Step into the alcoholic drinks aisle at your local supermarket or wine retailer and one thing will become immediately evident to you: there’s a huge amount of choice out there. It’s not just a question of reds, whites and roses – different grape varieties mean that the flavour, strength, richness and texture of wines differ hugely.
Roses and whites are relatively easy to make the most of – you just pop them in the fridge when you get home and then you find out whether you’ve made the right choice for your palate once the bottle’s open and the first few sips are being taken. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.
With reds it’s a little trickier. They’re more temperamental and more likely to be influenced by atmospheric conditions. Sometimes very subtle factors can change the character of a red wine and you end up with the impression that you don’t like a particular grape or blend from a particular grower or region. Sometimes that impression is spot on, but there are occasions when you’ve simply got the preparation wrong.
So what are the tried and tested methods of preparing red wine so that you taste it when it is ready for you? You need to look at the following factors:
The temperature at which you drink red wine matters a great deal. People often drink it when it’s too cold and this really impairs the flavour. It can turn lovely round wines into sharp and unpleasant wines. It’s not uncommon for people to take a sip of a glass of wine and decide they don’t like it, only to change their mind when they take another sip a little later. All that’s changed is that the temperature of the wine has reached room temperature, which is ideal for most.
You can raise the temperature a touch further. The best tactic is to place the bottle in front of the radiator so that it has time to heat up.
The container for your wine is just as important. Red wine is often best when it’s had a chance to air as well as warm up. This is why it’s sensible to get hold of a carafe so you can decant the wine before drinking it. However, make sure to warm the carafe first. The same goes for your wine glasses as cold glasses will reduce the temperature and impair the taste.
Finally, it often depends what you’re drinking the wine with. Most bottles come with a recommendation to this end and it’s worth listening to what the manufacturers say because they know when their bottles are at their best. If you are just drinking the wine on its own, then this is not such an issue because there are no external factors exercising their influence.
Barney Coolidge likes to buy wine online so he can shop by region and by grape quickly and easily.