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Our Top Five Wine Tips

Want the inside knowledge to improve your joy of wine? We know wine can feel intimidating for some, so let’s start this Top Wine Tips series with our five top tips to help you draw the most benefit from choosing, drinking and storing your wine.

1. How long wine lasts

Unbelievably, not everyone drinks wine or perhaps doesn’t finish the whole bottle in one go, or maybe sticks absolutely to one colour only. So, what happens when your partner wants white or rosé and you want red? Is it a waste to open a bottle? As soon as wine is opened, it interacts with oxygen and this causes it to age. Depending on the age of the wine (and therefore the fragility), as fair rule of thumb is that most wines are good to drink within about 2 days of opening. Not all of us want to spend hundreds of pounds on wine preservation tools to access wine and still ensure the integrity of the liquid, but we do still want to enjoy a decent drop over a longer duration. What most red wine drinkers don’t do is put their red wine, once opened, in the fridge as well as white and rosés. The cool temperature slows down the ageing process – just think of shipwrecks under the sea and the effect of cold water in preserving them – cool temperatures have the same effect on wine. Pull the bottle out of the fridge a few hours before you want to tuck in and voilà, the red is still enjoyable! We wouldn’t recommend this for extending the life by weeks (only in the case of Fortified wines will that work) but is certainly extends life beyond 2 days!

2. Don’t smell the cork

When pulling the cork out of a bottle, there’s absolutely no need to smell the cork (unless you really want to!). Cork should smell of….cork! What you’re interested in, is knowing whether the wine smells of cork. Less than 2% of wine is affected by TCA (trichloroanisole – AKA – cork taint) and nowadays, Producers are investing huge amounts into research with Cork Producers to eliminate TCA altogether. After swirling the wine in your glass to aerate it, any bottle stink (built up stale aromas) should dissipate quickly in the glass and your nose should be smelling fruit, glorious fruit!

3. Screwcap v’s Cork

While we’re on the subject of cork, don’t immediately be dismissive of wines with screwcaps. We’re now two decades on since the New Zealand Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative launched and 99% of New Zealand wines are now bottled in this fashion, with Australia not far behind. It was shortly after this I was standing in the cellar of a brilliant Burgundian Producer and noticed his screwcap bottling machine in the corner: even the most traditional of producers are willing to experiment as he demonstrated by bottling his Bourgogne Blanc and Rouge under screwcap. You see, the beauty of this closure is in ensuring consistency bottle to bottle. Whilst corks are still the most popular closure, they are more expensive which is a worthy investment on a wine capable of lasting 20 years+, but for wines destined for immediate to medium term drinking, both the economic and sustainable argument for screwcap is a clear winner. Let’s just all draw the line at plastic corks eh?

4. Decanting

You’ve pulled the cork (or turned the screwcap) and poured out a glass of liquid contentment, and to your horror the wine is too tight/too acidic/too tannic/too much! WHAT TO DO? Quite simply, decant it. Open it up. Doesn’t matter if it’s red, white or rosé, let it breathe. Poor quality wines will fail and fall apart in no time at all (not that you’ll find any of those wines here!). A wine that is very aged and fragile normally offers a glimpse of its former character before disappearing forever. Wines which are full of life and vigour have been constrained in a glass vessel, a bit like allowing a giant to get out of a mini, they need to opportunity to stretch, to relax, to open up. Grab a decanter (or jug), pour out the wine (carefully to curtail any sediment lurking) and give it sometime to just be. For Cru Classé Clarets or seriously big red Rhône’s, Ribera’s and Rioja’s, allowing up to four hours is not going to hurt the wine at all. But the majority of wines benefit from even just 10 minutes in a decanter: let oxygen breath life into the wine and allow the glorious fruit to shine, it honestly makes a difference.

5. Temperature

Back in the day when houses didn’t have central heating, red wines would be served at ‘room’ temperature, essentially warmer than the cellar, but cooler than today’s modern home. With our current energy crisis looming, most houses are turning down thermostats and the move towards cooler houses is happening. Wines that are served too warm, especially reds, taste sweeter or spicier than they ordinally should do, the alcohol becomes prominent and occasionally the wine tastes bitter, all equalling a pretty grim experience.

Leaving wine on top of an Aga for ages can unfortunately warm the wine to the point of cooking. Far better to serve your fuller bodied reds slightly cooler (you can always warm up holding your hands around the glass) between 14-19°C, while your lighter-medium bodied reds between 12-14°C.

Rosés and fuller-bodied whites benefit from being served between 7-12°C, typically fridge temperature, but do remember the fuller-bodied the wine, the warmer to serve it.

Lighter-bodied whites and Sparkling wines should be served between 5-7°C, you can always plunge into an ice-bucket for 5 minutes if not quite cold enough and there’s no shame in adding ice-cubes to your rosé or whites if that’s your preference, after all wine is personal, but anything too cold will inhibit the flavours.

Ideally Vintage Champagne should be served around 8-10°C, it’s larger structure requires a little more warmth to show it character. On the sticky and sweet front, the intensity of Tokaji would ideally be served cooler at around 6-10°C, as opposed to Monbazillac, Barsac and Sauternes serve between 10-13°C.

We’re big fans of chilled Tawny Port, Sherries and Marsala being served chilled, at around 12-15°C. It’s easy to get hung up on the intricacies of serving temperature, but it’s worth remembering its far easier to warm up a wine quickly than cool one down and when it comes to storing your wine at home, a cool cellar or cupboard, with no source of heating and the ability to avoid temperature and light fluctuations will always be your best location. So the next time you see the wine rack aside the oven, make the subtle suggestion of moving it.


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