the drain.

If there’s a wine collector in your family, you might also consider a WineKeeper for a fabulous Christmas present.  Bonus: no wine will be wasted this Christmas dinner!

5 Things You Should Expect from Restaurant Wine Service

June 24th, 2010 No comments

We’ve all had it happen: the moldy cork, the bug in the glass, the wrong wine.  There are some things that are clear reasons to send back your glass or bottle.  But what about the less obvious problems?  These 5 tips tell you what is–and isn’t–ok in restaurant wine service.

1.  Size (and shape) matter.  At family-style restaurants (especially Italian), you might be served wine in small, stemless tumblers.  This is part of the cultural experience and is perfectly acceptable (and a fun way to drink wine!)–but ONLY if you’re drinking inexpensive table wine.  If you’re springing for the good stuff, it should be served in a glass that will bring out its full flavors.

Another thing you want to watch out for is restaurants that serve wine in those ridiculously small 6-oz glasses.  To get a proper pour, they have to fill the glass nearly to the brim!  This leaves no room for the swirling and sniffing that are part of proper wine enjoyment.  Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this one except politely mention to the management the benefit of a regulation-sized 12-oz tasting glass.

2.  If you ordered a bottle for the table, the waiter should have you taste the wine, regardless of your sex, age, or whether you’re paying or not.  Here’s what to do:  When the wine is presented to you, make sure the bottle is the one you ordered.  The waiter will open the wine and place the cork on the table next to you.  DON’T smell the cork!  You can’t tell anything by smelling it, and it makes you look like an amateur.  All you need here is a visual inspection.  Make sure the cork is wet on the wine side and dry on the other side.  This is pretty much the extent of what you can tell from the cork: even if it is moldy, as long as the wine side is mold-free, the wine is probably fine.  There’s one exception to this rule: very expensive wines sometimes have a label printed on the cork.  Make sure the info on the label matches that on the bottle, especially the vintage.

After you’ve inspected the cork, place it on the table next to you.  The waiter should dispose of it.  Next, taste the wine.  If you want to do this step like the pros, read this post for a how-to.  If all you want to do is make it through the tasting with your dignity intact, just sniff and then sip the wine to make sure it isn’t rancid.  What you’re looking for is a smell like a moldy basement–this indicates that the wine is corked.

3.  If you’ve ordered a bottle, you should expect the waiter to fill the wine glasses as they empty.

4.  You should NOT expect the waiter to bring an ice bucket for your bottle of white wine, unless, of course, you ask for one.  White wines should be served at between 45 and 50 degrees F, depending on the varietal–much warmer than a near-freezing bucket of ice water.  If your wine is served too cold, the flavors will be masked and it will taste overly acidic.  However, if you order Champagne or another sparkling wine, the waiter should automatically bring you an ice bucket, as these wines need to be kept very cold for best taste.

5.  You should never feel pressured by your waiter to spend more money.  If he or she is filling your wine glass to the brim, it’s probably to get you to buy another bottle.  If you ask for a wine suggestion, he or she should offer more than one, at different price points.  If you order a bottle of wine that the restaurant has run out of, your waiter should suggest another in the same price range.  Establishments that are focused on getting you to spend more money are generally not trying hard enough to ensure your wine, food, and service is tip-top.  If you feel pressured to spend more than you wanted to, or judged for being budget-conscious, don’t go back to the restaurant.

6.  Always remember that you are the one paying for your wine, and you should expect service that reflects this.  But be forgiving: restaurants are hectic places.  If your favorite bottle of wine isn’t available, don’t stress–it’s a chance to try something new.  If your waiter isn’t at your elbow when you drain your glass, fill it yourself–he was probably dealing with a picky customer.  As long as the service is generally good, don’t let a small error ruin your night out.

Want to know what to do when you’re the one opening and serving the bottle of wine? Or learn more about wine glasses? Our Wine Storage Education Center has all the info you need.