The 12 Modern Rules For Drinking Wine
Wine’s come a long way since fancy kings, and joints that make you wear a jacket before coming in. And with that, we decided to reevaluate what we know about our favorite grape juice with the help of a couple of pioneers in modern wine. We spoke to two super knowledgable New York City wine lovers, Frederick Twomey, owner of a popular wine bar in Chelsea, and Marci Noble, wine consultant at trendy wine pub and burger joint, for their insights. Here’s what you should know:
1. Don’t be afraid to stick red wine in the fridge for a few minutes
The rule about serving red wine at room temperature is very “Last Century England.” “Room temperature today is 68, 72 at my mother’s house,” says Twomey, who keeps his red wine fridges at 55. As the wine warms, the taste becomes more alive -- but if it’s too warm it starts to flatten and it doesn’t hold on to the fruitiness as well. “I’ve asked for an ice bucket before. I do get a funny look, but so often wines are too warm and I can’t appreciate it,” he added.
2. White wines shouldn’t be freezing either
Yeah, the rule about white wines needing be cold isn't wrong, but you're over-chilling. Only cheaper whites of lesser quality should be ice-cold. If a worthwhile white is too cold, the taste will be dulled. “If I’m drinking a great (white) Burgundy,” says Twomey, “I prefer it to not be on ice. If it’s coming out of the fridge at 40 degrees, that wine is too cold -- you’re losing all the nuances. The wine needs to become alive.”
3. Drink wine in a cognac glass
No, not all the time. But you need a big enough glass to swirl that wine (the stuff's been sitting in that bottle for a while, after all) and sometimes the restaurant you're at might not have those big bubble glasses. So ask for a cognac glass instead -- they're big enough to do the job.
4. Remember, Somms aren't actually the elitist d-bags you see in movies
Throw out all the crap that you've heard about sommeliers out the window. They're here to help you, so don’t be intimidated by someone whose title is French enough to have a silent R. “The Sommelier stigma goes hand in hand with general wine stigma. More often, we’re just super passionate, hospitality-driven people who want to share our joy with you and provide you with an incredible dining experience,” says Marci.
5. Don’t assume you know what your favorite type of wine tastes like
Turns out, it's not all about the more you know... “The more you know about wine, the less you know,” says Twomey. You might think your Pinot noir tastes weird, and some might even argue with their server or bartender about it (and subsequently make a tool of themselves), but it tastes different because of the terroir. You can plant the same grape in California and South Africa and British Columbia and it’s going to taste differently because of the soil, as well as the climate, and the way the winery harvests and peels the grapes once they’re ready to be made into wine.
6. Don’t write off wine apps
There really is an app for everything. But for some reason the words wine and app don't really seem like they would go together (unless, we're talking about tasty apps), but turns out they do pair well. With a wine app, you can find the right wine to gift a friend, recommended food pairings, locate distributors, and even help you save tasting notes, should you be so inclined.
7. Don't turn up your nose at screw-capped wines
They're actually quite good! Sure, there’s less pomp and circumstance than popping open bottle and sniffing the cork and whatever else things have been done in attempt to look fancy, but screw-caps are perfect for fresh wines. And most wines in the world are fresh wines, wines that will be had in under a year or two without being aged further in the bottle by the presence of the cork. Once that screw cap is on, the wine is basically sealed and ready to go.
8. Do not assume that the food you pair with your wine has to be conventional
Good wine and good food always go together, so arbitrary rules like “steak can only be enjoyed with red” and “fish should only be had with white” actually make no sense. “There are fantastic red wines that I’d drink with fish and white wines that work well with red meat,” says Marci at B&B, where a rich Chardonnay is a favorite pairing with some of their burgers. And if you find the right red, you can even pair it with sushi.
And speaking of non-traditional wine pairings, a good wine can also go well with comfort food like fried chicken and mac & cheese. But it can also go well with totally insane renditions of classics like this crazy delicious dessert grilled cheese, crafted by the fellows at Liberated Wine.
9. Don’t rely on samples if you want a full picture of the wine
Sampling flights is pretty trendy at the moment, but if you’re looking for a new favorite, a sip won't tell you the story of that wine. “A sample is like only viewing a snapshot of a film you love,” says Twomey. “Wine evolves as it becomes alive. Drink the first glass of wine and an hour later you go back to the and find that the wine has changed and evolved, and that's the fun of it.”
10. Don't hold your wine hostage until a fancy occasion pops up
In Italy and places like the South of France, there’s much less fanfare about drinking wine -- it’s just something that’s done every day with a meal. “In France,” says Noble, “wine was included with the meal rations for soldiers at war time, and there were certainly no white tablecloths in the trenches.” Here in the states with newly burgeoning laid-back wine bars and pubs with wine on tap, you’ll see people drinking at music festivals, cookouts, and yes, while shopping.
11. Don’t write off local wines
So what if your wine wasn’t crafted in a centuries-old French vineyard? There is a stigma about places that don’t have a well-known wine tradition. “When people see Redhook on my list, they’re wary of a vineyard on a rooftop in industrial Brooklyn rather than in the scenic reaches of Long Island or upstate,” says Marci. “Pointing out the actual source of the grapes is generally enough to get people on board.”
12. The wine might be great, but do calm down about it
These two intrepid wine lovers had very similar parting words. “Wine doesn’t have to be intellectual,” says Marci. “It’s about the joy of the juice.” And Twomey doesn’t want his guests to get hung up on the actual product, but to come unwind and talk about their lives over a glass of wine, using it as a conduit for ideas. And that's certainly something to clink about!