In order to be able to enjoy a wine really unclouded and to fully exploit its potential, appropriate preparation is essential, depending on the type of wine.
First of all, the question arises in what company, in what mood and in what place? In the restaurant by candlelight, in the beach café with a view of the sea and the sparkling starry sky, with business friends after the conclusion of a contract, in front of the flickering fireplace in cosy togetherness, to the fish, to the grill, at the Heurigen (wine tavern), after a walk, on the third rainy day in Tuscany or on the 50th wedding anniversary. The ambience plays a role that should not be underestimated. Who has not experienced the deceptive magic of a holiday wine? A wine should be enjoyed at the "right time", at best when it is ready to drink or ideally when it has reached its peak (see also under the keywords aging and durability). And, of course, the wine to be enjoyed should also go well with the food or harmonise with it if it is drunk with the meal.
If the occasion is a meal in a restaurant, the matching wine must be selected from the wine list, which requires a certain knowledge of wine. In more upscale restaurants there is the function of the sommelier, who can be very helpful in the selection. Before opening, the label is shown to the guest. After checking (brand, producer, vintage, etc.) he accepts with a nod of the head. In good time before consumption, it must be decided whether decanting (aeration of the wine) should take place, which is the responsibility of the restaurant when visiting the restaurant. There are divergent opinions on this from "by no means" to "absolutely necessary". The correct wine temperature is an important factor. If necessary, wines can also be cooled very quickly using systems such as Ravi Wine Chiller or Rapid Ice. Opening the bottle should be a small ceremony. First you cut with a small knife (never with the tip of a corkscrew) just below the glass bead around the neck of the bottle and then remove the capsule. For many bottles the removal is facilitated by a special device (ribbon on the capsule).
The corkscrew is now pricked in the middle of the cork and gently turned in; it must not pierce the cork. It is pulled in one piece without disturbing the deposit. Now it is checked by intensive smelling whether there is a cork taster. This error can be weak or intrusive, but is always unacceptable. Every good restaurant or dealer will immediately bring another bottle of wine or accept an exchange without any problems. In good restaurants, the cork is placed next to the guest's glass to give him the opportunity to follow the check. As the last step in opening the bottle, the neck of the bottle is carefully cleaned with a cloth to remove any cork or foil residue. Metallic remains of the capsule or foil could have a negative effect on the taste of the wine. The increasing use of alternatives, such as screw caps, for example, has resulted in new aspects. Many wine connoisseurs believe that doing without natural corks is a "loss of culture". But the often used pro-argument for the "plop" as a sensual pleasure is actually not valid, because a bottle should be opened professionally without making any noise. In order to protect the tablecloth, especially in the case of red wine bottles, drip catches such as wine ties or napkin cloths wrapped around the bottle neck may be attached.
The artful opening of a sparkling wine bottle, on the other hand, requires different practices (whereby the technique of "champagne topping", i.e. drooling, is the absolute exception). The bottle should be held at an angle as far as possible so that the surface of the liquid level increases, allowing more carbon dioxide to escape and thus reducing the risk of over-foaming. The bottle neck is wrapped with a cloth napkin. Then the agraffe is carefully opened but not removed, because this allows a better grip around the cork. By holding the cork with one hand and slightly turning the bottle (not the cork) with the other, the cork is slowly unscrewed. If you would turn the cork, it could break much easier. At best, there is no noise at all when removing the cork, because "pop the cork" is by no means part of the repertoire of a cultivated wine connoisseur. The only correct noise when opening a sparkling wine bottle is a soft "pfffft" - the English aptly call this "Angel's Fart". There are special closures for sparkling wine bottles, one of which is MAESTRO.
In a restaurant, the waiter pours a small amount of wine into the glass of the guest (who has ordered and thus declared himself to be the wine connoisseur of the round, so to speak). When pouring the wine (for optical and practical reasons, because a thin glass easily shatters) the neck of the bottle must not touch the glass. Now take the glass by the stem (never by the goblet) and start to check the wine. First of all, the clarity and colour are determined purely visually, although this is best done against a light background such as a white tablecloth. The glass is now swung extensively by drawing a "six" in the air and repeating the small circle several times quickly. This requires some practice, so that neither yourself, the tablecloth nor, in the worst case, others are affected.
As a result, the aromatic substances present in the wine are released, rise and become perceptible. Since these are then irretrievably lost, however, this panning should not be done too often. In addition, when swivelling, the so-called church windows are formed in the form of single "tears" or "legs" flowing down. Depending on the distance between the tears, the alcohol content can be inferred (narrow = high, wide = low). Afterwards, with the nose close to or directly in the glass, the aroma of the wine is tested by subtle sniffing. However, one should not breathe in too deeply, otherwise the scent will reach the lungs and not, as intended, the olfactory nerves of the nose. Wine connoisseurs may be able to deduce the grape variety, the origin and a particular wine before drinking it, and later, after the first sip, the producer and vintage.
The character of a wine results from the sum of all ingredients, the total extract, whereby especially the alcohol content and the sugar content play a special role. This is checked by the first sip, whereby the wine is first rinsed back and forth in the mouth on the tongue and palate to wet all the papillae responsible for the taste. Wine connoisseurs also refer to this as "biting". The wine is left to rest on the palate for a few seconds and some air is introduced. Now the wine is swallowed. An important taste criterion is the finish, i.e. the length of time all sensations last. A "long finish" of 10 to 12 seconds (up to one minute in extreme cases) is usually a positive quality indicator, the unit of measurement for this is a caudalie. Only then does one release the wine for further pouring, unless one finds an intolerable wine defect.
If you serve your guests a wine at home, the process is basically the same. You select the guest who has the highest level of wine competence in the group for tasting. This is also to be understood as a small award for this person. The glasses must never be filled to the brim. This has not only optical reasons, but the wine should be able to develop its bouquet fully. There must be enough space left in the glass to allow the wine to swivel well. As a rough rule of thumb, the appropriate wine glasses should be poured up to the point where the goblet has the largest diameter. Very large goblets should in any case be filled to a maximum of one third. It is quite permissible to make a strong toast and make the glasses ring, although one can hear the opposite. If necessary, appropriate Trinksprüchetoasts or toasts can be offered in relation to the amusement ceremony.
Finally, a frequently asked question: What do you do with opened wine bottles? In any case, they should be resealed, which is quite easy especially with screw caps. For certain wines this can be quite advantageous for a few days, because they can unfold. After one or two weeks at the latest, this can lead to negative changes in taste or, in the worst case, to spoilage because the wine is exposed to oxidative changes due to the large amount of air or oxygen in the bottle. There are, however, different systems for this problem. One of these is Coravin, which allows wine to be removed from the bottle without air being admitted by a needle pushed through the cork. A much cheaper but less effective system is the wine condom.
The French collector François Audouze (*1943) organizes special dinners for wealthy lovers of old, exquisite wine rarities. See also Decanting, Cooking wine, Wine speech, Wine evaluation, Wine cellar, Wine temperature and Wine with food. On the subject of wine enjoyment as a cultural asset, see under Ancient grape varieties, Ancient wines, aphrodisiac, Bacchus, Dionysus, Eucharist, health, hedonism, favourite wines (famous wine lovers), Satyricon (Roman banquet), drinking culture, quotations (sayings of famous people) and drinking (custom in student fraternities).
Wine glasses with grapes: by Photo Mix from Pixabay
Dinner plate: from RitaE on Pixabay
Brunello di Montalcino wine bottle: from HOerwin56 on Pixabay
Glass of red wine: from Christine Sponchia on Pixabay
Glasses: Riedel from the Vinum series