You heard great things about the wine. Maybe even spent great sums on it. But when you get it home, there’s disappointment. Maybe the flavor is wan or the texture seems a little scratchy. And what’s that slightly unpleasant whiff of funk?
The problem may be you. I call it operator error. The same qualities that define better wines often require thoughtful handling for them to really shine. Here are five pitfalls to avoid.
First, temperature. It’s hard to overstate the importance of serving wine at around the proper temperature. It’s all too common to serve whites too cold and reds too warm. Neither allows for proper expression. You don’t need a thermometer to figure this out; just hold the bottle. If it feels similar to a cool glass of water—neither icy nor body temp—you’re close. Take the chill off too-cold wine by placing the bottle in a bucket of tepid water. If overly warm, put it briefly on ice.
Second, aeration. Many quality wines (particularly natural ones) come out of the bottle starved for oxygen—and occasionally with funky aromas and flavors. Flushing the wine with oxygen via a vigorous, sloshy decant is the cure. Upend the wine into a clean pitcher.
Third, glassware. Stop worrying. Most wine does fine in any glass with a generously round bowl that tapers, tulip-style, toward the rim. This shape collects the aromatics that contribute to flavor and delivers them to us efficiently
Fourth, the pour. Keep it small relative to the size of the glass—about one-fifth is the right fill. This guarantees that as you sip, you draw in a fair amount of air, which is critical for moving the aromatic molecules from the back of the mouth up into the nasal cavity, boosting the flavor intensity.
Finally, keep an open mind. While mass-produced wines are made to be immediately drinkable, the trade-off in terms of interest in what’s in the glass is a big reason they’re a poor choice. Like the most interesting people, the most interesting wines take time to get to know and often have to be appreciated on their terms, not yours.