I read an article this morning by NYTimes writer Eric Asimov. In his article titled “Wine as the Supporting Player in an Ensemble Cast at Home,” Asimov makes the recommendation to drink more wine at home and learn to love it.
The title alone was enough to have me find something else to read…wine as the “supporting player in an ensemble cast”…who thinks this stuff up? But I clicked. And read. And found a few good tips for the wine novice such as get a simple corkscrew, decent stemware, to make friends with a good wine salesperson at your local shop (this is a great tip, actually). That said, overall the article is a bit vague as to how to actually keep, serve and enjoy the wine at home.
Here is my guide to how to have wine at home:
1. Keep at least 12 bottles of wine in the house.
For some of you this sounds like 1/2 a shelf in your cellar of 100’s or 1000’s of bottles. To others, this is 11 more than you have on hand at any time. But I can make the argument that 12 is the perfect number (and never below 6 bottles) and this list gets you good coverage for peoples varying wine tastes:
- 2 sparkling wines, preferably one Champagne. Why? Because every day is something to celebrate and you do not need something to celebrate to enjoy bubbles
- 1 unoaked Chardonnay
- 1 Riesling or Sauvignon blanc
- 2 Pinot Noir (preferably one Old World, think Burgundy, and one new world, maybe Chile or Sonoma)
- 1 Cotes-du-Rhone or Tempranillo
- 1 Malbec
- 1 Sangiovese
- 2 Cabernet, Merlot or Bordeaux Blends
- 1 post-dinner wine such as Port, Sauternes or Sherry, I’d rotate these as seasons and dessert options change.
If I could add 6 more bottles, I’d beef up the post-dinner wine, add a white wine from somewhere interesting like Hungary or the Rhone Valley, and add in a wine from Alentejo (Portugal), Piemonte (Nebbiolo based), and two wines from the USA- maybe a Washington State Cabernet or Merlot, as well as something fun from Napa or even Paso Robles. The possibilities are, of course, endless. Just find a wide variety of things you like and keep around a few bottles that are very different from your normal daily drinkers…you’ll appreciate it when you’re running low and you get to try something new.
If you keep under 18-24 bottles, and do not plan on saving any of them for more than a year, or two, you’re probably OK keeping it in a cool, dark location somewhere the house. If you begin accumalating long-term aging wines (such as Barolo, Bordeaux, big Cali cabs, even good Champagne or Riesling) then invest in a basic wine cellar, such as this. If you’re going for a massive collection, you’ll need something a bit bigger. I have an Avanti that holds around 70 bottles (this is a far nicer version than mine: AVANTI WCR682SS2).
2. At least once a week invite friends over for “some wine.”
Grab a cheese or two, fresh baguette, and a nice olive oil and just hang out without any social technology (no iPhone, laptop, etc. Just some good music is allowed) and talk about wine and life. Keep it informal and spontaneous, no planning allowed. You’ll be amazed the topics you’ll cover and how good you’ll feel afterward.
3. Have a nice set of versatile wine glasses that have stems.
Stemless are great, in college, but it’s time to ditch the stemless and opt for something that will give the best experience. I have a few sets of, and really like, these: Spiegelau Vino Grande Red Wine Glasses, Set of 6. Learn to pour a little less each time to get a good swirl. This will leave enough space in the glass to allow the subtle aromas of the wine to encompass the empty space (air) and let the nuances of the wine to be more distinguishable.
4. Have a decanter and know how/when to use it.
You don’t need it to be fancy (I love this one by Riedel: Riedel Cabernet Decanter) but it should allow good surface area, be easy to pour from, and not be impossible to clean (like this one). For tips on when to decant a wine, this is a good overview.
5. Serve wine at the right temperature.
The temperature a wine is served at can make aa difference in how the wine expresses itself and it is enjoyed. A guide on wine serving temps can be found here.
6. Don’t overthink it.
It’s OK to put some thought into the perfect wine pairing, but don’t be afraid to stray from the classics. Some of the best wine pairings I’ve had break from the norm/traditional. For instance, back in 2005 at an above average strip-mall sushi place in Timonium, Maryland that was BYOB I found that I love Chinon, a red wine from the Loire Valley in France, with sushi. It was life changing and I learned that you must drink what YOU like. Don’t conform to the “experts” and don’t always over think the wine itself. Some nights, and some wine, call for less thought about the intricacies of the wine itself and more focus on those you’re sharing it with.
7. Have fun.
It’s wine. While it may be a complex, living, breathing glass of fermented grape juice that is connected to a region, a history, a specific geography, terroir, winemaker, unique story and all the esoteric adjectives that go along to describes it’s color, texture, bouquet, mouth feel, and finish…it’s still wine. One of the simplest, most amazing treasures that this beautiful earth has ever given us!