It’s finally, officially “red wine season” in our little corner of Italy, and we couldn’t be happier! Of course, we drink reds and red blends throughout the year, but the cooler seasons just seem to beckon for a perfect glass of Chianti or Merlot, don’t they?
My sister, Caterina, and I have made something of a tradition out of catching up once or twice a week on the patio at the Candoni De Zan winery over a glass (or two!) of red wine this time of year. It’s one of our favorite ways to connect with one another. As women who are passionate about wine, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing how exactly to get the best, most robust flavor out of the reds we enjoy. Here’s a peek inside what we’ve learned.
Rest Your Wine
Much like well-cooked meat, wine should “rest” before serving. What does that mean? It means you shouldn’t rush home from the store and pour yourself a glass; allow the bottle to recalibrate itself for 15-20 minutes while you’re getting out glasses and setting the table. Movement actually affects wine and can make it taste slightly muted or flat.
Aeration Isn’t Just for Pros
You don’t have to have a fancy aerator or decanter to aerate your red wine. In fact, simply opening the bottle an hour or more before serving – then leaving it to rest – can vastly improve the character of the wine itself. Aerating allows wine to “breathe” by exposing it to oxygen. This opens up the subtleties in its flavors and aromas and allows you to more fully taste its characteristics.
Find the Perfect Temperature
Most people know to chill white wine, but what temperature should you serve red? Experts agree: red wine chilled to between 60-65 degrees typically tastes most flavorful. By chilling red wine slightly, you keep its alcohol from evaporating quickly and allow the crisp, distinct notes of the bottle to shine through. How do you get that perfect temp? Pop a bottle in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so before opening, or give it a quick 10-minute dunk in an ice bath to more rapidly cool it down.
The Glass Matters
No really, it does! Several blind studies have proven that the shape and cleanliness of your wine glass actually affects the taste of the wine. Red wine tastes best when served in a tulip-shaped wine glass with a wide bowl and tall stem. If your glasses look at all dull or tainted, wash in warm water. Nearly-invisible residue can cause the wine to take on a soapy or dingy taste.
Drink Your Wine with Purpose
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with simply sipping a delicious red, but if you want to get the most out of your glass, utilize some tried-and-true techniques. “Agitating” the wine, that is, swirling it around in the glass using the stem, releases the compounds that create the unique smells of wine. Then, before you take a sip, deeply inhale the smell of the wine itself. Your nose can pick up notes your tongue won’t, and the smell will stick with you as you drink and actually become part of the tasting experience.
All that said, there’s no wrong way to drink red wine! Whether it’s in front of a cozy fire, over a delicious meal with friends, or at a celebratory occasion with family, red wine is an inextricable part of Italian culture, and part of daily life for the Candoni De Zan family. We hope you enjoy your next glass as much as we will!