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Top Three Wine Questions Answered

April 30th, 2012 by Diana

I’ve been in the wine business now for thirteen years, and I’ve (gleefully) been teaching wine classes for eight of them.  It definitely falls under the auspices of nice work if you can get it.  In all that time, I’ve seen trends ebb and flow, but there seem to be a few, constant questions I’m repeatedly asked as a wine educator, no matter the decade.  I’ve narrowed them to the top three and included the answers below in hopes to shed some enological light “en masse.”

After I open a bottle of wine, how long does it last?

I’ll tell you, but you’re not going to like the answer:  two, maybe three days for reds; three, maybe four days for whites.  As oxygen is introduced (by way of your now half bottle), red wines lose fruit and oomph, white wines lose acidity and zip.  Will it make you sick to open a bottle of wine and then finish it a week later?  No, it’s just that your once-dynamic wine will now only elicit a meager “meh” at best.

When do I need to decant?

We decant for three reasons.  Number one: you’re finally ready to open your 1973 Mouton-Rothschild, and lo these many years the wine has thrown sediment.  You’ll want to decant simply for the utilitarian purpose of putting down the bottle when all the schmutz starts to pour out. Two: you simply can’t wait the prescribed requisite years to drink that tight and tannic Barolo, Cornas, or Bordeaux—you must have it RIGHT NOW!  You’ll decant in efforts to open aromatics and soften (oxygenate) tannin—that astringency factor in some red wines that give you distracting levels of cotton mouth.  Three: Your red wine is too warm.  People tend to drink their whites too cold, meaning refrigerator temperature, and their reds too warm, meaning room temperature or warmer (which is none too appealing when your Australian Shiraz already clocks in at 14.9% alcohol).  For the latter, chill a decanter, then pour in your too-warm wine and swirl it around a bit until the temperature comes down.  (The ideal temperature for serving red wines is 65 degrees; room temperature is 72 degrees.)

What is corked wine? 

“Corked” wine actually means something other than the cork was moldy, brittle, smooshy or weird.  It means that the wine (via the natural cork) has been infiltrated by a bummer of a chemical compound called 2, 4, 6 trichloroanosole (or mercifully, TCA for short).  What does this do to your wine?  It may smell like musty, moldy cardboard, the creepy recesses of a dank basement, or the Denver airport.  Put the cork back in, and return it to the retailer and get your money back.

The first two weeks of May I’ll be answering more questions just like these in our most popular wine class, Intro to Wine, Friday May 4 at the Merchandise Mart, and Thursday, May 10 at Lincoln Square.  We’d love for you to join us.

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