Useful tips about wine

Useful tips about wine:

In a restaurant

If you are invited to taste wine by a sommelier, or wine waiter, don’t be scared!  Check that it is clear and bright in appearance, then swirl the glass so the wine releases its aromas and sniff to see it has a clean, fresh nose. It should have a good fruity taste. If the wine is cloudy, smells off or musty or has a bitter taste then it is likely to be out of condition or corked. In either case you can send it back and ask for a replacement bottle or another wine. A tell-tale sign is a cork that has mould on it, has dried out or is cracked. An increasing number of wines now have a screw cap or an artificial cork, so while they won’t be corked they could still be out of condition. About 1 in 10 wines fall into this category.

When to drink and how to store

Most wines are intended to be drunk within six months of bottling so they will be ready to drink and don’t have much potential for ageing. Only a rare few will last longer than a decade. Traditionally, wine was never stored standing up. Keeping the wine on its side ensures the wine is kept in contact with the cork, thereby preventing the cork from drying, shrinking, and letting in air. More importantly is where it is stored; the worst place to store wine is usually in the kitchen because it is often too warm or the temperature is uneven.

How to taste

There is a right and wrong way to hold a glass of wine! Hold it by the stem to avoid warming the glass in your hand – unless of course you want to warm a red up on a cold, wintry night. When you taste the wine, hold it in your mouth for a moment or two before swallowing. If you can, suck some air though it to open up the flavours – but watch you don’t spit or choke! A really good wine will have a delicate balance of flavours and a fairly long aftertaste, or length. An inferior wine will have a shorter length, so it’s a good way of telling if you have a quality wine or not.

What is terroir?

The combination of soil type where the vine is grown, the climate, angle of the slope and exposure to the sun constitutes the terroir of a vineyard.  This is what makes each vineyard and each wine unique. The vineyards of Europe were virtually wiped out in the nineteenth century by Phylloxera , a tiny louse that feeds on the roots of vines which appeared in the UK when infested vines were brought here for experimental purposes. Phylloxera remains a problem to today but is kept at bay by grafting vines on to phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks.


Wines deteriorate by exposure to oxygen and eventually will turn to vinegar, so that opened bottle will soon lose its freshness. With age, red wines tend to lose colour and will eventually end up more of a brick red shade. White wines also gain a brownish hue, becoming golden and eventually brown-yellow colour.

Sweet wines

Vines grown in damp and humid climates are attacked by a number of fungi one of which, botrytis cinerea is encouraged in the making of sweet wine like Sauternes. The fungus causes the water to leach out of the grape leaving concentrated sugars behind.  Ice-wine, or Eiswein, is another sweet wine where ripe grapes are not harvested until the vines are frozen. Once picked the water crystals are separated and the remaining grape has high levels of sugar.


Plato argued that the minimum drinking age should be 18, and then wine in moderation may be tasted until 31. When a man reaches 40, he may drink as much as he wants to cure the “crabbedness of old age”