Wine 101: How to store, serve and pair wineWhen customers walk into Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop, they are welcomed by more than 100 varieties of wine. For a wine connoisseur, it may be paradise, but for those who don’t know the difference between Chardonnay and Cabernet, choosing the right wine for an evening get-together can be daunting.
By: Jasmine Maki, Grand Forks Herald
When customers walk into Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop, they are welcomed by more than 100 varieties of wine. For a wine connoisseur, it may be paradise, but for those who don’t know the difference between Chardonnay and Cabernet, choosing the right wine for an evening get-together can be daunting.
“I assure you we can find at least half a dozen wines you’ll like,” said Greg Rixen, general manager of Happy Harry’s in Grand Forks. “And after that, we’ll find half a dozen more.”
For first-time wine buyers, Rixen recommends a sweet white wine, such as a Riesling.
“It’s a safe bet because it’s lighter and fresher,” he said.
Rixen recommends first working through the different white wines such as Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.
“The red wines get a little more complex,” he said. “They get a little drier, a little bite-y. (They have) a little more texture to them, and sometimes that will scare people off.”
For those who prefer to start with reds, he said choose a softer red like Pinot Noir, which is more approachable than others.
Once you’ve chosen a wine variety, here are tips for storing, serving and pairing your purchase, so you can enjoy it to the full extent.
Although a wine cellar is the best place to store wine, it isn’t necessary.
Wine should be stored in a dark, cool place, out of the sun, Rixen said. However, he doesn’t recommend the fridge for long-term storage.
“The cork will actually dry out, and the fridge will actually dehydrate the cork quicker,” he said.
Above the fridge is also out of the question. Remember, heat rises. The vibrations from opening and closing the fridge can affect the wine as well.
Instead, store the wine in a basement or cellar. The ideal storing temperature is from 60 to 70 degrees.
For those with crowded living quarters, Wine Enthusiasts Magazine suggests storing wine bottles in a closet.
Wherever you store your wine, be sure to store it on its side. This will allow the wine to keep the cork wet, so it never dries out.
From the perfect temperatures to the correct glassware, serving wine is just as much of an art as creating the wine itself.
The first thing to consider is serving temperatures. Although each variety of wine has a different serving temperature, some general guidelines apply.
“It’s a safe bet that your whites will be chilled,” Rixen said.
Sparkling wines should be served at 40 degrees, white wines at 45 to 52 degrees and red wines at 60 to 66 degrees.
“The correct serving temperature will actually amplify and improve the taste of the wine,” Rixen said.
If over-chilled, white wines will lock up and lose some of their flavor, while red wines become bitter when too cold.
Rixen recommends putting wine in the fridge a day before you need it and removing it an hour or more before serving.
“It lets those aromas open up a little bit,” Rixen said, “and softens up those textures …. and makes it almost a little creamy.”
During a party, it’s better to serve wine too cold versus too warm because it’s easier to warm wine than cool it. Wine Enthusiasts Magazine says avoid using an ice bucket because wine reacts best to slow treatment.
After you figure out the correct serving temperature, you have to select the glassware to serve it.
“The wine glass can affect the feel of a wine,” Rixen said. “The different rim shapes of the glass can actually focus the aromas, and let them out and let them appeal more. And at the same time, the rim of that glass can actually focus the flavors to different parts of your tongue.”
Wine glasses vary in price and thickness, but a beginner only needs to know the three basic shapes. White wines are typically served in a tulip-shaped glass, red wines in a fish-bowl glass and champagnes in a tall, flute-like glass.
Food and wine
Although people have traditionally served white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat, that’s no longer the case.
“You have to look at the sauces being used (and) the spices being used,” Rixen said. “You need to kind of look at all the different things that go into (the meal).”
With a creamy white Alfredo pasta sauce, Rixen recommends a Chardonnay. The toasty, oaky tone of the Chardonnay will complement the sauce. Lightly seasoned fish also pair well with white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
On the other hand, heavier, darker sauces work well with red wine.
For a barbeque with pulled pork, chicken or ribs, a Shiraz is best, as it’s a heavy red wine, known for its deep fruity flavors. Because of its rich flavor, Shiraz is the perfect complement to barbeque.
If you are unsure what variety of wine will work best with your meal, Rixen said a dry Riesling works well with just about anything. But if you’re serving a spicy meal with habanera seasoning, you should save the wine for a later date.
“Spicy meals are kind of the curve ball,” Rixen said. “What I would recommend with those is a nice amber medium brown beer.”
Cheese and wine
If you’re hosting a small afternoon party or late-night gathering, you might consider providing a variety of cheeses and wines.
The endless pairing possibilities can be overwhelming, but stick to the basics to start.
It all comes down to the firmness of the cheese, Rixen said. Pair hard, bolder cheeses with red wines.
“With a good, aged parmesan, Cabernet always works well,” he said.
In contrast, soft, fresh cheeses work best with white wine. Rixen recommends trying smoked Gouda with a smoky Chardonnay for complementing flavors.
Bleu and stilton cheeses should be paired with fortified wines and ports.
The sweetness of the wine and bitterness of the cheese are an unbelievable match, he said.
If you’re not a fan of cheese, Rixen suggests experimenting with other pairings. His favorite is dark chocolate with Australian Shiraz.
“The big thing is don’t be afraid to go out and try different wines,” he said. “Learn a bit about each of them before you try them, that way when you’re going into that bottle, you kind of know what to expect.”