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Tasting and appreciating wine at the correct temperature

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The suggestions of Wine Pass for tasting and appreciating wine; the importance of the correct temperature for serving

If you're not used to tasting wine with much attention beyond drinking it, we'd like to invite you to consider the bottle sitting in front of you with heightened awareness. With "informed" tastebuds, each time you drink a new wine you will enjoy the experience a bit more than the last.

 

Tasting and appreciating wine: Wine Pass's suggestions

Begin with carefully cutting off the top part of the seal, and then check the state of conservation of the cork, using a wet towel to wipe off traces of oxidation if necessary. Sink the corkscrew into the cork and slowly, firmly remove it. Clean the opening of the bottle again and pour the wine into your glass. The array of options for glasses might seem extravagent, but it is generally agreed that the all-around glass that works for most types of wine is a large one with a wide belly, clear, glass or crystal, smooth and thin.

After pouring the wine in the glass, restrain yourself from the first sip to let yourself examine its characteristics. First of all, check its clarity, which (along with its color) is already an indiction of its quality of conservation and health. Next, analyze it with your nose, the seat of the olfactory system that is unfortunately under-developed in modern times and never used to its fullest potential, perhaps because the world around us is too often full of unpleasant odors rather than lovely aromas like what can be found in wine. Your sense of smell will judge the wine's fineness, intensity, elegance, and complexity of the aromas that make up the “bouquet.”

photo from winefolly.com

The richness of aromas is in direct relation to the wine's nobility, with diverse indications according to its state of maturity and development, its variety, its zone of origin, and the technical choices selected in the cellar. Expect great satisfaction in learning to assess wine's aromas, especially because its universe of smells is incredibly rich and composed of over two thousand various components.

The tasting test that follows is actually simpler – just three of the four basic tastes, sweet, salty, acidic, and bitter, can be found in a wine. The sensation of sweet, acidic, and bitter together give what is called the “depth” of the wine, while other tasting notes include the level of alcohol (which gives the sensation of warmth) and, in red wines, tannins (which give the sensation of astringency and texture).

After understanding these preliminary tests, we can pair food with the appropriate wine, always looking for a balance of sensations and avoiding any one taste or texture overwhelm the others. The rules are few and simple. The important thing to remember is to determine the right sequence of multiple wines so that the last wine drunk doesn't make you regret your first one.

 

Appreciating wine: the importance of the correct serving temperature

An aspect of wine that is, unfortunately, overshadowed by its other aspects – for lack of attention or time – is the correct temperture for serving it. As one generally does not carry a thermometer with him to every meal, a good guideline is to never serve wines at too high of a temperature, not even reds. Although it's common to chill whites in the refrigerator before serving (even for just half an hour beforehand, especially in the case of sparkling wines or alcoholic and fortified wines), red wines revolve around some confusion. Our own advice is to avoid serving any red at “room temperature.” This was advice for another time in the past when rooms were not heated and, even in the summer, carried a chill. Wine is ready to serve when at cellar temperature (between 16 and 18°C, or 60 and 64°F for well-structured wines; for less-structured wines, even cooler). At this temperature, we avoid a rapid and confusing expulsion of all the volatile aromas that were so carefully aged and conserved in the bottle and risk being completely overshadowed by the alcohol as it evaporates at an elevated temperature. This “burning” sensation from the alcohol also covers tastes and retro-nasal flavors, leaving an unsatisfied and irritated palate.

All of this breaks down in a brusque abandonment of the wine glass and a breathless grasp for a refreshing glass of water that will certainly cover the dissatisfaction, but also the desire for wine, with great dismay on the host's part.

Sparkling wines, on the other hand, must be served well-chilled between 6-8°C (42-46°F). An example is Asti, an excellent wine for celebrations as well as an ideal companion to desserts. The fragrance of Asti, typical of the origin of its grapes, instills an intense profume of musk, black locust and orange flowers, sage, and honey and provokes beguiling emotions, prolonged by the persistance of its joyful flavor that is almost sensual. Asti is a fascinating spumante in its cheerful flavors and warmth, grown from grapes heated by the sunrays that shine on the best hillside positions in its ample zone of origin, southern Piedmont.

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