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10 Rookie Wine Mistakes

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20 April 2010 2,874 views 6 Comments

Image from Marco Veringa

It’s okay to make rookie mistakes in anything if you are first starting out.  How can anyone hold you accountable if no one ever told you the right way to do something?  Getting started in wine can be a fun journey, and you can even enhance your career if you know a little bit about the stuff.  Here are some rookie mistakes which you should avoid, by doing so, you’ll quickly increase your wine credibility:

  1. Don’t store wine in the refrigerator – Wine should be kept in a cool, dark place.  If you keep your wine in the fridge, it will probably be kept at too cold of a temperature, plus light will infiltrate the bottle each time you open the refrigerator door.  Sure it would be great to have a wine cellar dug out in your backyard, but we all can’t do that.  My best advice is to purchase a wine cooler.  They can be expensive if you are looking for a large wine cooler that holds a lot of wine, but you can get a wine cooler that doesn’t hold as many bottles and you can almost always find one on Craigslist for cheap.
  2. Serving white wine too cold and red wine too warm - Red wine can be enjoyed at room temperature, but if you can, chill it in the fridge for a few minutes.  White wine is meant to be served chilled, not cold.  If your white wine is a little too cold, you can warm up the wine by letting it sit for a bit before opening it, or you can cup your hand around the glass to warm it up a little faster.
  3. Keeping your wine in an ice bucket at a restaurant – While a lot of restaurants will serve you a bottle of white wine in an ice bucket, leaving your wine in there for too long will make the wine too cold, and you cannot enjoy the true aroma or taste of the wine.
  4. Removing the foil just below the rim to reveal the cork – This might be nit-picking, but the tool used to remove the foil on the neck of the wine bottle does not cut the foil at the right place.  A properly de-foiled bottle of wine (to reveal the cork) is about an inch below the lip of the bottle, not the sliver of foil cut right at the top of the bottle.  To properly cut the foil, you will need a knife or blade.
  5. Calling any sparkling wine “champagne” – The only wine that can be called “champagne” is the bubbly wine that comes from the Champagne region in France.  No other wine can legally be advertised as “champagne” if it is not from that region.  If you have something bubbly that is not from the Champagne region, call it a sparkling wine.  There is nothing wrong with that.
  6. Serving wine in the wrong glass – You can be as snooty as you want with your wine glass collection, but the minimum is two types of glasses.  One for red and white wine, and the other is a champagne flute for sparkling wines.  There are a lot of different shapes of glasses made specifically for different wine varietals, but don’t make a rookie mistake and serve a sparkling wine in a regular wine glass.
  7. Forgetting about wine and letting it turn to vinegar – Wine can really only be kept in true form for about 3 days maximum.  After that, the true taste of the wine might be compromised.  There are some vacuum pumps out there which will remove some air from the bottle and create a better seal, but those will only buy you a little bit of time.  If you are having trouble finishing a bottle of wine, invite a friend over.
  8. Pouring too much wine in the glass – While I’m all in favor of a big filled wine glass, make sure there’s enough room so you can comfortably swirl the wine in the glass and not have it spill over the sides.  Wine should be served in the glass half full, or less.
  9. Not sniffing the wine before you drink it – The great joys of tasting wine is smelling the aroma the wine produces.  Before you drink any glass of wine, give it a good swirl around the glass and your olfactory sense might be surprised at some of the interesting aromas you smell.  What you smell before you drink the wine and what you taste may be completely different, which is why wine is so interesting.
  10. Hold the wine glass without class – The only time you should hold the glass at any point other than the stem or the base is when you are trying to warm up the glass.  Assuming your wine is served at the correct temperature, don’t hold the glass at any other location because you will put finger prints on the glass, or you will warm up the wine too much.
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6 Comments »

  • Caroline Sadowska said:

    Nice article.
    #2 was a huge discovery for me when someone finally told me to chill the white and then before you serve, switch them for a few minutes to warm up the white and cool down the red. It makes a huge difference.

  • Scott Randa (author) said:

    Thanks for the compliment Caroline! Good luck with your journey with wine!

  • Joe Lebo said:

    Great article, Scott. All of these are right on the money. If you don’t mind, I would also add a few things:

    For #1: Also, do not store wine on top of the refrigerator nor should you store wine in or close to the kitchen. The four enemies of wine are light, heat, oxygen, and vibration. Most refrigerators vibrate slightly, older models more so, and the vibration can accelerate aging the wine. Keeping wine in the kitchen exposes it to big swings in temperature, especially during stove cooking. Wine likes consistent temperatures, and the big swings can accelerate aging. Also, if you can’t afford a wine cooler, pick up an empty case from your local wine shop and store the wine on its side in the bottom of a closet.

    11) Don’t sniff the cork when presented wine in a restaurant – there is really no need to sniff the cork after the waiter opens the bottle at the table. It won’t tell you anything about the state of the wine, in other words, if it’s “corked” or not. The main thing a cork will tell you is if the wine was properly stored. If the cork is slightly moist at one end, then the wine has been stored on its side and the wine has created a proper seal. If not, then that proper seal might not have been created and more oxygen has crept in than normal.

    Plus, I appreciate #8 – using the correct glass makes a huge difference!

    Keep writing these wine articles. I’m kind of a wine nerd (if you can’t tell) so I enjoy reading anything related to wine!

  • Joe Lebo said:

    Ha, I meant #6 for the glasses.

  • Shanif Dhanani said:

    Nice article Scott, I think I’m learning more about wine by reading your articles than I have in my life :)

  • Scott Randa (author) said:

    Lebo: Thanks for the additional comments. Very true! (By the way, if you have an article or many articles you want to write about, feel free to contribute! It has been a fun process for me!)

    Shanif: Thanks! There’s so much to learn about wine, and it is a fun process! Good luck with your journey!

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