Like the vast majority of enogastronomic products, wine is better enjoyed with the appropriate accessories. Having an espresso in a paper cup rather than in a ceramic cup or a cold beer in a metallic can rather than in a pint glass could downplay the whole tasting experience.
On this note, wine makes no exception.
Once you start swirling, there’s no way back. The act of moving the glass in tiny circles holding it from the stem is a gesture profusely observed in any wine bar. No matter how slightly uptight that might look like, circular motion helps to aerate the wine and release the vapours, unlocking the aromas of fruit, earth and minerals typical of the terroir.
Swirling whiskey before tasting it is quite a common gesture, too. Not equally as common as giving a little initial swish around the pint to your beer as we do here at TB & TT, but hey, a little spin may cause subtle addiction. Swirl responsibly.
Wine glasses can strike a nerve and be a bit of a riddle. The distinction goes beyond reds, whites and sparkling, venturing into to the realm of grape-specific glassware. However, “universal glasses” are quite suitable to enjoy the flavours and aromas of fine wines at affordable prices.
Generally speaking, glasses for red wines have a wider bowl to allow enough contact with oxygen as well as the release of aromas. Glasses designed to enhance the characteristics of Pinot Noir-based wines and Burgundy wines have wider bowls. A taller bowl will heighten the perception of scents, while a shorter bowl directs the wine to the tip of the tongue, so that subtle nuances can be detected.
Glasses specifically designed for white wines have a more upright and U-shaped bowl. The bowl itself can be wider for Chardonnay, for example, or a bit narrower in the case of Viognier. In like manner, the bowl allows for air contact: some grapes significantly benefit from a little aeration, while in other cases aromas can be altered. Sparkling wines are usually served in tall, narrow and slender glasses called “flutes” in order to preserve the carbonation. However, it’s not uncommon to sip fine champagne from a regular white wine glass that better accentuates its unique aromas and flavours.
The reasons for decanting wine can be essentially two: first, to let sediment in aged wines slide to the bottom of the bottle and, second, to smooth any harsh flavours by exposing the wine to air – good for young wines. As for the length of decantation time, this can vary from at least half an hour up to one day for very young ones.
Decanting is quite useful to encourage young wines to open up, yet it might damage older ones as aromas and flavours might dissolve quickly due to aeration. The softening of tannins and oxidation are indeed part of the winemaking process when aged in oak barrels. Decanting serves the very same purpose by exposing the wine to oxygen, yet in a shorter period of time.
At last, the use of a decanter comes in handy when anonymously presenting wines.
A good corkscrew is essential to avoid any damage to both the cork and wine. Traditional ones are simply made of a steel screw and a perpendicular wooden handle, requiring vertical motion. Winged models are sometimes called “cork-extractors” with two levers on either side of the worm, raising while the worm penetrates the cork: when pushing down the levers, the cork is drawn. The “sommelier knife” is perhaps the most common one used nowadays: it looks like a pocketknife with an arm extending to brace against the lip of the bottle for leverage. Some have two steps on the lever, some include a bottle opener too. On the handle, a small knife blade is used to remove the wrapping on the neck of the bottle.
Coravin is a new opening system that allows pouring wine in a glass without taking the cork off. It is particularly suitable when a glass is preferred to a bottle and for wine sold by the glass, therefore minimising waste. Patented before 2011, the opener consists of a needle to twist into the cork and a sealing valve that allows for the wine to be poured in the glass when opened and for the bottle to be sealed when closed.
Last but not least: some people like to keep a pen and a notepad within reach to jot down all the flavours and aromas of their wine.
And in the age of social media, smartphones are considerably involved in the display of posts related to wine consumption, featuring outstanding bottles and crafty labels on platforms such as Instagram.