Wine Tips Sommelier from Doug Frost of Kansas City

December 2004

1.The matter of wine glasses is important but much overstated at the present moment. A glass designed for Bordeaux can make the Bordeaux's aromas more obvious, and prettier. But the same glass won't ruin another wine if you, for instance, happen to pour an Aussie Shiraz in it.

In fact, just about any glass with a tapered bowl to it can express the aromas in a wine. And while the high-end glasses can enhance an aroma, once you pour the wine in your mouth, one glass is pretty much the same as another.

But most of the enjoyment of a wine comes from the aroma, so selecting a glass that is at least designed for any wine, if not for a specific wine, ought to enhance the aroma.

More importantly, make sure any wine glasses you utilize are clean. Glasses stored in a cardboard box probably smell like a cardboard box. Glasses should be rinsed and dried with a clean, cotton cloth.

2. There are nifty gadgets for retaining a wine’s freshness. The most common system for use in homes is the VacuVin, which pulls air out of the top of the bottle after it’s been opened. Some people have plenty of luck with it, but I find that simply placing the bottle in the fridge (whether red or white) retards the deterioration enough for me.

For most red or white wines, two or three days is about as long as the wine will hold up before it starts to show some tiring. But Champagnes, dessert wines and especially German wine (sweet or dry) can hold up for a week or two after opening.

3. When it comes to pairing food and wine, don’t try so hard. Pair the wine and the guests first. In other words, before flipping out over whether or not this or that wine goes with this or that food, relax and simply make certain that the wines you’re serving are wines your guests will like.

Sparkling wines are a little bit sweet and are, obviously, bubbly. The sweetness works well to cool the fire of any spicy dish, so if you or your guests like spicy food, that can be a fun match. Riesling work very well with spicy foods for the same reason.

Fried foods are very likeable with sparkling wines, because the bubbles make the fried food seem less, well, fried.

White wines come in all denominations from light and sweet, to light, floral and bone dry, to rich, buttery, and powerful. The easy recommendation is to serve light wines with light foods, heavy wines with full-bodied foods.

Consider light sautéed snapper with something light, such as Sauvignon Blanc, and pan-seared salmon with something richer, such as French Pinot Gris, Chardonnay or even a light red, such as Pinot Noir.

Red wines too vary from the light and simple to the powerful and brooding. Sometimes it’s easy to simply match up the light dishes with the lighter wines, and save that ten-pound cassoulet for a powerful Italian red or Rhone wine.

But the only rule that matters is to have fun and stop worrying about wine!

4. When it comes to serving temperatures, most people expect white wines to be refrigerator temperature and for red wines to be served at room temperature. That’s unfortunate. If wines are served too cold (straight out of the refrigerator) the wines are so cold as to be less flavorful than they will be a half hour or so later.

And American rooms are warmer than the European castles of yore. Warm red wine is not a lot of fun to drink.

So the easy rule of thumb is to place the red wine in the refrigerator a half hour before you’re going to serve it. And take the white wine out of the refrigerator a half hour before you’re serving it.

5. With regards to the storage of wine, wine likes to be kept cool and quiet, and wants to be in the dark. So that wine rack sitting on top of your refrigerator should be re-gifted as soon as possible. If you have a basement, keep the wines there. If not, you can keep the wines in bags or in a box in a hall closet, or in the coolest place in the house.