Wine service fundamentals and follow your palate
As a wine critic, I am often asked what the best way is to enjoy and taste wines and I try to keep it simple. I don't want to make it too complex where people feel like that are in a classroom – wine must always be fun! Moreover, I don't want people to be intimidated by the process of drinking wines. But a couple key points will definitely improve your tasting and enjoyment of wine.
One of the most important is serving wines at the correct temperature. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make - serving whites too cold and reds too warm. This robs some of the quality of the wines because it emphasizes the alcohol in reds and hides the nuances of fragrances and flavors in whites.
I am a fanatic about serving wines at my preferred temperatures. Some people find I serve my reds too cold and whites too warm. I even have a temperature gun to check the temperature of wines in bottle and in the glass in my restaurant and tastings. I like reds at 64°F and whites, rosés and sparkling wines at 57°F. Don't be afraid to cool down bottles of reds before serving. You can even put them on ice if you are eating outside in hot weather.
Good quality glassware is also a necessity. I once heard a famous Italian wine producer say he could taste wine out of old shoes if the wine was outstanding quality. But that is ridiculous, even if he was only half joking. I have, of course, drunk fine wine out of shot glasses, teacups and paper cups when nothing else was available. But these were in simple barbecue eateries or at food stalls on the streets of Mexico City and Bangkok.
I always try to have nice stemware to get the best experience from the wines I am drinking and I often bring glasses to restaurants when I think they won't have proper stemware. I tend to prefer smaller glasses than the large and extreme-shaped ones that are currently in vogue.
That's why I have my own James Suckling 100 Points Universal glass from the French crystal maker Lalique. But many others are available and the easiest to find and best value continue to be Riedel glasses from Austria, especially the Vinum series.
In the end, wine is an intimate consumable product. It's something you build a relationship with. So, you have to follow your palate and your heart. Maybe you prefer light and fresh whites and reds like crisp sauvignon blancs or bright gamays and pinot noirs. Or you only like to drink bold and rich reds such as Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon or Barossa Valley shiraz. That's good! Embrace this preference and learn more about these wines. Once you understand what you like, you can explore this amazing and fascinating world of wine. That's how I started half a century ago when my father started explaining to me what wines I liked while in university.
Then, I preferred fresh and lightly sweet whites and roses from France and he helped my follow my palate and learn more about wine. Do the same. Try new and different wines that have the same profile as what you enjoy now. If you like Burgundian reds, try pinot from Chile or Australia or the United States. Don't only drink Bordeaux. Try a cabernet sauvignon from Australia's Margaret River or America's Washington State. The world of wine is so fun and diverse.
Also remember that your palate changes. As you explore, learn and share your experiences with wine, you will inevitably find new wines, regions and grape types to enjoy. For example, I have been fascinated with pinot noirs at the moment and I have been buying and drinking new examples from all over the world in my restaurant from Australia's Gippsland to Oregon's Willamette Valley.
And of course, I am always excited to discover new small producers from Burgundy. These under-the-radar names can make some exciting wines that cost a fraction of the price of the big and popular names celebrated around the world. So, don't limit yourself.
Acclaimed as "one of the world's most powerful wine critics" by Forbes, James Suckling is now the ambassador for the newly launched LG SIGNATURE Wine Cellar.
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