By Sue Ann Truitt
Wine Time—When is Wine Time? From a cartoon cocktail napkin, we find that it is “Anytime”. On an early morning flight from Zurich to Munich, breakfast was served with wine, not water. Often people arrive at a restaurant for lunch, where a wine list accompanies the luncheon menu. Wine is accepted to be an anytime drink, not just after 5 o’clock.
Now that the time to drink wine is established, which wine do you order, purchase, serve, or drink? Much study goes into this selection process. Reading copious volumes of written material, studying courses at major colleges and universities, membership in Wine Clubs, traveling to vineyards in the four corners of the Earth—all represent ways in which people are learning about this mysterious liquid. Many experts recommend the best way to discover your favorite wine is to – taste, taste, taste! Wine is a mystery and is magic. It is delicious to drink, it intensifies the flavors in foods and enhances the mood with consumption. A specially selected meal served on a beautifully appointed table and accompanied by fine wines stimulates conversation and creates feelings of comfort. Just as there is protocol for growing, harvesting and fermenting the grapes, there are preferred ways to choose, open and present wine.
Wine tasting began as soon as there was wine to taste, around 3000 BC. Over the centuries, special utensils have been designed for tasting and drinking wine. This practice reached a peak with the creation of the tastevins, small flat silver cups with handles and raised indentations that reflect the color of the wine. Vineyards and wineries still produce their own tastevins, which are popular with oenophiles (those who love wine).
Today glass tumblers or stemware are more often used for tasting wines but for a special wine tasting event, there is nothing like providing sterling tastevins.
There are hundreds of shapes and patterns of wine glasses. A plain thin crystal with a bowl the size of an apple permits proper oxygenation of the wine, concentrating complex aromas toward the tapered opening of the bowl. A Merlot experience benefits from such a large glass with a wide body. A Bordeaux enjoys a glass with a generous bowl and a tapered shape which captures the bouquet. The balanced design directs the wine to the center of the palate. A Cabernet Sauvignon stem is a classic red wine glass which complements the largest number of reds. The shape of this glass directs the wine to the back of the mouth which enhances the enjoyment of the distinct flavors and aromas of red wines.
Decanting is the presentation of wine in a decanter, usually glass or crystal, which highlights the color of the wine and aerates it. The decanting ceremony is gracious while combining ritual, beauty and science. Opening the wine to air has long been known to improve the aroma and flavor. Louis Pasteur scientifically observed the effect of air on wine when he helped vineyards and breweries to solve their spoilage problems in the 19th century. He remarked that, “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages”. In decanting wine, it is poured through a funnel into a decanter. The best funnels have a curved spout which causes the wine to flow down the sides of the container exposing the wine to oxygen. A wine funnel also has a strainer which catches any sediment that might be present. These funnels have been used for years but have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when they were produced in silver.
Coasters are made of silver curved sides conforming around a wooden base which is covered with felt on the bottom. These came into use in the 18th century when the ladies excused themselves from the table after dinner. Thus leaving the gentlemen to smoke and drink port which they “coasted” to each other across the polished wood table.
Wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends and acquaintances. Learn, experiment, taste and share. Drink to the ones you love!