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How to Maximise Your Enjoyment of Wine

How to Maximise Your Enjoyment of Wine | By Christ Ooper

Ask anyone who is passionate about a particular sport or hobby and they’ll tell you that to get started, you need the right equipment – a cyclist needs a decent bike and helmet, a golfer needs a good set of clubs. What they don’t tell you up front is the kind of stuff that matters – the stuff that makes you feel like you’re a part of it – like knowing where everyone meets for that caffeine fix after the Sunday morning ride, or how to get nominated into the best golf course.

The same can be said for anyone getting into wine or getting serious about it. So, how do you maximise your enjoyment of wine? We’ve put together a list of tips, ideas, and equipment for any self confessed wine lover. If you can’t tick each of these, you’re not getting the best out of it, and boy, you’re missing out.

Wine Education – expand your wine knowledge
A good way to start here is to get your hands on a good wine book and subscribe to a couple of wine sites plus a magazine or two. The major newspapers have regular features recommending wines so try these and see what you think. You may find that you disagree with some wine writers and that your taste is aligned with others. There’s no right and wrong when it comes to wine, all that matters is what you like to drink. You could also attend a wine course which is a bit of fun.


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Saveur - Subscription

Saveur is for people who experience the world food first. It was created to satisfy the hunger for genuine information about food in all its contexts. With its emphasis on heritage and tradition, home cooking and real food, the magazine evokes the flavors of food from around the world (including forgotten pockets of culinary excellence in the United States). It celebrates the culture and environment in which dishes are created and the people who create them. It serves up rich, satisfying stories that are complex, defining and memorable. Saveur is the definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine of its generation.



Next, get to know a reputable wine retailer and introduce yourself to someone there who has broad knowledge in both local and overseas wines. Tell them what you like and don’t like and ask them to suggest which wines you should try. Buy a bottle or two then give them feedback on the wine they recommended. If you really like something and it will improve with age, buy a half dozen to pop into the cellar.

When visiting wineries, try a few wines at their cellar door and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Again, you can just buy a bottle or two of what you like and subscribe to their mailing list if you really love their wines.

Wine Racks – great for short term drinking
A wine rack at home is fine for short term wine storage, wines that you aim to drink within a couple of months. Of course, your choice of wine rack will depend on a number of factors, including space, budget and aesthetic preference. There are a myriad of wine racks on the market to suit all of the above, but please, please don’t keep wines there you plan on cellaring long term.

Wine Storage – start a cellar and maintain good records
There is probably no better sense of satisfaction for a wine enthusiast that opening a bottle of wine you’ve cellared for a few years. Assuming it was a decent wine to start with, the quality of the wine after cellaring will depend largely on how and where it’s been cellared.

Ideal conditions for cellaring wine include a consistent low temperature, high humidity, low vibration, minimal lighting and good air flow. So, storing wine in the home simply doesn’t cut it.

Your options here are offsite storage in a professional facility, a good wine cabinet, or wine fridge as they are more commonly called, or to build your own cellar. Of course, each option depends on a number of factors and each has their advantages and disadvantages so you really need to do the research to determine the best option.

Serve Wine at its Ideal Drinking Temperature
Whilst all wine needs to be cellared at the same storage temperature, its ideal drinking temperature depends on its variety, as the table below clearly illustrates (temperatures are in degrees Celsius):

Wine Variety Storage Temperature Drinking Temperature

Cabernet / Shiraz:  14 to 18
Pinot Noir: 14
Chardonnay: 14 to 10
Sauvignon Blanc: 14 to 8
Champagne: 14 to 6

Easy to say, but how do you determine the wine’s temperature? If you consider that your fridge at home is set at around 4 degrees Celsius, you could take out the bottle of white a bit before drinking, and with reds kept at room temperature (which is around 21 degrees), you could put it in the fridge a bit before drinking. If you want something a bit more precise, there are a number of wine temperature gadgets on the market that will do the trick.


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Corkscrews
Get yourself a decent corkscrew. Here are three that I can thoroughly recommend:
1. Screwpull’s LM400 Lever Model Corkscrew – a heavy duty corkscrew from a very reputable brand and the easiest corkscrew I have ever used.
2. Forge Laguiole corkscrew – a classic every wine enthusiast should aspire to own.
3. Pulltap corkscrew – a good basic corkscrew to keep in the wine bag or picnic basket.

Decanters
Decanting aerates wine which releases aromas that accentuates the nose and palate and almost every bottle of red will benefit from decanting. Some people collect decanters, but you can’t go wrong with the following:
1. Riedel Tyrol Decanter – to impress at your next dinner party.
2. Parabola Decanter or Cantatrice Decanter – something different for you or a great gift for someone else.
3. L’Atelier du Vin Lola Carafe – because it’s easy to use everyday.

If you can’t be bothered or don’t have the time to decant, get a wine finer or wine aerator, which will basically do the same thing. Heck, get one anyway and put it in your wine bag for that weekend getaway.

Glassware
Do yourself a favour and buy some decent wine glasses. Anyone who has ever attended a masterclass where they have tasted the same wine in different ‘vessels’ will tell you what an incredible difference it makes to the smell and taste of the wine and that you’ve got to get it right. Here are three glasses you will undoubtedly enjoy:

1. Whilst Riedel is a well known brand, they have so many ranges and shapes that you really need to speak to someone who knows what they’re talking about. Riedel Vinnum is a good place to start and buy at least two for your favourite wine variety and you will feel like a king when you drink out of them. Don’t let them get too dusty though, use them whenever you open a great bottle.

2. Spiegelau Authentis – also made of crystal and impressive enough for the dinner party but won’t send you broke if someone breaks a glass, so great for everyday use too. Best of all, you can put them straight into the dishwasher.

3. The Wine Enthusiast Fusion Break Resistant Glassware – perfect for outdoor entertaining because it takes a lot to break them. Dishwasher friendly too.

Wine Care
There are a heap of ‘wine care’ products that make your life easier when it comes to looking after glassware, like decanter cleaning beads, a stemware cleaning brush (which we use almost every night and wouldn’t wash a glass with anything else), a stemware drying mat, decanter drainer and the list goes on.

Wine Preservation – for leftover wine
Whenever we talk to people about preserving an opened bottle of wine, they invariably respond with ‘but we always finish the bottle’. What they don’t get is the flexibility it gives you. It means you can open that special bottle without having to worry that it will go to waste if you don’t drink it all. You can also open a bottle of white before dinner and have red with your meal. Most products will preserve your wine for a day or two but there is a new product on the market that will keep your wine as fresh as the day it was opened for up to 10 days. Again, we’ve listed a few options below:

1. Vacuvin – easy to use manual vacuum pump system that preserves wine for a day or two.
2. Wine Preserva – a thin disc is inserted into the bottle and provides a barrier, keeping wine fresh for up to 5 days.
3. Sowine – unique and high-quality preservation system that keeps your favourite wines at the perfect tasting temperature and preserves your wine for up to 10 days.

Wine Gadgets – toys for the wine enthusiast
This is where we get to the fun stuff, the bits and pieces that you probably didn’t know you needed but wouldn’t be without once you have them. Examples are label savers, foil cutters, a wine quiz, wine journal, and Le Nez du Vin (a set on scents that allow you to learn about the different smells in wine).

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Drink wine at its Peak / Cellar Management tools
Many wine guides will give you an indication of the maturing age of most wines. The idea here, especially if you have bought at least a half dozen, is to try a bottle a couple of years beforehand to see how it’s travelling. You can keep manual notes in a wine journal or, if you have the time and discipline, purchase wine software. Don’t let the wines go beyond their recommended cellaring dates in hope that they will get better because they won’t.

Consider selling wines as your tastes change
You may find that your taste in wine changes over time. If they do, consider selling some of your collection. There are a number of wine auction organisations that are always on the lookout for interesting wines. They generally charge a percentage to do the job and you can put a reserve on the wine.

So, there you have it. We hope we’ve shed some light on how you, as a wine enthusiast can get the best from your drinking experience.

If you’re after the world’s leading wine fridge, building a wine cellar, or sourcing wine racks MacPhee’s has everything you need.
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Wine 101 – Types of Wine Glasses

Wine 101 – Types of Wine Glasses | By Mark Thomas Walters

Types of wine glasses are what we’ll be looking at in this part of our wine 101 guide…

There are many different types of wine glasses, of varying styles and quality, and, in order to get the most enjoyment out of a bottle of wine, it’s necessary to give at least a little thought when choosing which you plan to buy and use. There are a number of manufacturers of fine, and somewhat expensive, wine glasses, designed specifically for use with certain wines. It’s not necessary to buy expensive ones though, and neither must you have specific glasses for specific wines.


Saveur - Subscription

Saveur - Subscription

Saveur is for people who experience the world food first. It was created to satisfy the hunger for genuine information about food in all its contexts. With its emphasis on heritage and tradition, home cooking and real food, the magazine evokes the flavors of food from around the world (including forgotten pockets of culinary excellence in the United States). It celebrates the culture and environment in which dishes are created and the people who create them. It serves up rich, satisfying stories that are complex, defining and memorable. Saveur is the definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine of its generation.



Despite the multitude of choices available, you can quite adequately get by with just three different types of wine glasses. A standard-shaped white wine glass, something with a larger bowl for reds, and a flute or similar style for Champagne are all you need to start with. There are other considerations too, though, to ensure you make the right choice from within these 3 standard types of wine glasses.

Firstly, pay attention to the material from which they’re made. At the very least, the glass must be plain and clear. Part of the enjoyment of wine is appreciation of the colour, which can impart a lot of information about the wine (such as its age and the quality of grapes used in its making). Consequently, wine glasses made from coloured or frosted glass, or worse still solid materials such as pewter or silver, are not recommended.

Secondly, make sure that you select glasses which are of a sufficient size. The bowl should be large enough to allow a fair measure to be poured, whilst leaving enough room for the wine to be gently swirled without spillage. This swirling action is to release aromas from the wine, and is therefore vitally important.

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Thirdly, they must have a stem, not just for aesthetic reasons, but so that the wine glass may be held without covering the bowl in greasy fingerprints. A stem also helps keeps the wine at the correct temperature, since it prevents you hands warming up the part of the glass that holds the wine.

Lastly, the shape of the bowl is of considerable importance. Good wine glasses taper in somewhat at the top, so that the aperture is narrower than the bowl lower down. This shape not only looks good, but also serves a functional purpose. When you swirl wine to release its aromas, this tapered shape serves to concentrate the aromas towards the nose.

Want to know more? Click here to continue reading our wine guide: Wine 101
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Wine 101 – Choosing Wine

Wine 101 – Choosing Wine | By Mark Thomas Walters

Choosing wine is the focus of this part of our wine 101 guide…

Choosing wine when there are such a multitude of bottles to pick from is no easy task. So, how do you go about making the right choice? The first step, as in all purchases, is to know what you like. Being offered the finest Cabernet Sauvignon is of little benefit if your preference is Zinfandel. Therefore, you need to try out the various different wine types (Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Nebbiolos, etc.) to see which are best suited to you. Take every opportunity to experiment, dinner parties and evenings out at local restaurants being ideal. Or, how about a wine tasting party? Invite your friends to your home and ask each to bring a different variety of wine.


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Once you’ve found out which wine variety you prefer, you’ll need to delve deeper to know which bottles of it are good and which are just tolerable. Go into your local wine shop, and walk around the section dedicated to the type of wine you decided upon. Look for the blurbs on the wine racks and read through them. Discard the “winery notes” supplied by the winemaker (these tend to be marketing material) and instead focus on the handwritten notes provided by the owner (who will be honest as their reputation depends on it).

Ask an employee of the store to assist you if there’s one available. Tell them the type of wine you’re looking for and anything else that is relevant. Give them details of the tastes and flavors that you like or dislike. The more you tell them the better their wine recommendations for you will be. They may even offer tastings to let you sample various wines to determine what your favorite is.

Any recommendations that you don’t buy, or any other wines that take your interest but you don’t end up buying on the day, note down the details from their labels. Doing so lets you try them out at a restaurant or conduct further research on them on the internet.

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Lastly, keep in mind that no wine is universally popular with everyone. It has everything to do with what pleases you. No wine reviewer or shop owner is going to have your exact taste in wine. There’s no guarantee that you’ll like a particular wine even if everyone else seems to love it. Similarly, you may likes wines that no-one else seems to like.

Want to know more? Click here to continue reading our wine guide: Wine 101
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Wine 101 – Pairing Wine and Food

Wine 101 – Pairing Wine and Food | By Mark Thomas Walters

Pairing wine and food is the focus of this part of our wine 101 guide…

The taste of a wine can improve or worsen depending on the food that you drink it with. There are only a few combinations which really do not work, however, by learning a little you can bring the best out of both the wine and the food.


Saveur - Subscription

Saveur - Subscription

Saveur is for people who experience the world food first. It was created to satisfy the hunger for genuine information about food in all its contexts. With its emphasis on heritage and tradition, home cooking and real food, the magazine evokes the flavors of food from around the world (including forgotten pockets of culinary excellence in the United States). It celebrates the culture and environment in which dishes are created and the people who create them. It serves up rich, satisfying stories that are complex, defining and memorable. Saveur is the definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine of its generation.



There are two basic and simple approaches involved; one is contrast, where the wine is different in character to the food, yet still complimentary, and the other is complimentary, where the wine and food work together through a similar trait (such as sweetness or acidic). Either works equally well, but which to apply varies on the type of food being served. Regional combinations are worth paying attention to as food originating from a particular region or country will often pair well with the local wines, as they have both evolved to complement one another. The foods that are hardest to combine with wines are egg dishes, acidic foods, and hot and spicy selections. There are no specific rules or recommendations for these, and it’s really a case of hit and miss. Personal experimentation is necessary if you insist on pairing wine with such foods.

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Here are some examples of wine and food pairings: beef is best paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Zinfandel or Pinot Noir; lamb pairs well with Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, or Medoc; poultry served with a light sauce pairs well with Chardonnay, Chablis or White Burgundy; poultry served with a heavy or spicy sauce goes well Zinfandel, Pinot Noir or Beaujolais; fish is best served with Sauvignon Blanc or White Burgundy.However, though these are said to be classic pairings, that doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily like all of them. Keep in mind that your palate is unique to you, so if you don’t like a combination, don’t use it. It’s important to also remember that some people only drink one kind of wine, no matter what food is being served. So, if you’re entertaining a guest who only drinks white wine, it’s not advisable to insist on them drinking a particular red wine just because you think it matches the food well. You can recommend a certain variety, but the final decision about what they drink should be up to your guests.

Want to know more? Click here to continue reading our wine guide: Wine 101
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Wine 101 – How to Store Wine

Wine 101 – How to Store Wine | By Mark Thomas Walters

How to store wine is the topic for this installment of our wine 101 guide…

The first thing you need to know when it comes to wine storage is to place your bottles on their side somewhere relatively cool and free from direct light. Doing so will minimize damage (mainly in terms of deterioration of taste and flavors) to the wine and allow you to store it for as long as you desire. However, knowing a bit more about wine storage will help you get the best out of your bottles.


Saveur - Subscription

Saveur - Subscription

Saveur is for people who experience the world food first. It was created to satisfy the hunger for genuine information about food in all its contexts. With its emphasis on heritage and tradition, home cooking and real food, the magazine evokes the flavors of food from around the world (including forgotten pockets of culinary excellence in the United States). It celebrates the culture and environment in which dishes are created and the people who create them. It serves up rich, satisfying stories that are complex, defining and memorable. Saveur is the definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine of its generation.



Temperature is an important factor when you’re dealing with wine. Keeping your wines between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal; though a range of 45 to 65 degrees is considered acceptable. If your temperature is too low, your wine will not age properly. A higher, warmer temperature causes premature aging (not in a good way).

The worst thing you can do to your wine is subject it to varying temperatures. As bad as it is, a steady temperature in extreme heat or cold is much better than constantly varying temperatures, even if the change is within the ideal range. The temperature should never fluctuate more than 5 degrees a day; this is especially important for red wines, which can be more damaged than whites from fluctuations.

Another important element to wine storage is humidity; if your storage area is too dry, the corks on your bottles will dry out and allow air to get inside, which can lead to damaged wine. Try to keep your storage areas humidity level at around 70 to 80 percent, you can buy a hygrometer to keep track of this.

A wine cellar is the ideal place for storing wine because it maintains the optimal humidity and temperature; however, they aren’t practical for most people because of their size and cost. A basement or garage can be used to get similar results though. Making some space in either and purchasing a wine rack and temperature / humidity gauge are highly recommended if you intend on storing more than a few bottles of wine at a time.

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As for how long to store it for, this depends on the type of wine, the region the wine was made in, the technique used to make it, and the particular year the grapes were harvested in. However, a good rule of thumb is to age reds for up to 10 years and whites for no more than a year or two. If you’re starting out, aging charts (which are available free online) can help you see when a wine is typically best enjoyed.

Want to know more? Click here to continue reading our wine guide: Wine 101
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Wine 101 – Wine Serving Temperatures

Wine 101 – Wine Serving Temperatures | By Mark Thomas Walters

The temperature at which a wine is served is important, so it’s worth learning about. It’s commonly said that whites should be served chilled and red wines at room temperature, but that’s not entirely true.


Saveur - Subscription

Saveur - Subscription

Saveur is for people who experience the world food first. It was created to satisfy the hunger for genuine information about food in all its contexts. With its emphasis on heritage and tradition, home cooking and real food, the magazine evokes the flavors of food from around the world (including forgotten pockets of culinary excellence in the United States). It celebrates the culture and environment in which dishes are created and the people who create them. It serves up rich, satisfying stories that are complex, defining and memorable. Saveur is the definitive culinary and culinary-travel magazine of its generation.



Most of refrigerators maintain a temperature of roughly 4 degrees, and that is too cold for the majority of white wines. Champagne and dry white wines of quality should be served at a temperature between 7 degrees and 10 degrees (sometimes even a little higher). Placing white wine in the refrigerator for an hour prior to serving it will allow it to reach the right temperature, though it can be served right away if it’s been stored in a cellar. Cheaper sparkling wines, sweet white wines and inexpensive white wines should be a bit colder, possibly 4 degrees to 9 degrees, so two hours or so should bring these bottles down to an ideal temperature.

As with white wines, red wines also need to be chilled. Lots of people say that red wine should be served at ‘room temperature’ but this is no longer the case now that the majority of houses are centrally heated and insulated. The ideal serving temperature for most fine red wines is perhaps 13 degrees to 18 degrees, somewhat cooler than modern houses, although this was a common temperature indoors in the past. Therefore, many reds, unless stored somewhere suitably cool, will benefit from being placed in a fridge for around 30 minutes.

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If not done with care, wine can be damaged when it’s temperature is changed. Placing it in a fridge is best, with another option being to place it in a bucket of ice and water. It will have the effect of bringing the wine down to 0 degrees, this is far too cold to appreciate the wine, so you’ll need to remove the bottle before it gets to that stage. If trying to warm a bottle which is too cold, there is a more significant risk of damaging the wine. Warm the wine gently, preferably by looking ahead and bringing the wine from its cool storage area (whether it be a cellar or a fridge) several hours earlier. Many are tempted to try and speed up the process by placing the wine near radiators or other sources of heat; doing so will damage the wine.

It’s best to err on the side of caution if you’re not sure about what temperature to serve wine at; opting for too cold rather than too warm. A wine served in this way will quickly warm up in the glass, probably releasing nice aromas as it does so.

Want to know more? Click here to continue reading our wine guide: Wine 101
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