Australian Wine Fundamentals - All You Need To Know
Using a corkscrew to remove a cork is relatively easy and most of us have done it successfully many times. But removing a champagne or sparkling wine cork can be a lot more difficult and if you’re not careful, downright dangerous!
The deliberate spraying of champagne has become an integral part of sports championship celebrations, though champagne enthusiasts often cringe at the waste. To reduce the risk of spilling champagne and/or turning the cork into a projectile, open the bottle as follows:
Remove the foil. Place your hand over the cork. Loosen and remove the wire cage. Tilt the bottle, pointing it away from people and breakables. Grasp the cork firmly with your hand then rotate the bottle (rather than the cork) by holding it at the base - this should allow the cork to come out on its own accord.
The desired effect is to ease the cork out with a satisfying pop rather than to shoot the cork across the room or produce a fountain of foamy wine. Some wine authorities say the ideal way to open a bottle of champagne is to do it so carefully and gently that no sound is emitted (a small 'poof' is certainly acceptable!).
Serving a red wine at ‘room temperature’ works very well in cooler climates but in Australia or the southern USA, it could mean serving Shiraz or a Cabernet at over 86oF, which is too warm and ruins the experience of drinking a fine red wine. The bottle should be cool but not cold. A ‘cellar temperature’ of 60o F to 64o F is ideal. Don’t worry if this means cooling your reds in the refrigerator for half an hour prior to serving. However, Rosé should be chilled as you would a white wine, to show its characteristics.
Temperatures for serving white wines are not as critical but beware of over-chilling and avoid storing white wine in the refrigerator for long periods, as this tends to deaden flavor. Chill white wine as it’s needed. Chardonnay in particular, is often served too cold as the wine's real flavor will only begin to come out when the chill comes off.
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This is all about personal preference. There are two good reasons to decant a wine. One is to separate the clear wine from any sediment that has formed in the bottle as the wine has aged. The other is to stimulate or enliven the wine by exposing it to air and giving it a chance to ‘breathe’.
Decanting is not just for old wines. In fact, most younger wines benefit most from decanting as the breathing ‘opens them up’. Try to decant gently with a minimum of ‘glugging’ as this tends to stir up any sediment in the bottle, clouds the wine and muddies the taste. If you have a beautiful crystal or decorative decanter, by all means pour the wine into it. Alternatively, if there will be some time before a wine will be served, the bottle can be opened then loosely re-corked. This is recommended for very old wines, which may deteriorate quickly once exposed to air.
Red wine will develop and improve in the bottle for the short, medium or long term depending on the style of the wine and the quality of the particular vintage. Some white wines will also benefit from short-term cellaring but most are best enjoyed when relatively young.
Wine is best stored somewhere cool, dark, airy and free from vibration and dampness. A cellar need not be under the house. The single most important factor is temperature stability. Wines stored when the temperature varies gradually with the seasons are better off than wine stored in a room which is heated during the day and then allowed to cool to winter temperatures at night.
It is interesting how much wine can fit into a relatively small space, especially if you use a simple wooden or metal racking system, which will keep wines well ventilated and provide easy single-bottle access. Bottles should be stored on their sides. Try laying them with the necks sloping just slightly upwards so the cork still remains wet and the bubble of air is in the bottle shoulder only. Any sediment will then collect at the bottom of the bottle which will make the wine easier to decant.
Store wine with the label facing up or use written neck tags so that you need not disturb a wine to identify it. There is a belief that bottles should be turned - this is incorrect.
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Can glassware make a big difference a wine's taste? Try the same wine out of a tumbler and a fine, thin-walled wine glass. The wine always seems to taste better out of a good glass. Expert opinion says these differences in taste may not be merely psychological.
While there are many different glass designs, they tend to be driven by fashion rather than the needs of serious wine drinkers; however some companies make fine glasses that clearly enhance the taste of particular wine styles.
A good, all-purpose wine glass need not be expensive. It should have a slightly tapered or tulip-shape at the top, which helps to concentrate the bouquet when the wine is swirled around in the glass before nosing as much of what we ‘taste’ is really what our nose tells us.
Make sure your glasses are clean, which means rinsing in warm or hot water and avoid the use of detergent in washing. Glasses should be stored upright and aired before use. Don’t use glasses straight out of an old cupboard or sideboard or straight from a cardboard box. Sniff a glass from a box or cupboard and you can easily detect the musty or cardboard smell.
We these suggestions on the cellaring and serving of wine will enable you to make certain your good wines taste great, and your great wines taste truly memorable.
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