Our wine lives are full of rules, some expressed and some implied, that in theory are supposed to make things better and easier, rules that should keep us drinking the right wine at the right temperature out of the right glass, but really, they’re rules that deliver a sense of relief and assurance that in a hyper-judgy environment, we’re really doing this wine thing right after all.
The natural law of do as I do applies here, or maybe in this case, it’s more don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
1. Use a corkscrew that’s hard to use
For a lot of people, it’s a real challenge pulling the cork out of a bottle of wine, not because they lack manual dexterity or upper body strength, but because they’re using the worst tool ever for this task: that 39-cent corkscrew with the wine shop’s logo on it they gave you for free.
If you’ve ever used professional chef’s knives versus ordinary kitchen knives, the feeling of slicing bread with a $100 German bread knife is similar in feeling to opening a bottle of wine with a $13 Messermeister corkscrew versus that silver thing with wings.
The moral of this story is that it costs $13 or less to go pro.
2. Drink out of a cheap wine glass
And by cheap, I don’t mean cheap in price – my personal favorite is about $7.50 each – but cheap in quality. You don’t have to drink out of some freaky Game of Thrones-ish goblet, but the reasons and analogies for why you don’t want to drink out of a Dixie cup are abundant. Would you drive a Maserati on Mazda tires? Or put a Picasso in some $5 frame you bought at Target? Of course not. If you have a favorite wine, you owe it to yourself to have a favorite wine glass to drink it in.
3. Drink white wine as cold as beer
Icy cold temperatures are great when it comes to beers and sparkling wines, but many white wines show more flavor a little warmer. If you have good wine discipline, just take your white wine out of the refrigerator a half hour before you want to drink it, but make sure to remember not to open it.
4. Drink sparkling wine out of a fruit cocktail cup
There: I said it. That’s not a “Champagne glass,” and if I ever see you drinking any liquid other than a Manhattan out of one, I’m knocking it out of your hand in a very uncivil way. Many sparkling wine producers prefer their wines to be tasted in whatever you think a white wine glass is, not in a flute either.
5. Drink bad wine and not say anything
Bad wine means a bad wine experience, everything from a bottle that’s gone biochemically bad to a bottle you just don’t like. We naturally focus on the life-changing mindbender wines we come across, but negative feedback is important too. The number of stories I’ve heard about getting bad wine in restaurants and wine shops is only a little less disappointing than the fact that the people telling the story say not one word at the time. Even if you don’t have a Ph.D. in wine, speak up, dammit!
6. Drink red wine at room temperature
First of all, my “room” is 67 degrees and my Mom’s is 82, sometimes more, so “room temperature” as some standard is just never going to work. If there is a standard everyone’s theoretically shooting for, it’s 55-60 degrees, the temperature of the earth’s crust about ten feet below the surface, a.k.a. cellar temperature. This may mean putting your red wine in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or more to attain that, but unlike what many appear to think, there is no federal law against refrigerating red wine, so go right ahead.
7. Drink red wine without food
A summer sunset is a good match with lots of white wines, but red wine needs food. Now and then you meet someone who’s not a red wine lover yet, and it’s almost always because they’re drinking red wine alone – not alone and depressed with the shades drawn – but without food. Wine is food and naturally likes to be with its own.
8. Make this hard distinction between white and red wine glasses
The Austrian wine glass maker Riedel has taken this distinction to the extreme and made a gazillion dollars doing it. It’s true, I usually like a big red wine in a bigger wine glass, but it’s really the same wine glass as for white wine, only bigger.
9. Drink great wine and not remember the name
It’s as if you were at a party and met someone you were highly interested in romantically, then just didn’t bother to commit the name to memory. If you want to remember something later, you have to remember it on purpose in the first place. Sip, remember, repeat.
10. Try to follow the rules
No matter what you do or how you do it, someone in the wine world will tell you you’re doing it wrong, and that’s not right. The only way to play this game is not to play in the first place, and then you win.