When you’re first learning about wine, it can feel like there are a bunch of weird, arbitrary rules that you’re somehow expected to know. The world of wine has its time-honored traditions, and dated expectations. Our attitude, however, is simply: do you.
Wine is tasty and fun to drink, especially when you can talk with your friends about what flavors you notice. However you like your vino is fine by us. Do you prefer to drink wine out of a mug instead of traditional stemware? Cool. Do you like to mix red wine and coke? Awesome. Remember: Wine your way is the best way to do it.
If you're looking to avoid mistakes that may make your vino experience less than awesome, however, we're here for you. Behold: A simple guide to some common wine mistakes and how to avoid them.
Wine Mistake #1: Drinking Wine at the Wrong Temperature
You may have heard that white wine should be served cold, and red wine should not. This isn’t totally wrong, but it is a vast oversimplification. Often, wine newbies will make the mistake of drinking white wine way too cold, and red wine not cold enough. Why is this a problem? If wine is too cold, the aromas and flavors will be suppressed. This is particularly true of fruity, perfumed white wines like Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Torrontés. Red wine, on the other hand, will taste off when it’s too warm. At room temperature, fruit flavors and other aromatic notes will seem dull.
The Fix: The ideal temperature for white wine (and rosé) is 49-55°F – not “ice cold.” Now, sweeter white wines and very light white wines, like Pinot Grigio can be served slightly colder (40-50°F) – as cold as you’d serve sparkling wine– because chilly temperatures can chill out sweetness while preserving balance. Red wine should be served at 62-68°F, which is below the temperature of most rooms. If you’re like, “That’s nice, but I don’t have a wine cellar” – we feel that. You can pop your bottle of red in the fridge for 15 minutes before you’re ready to drink it, stick it in an ice bucket, or leave it outside if the temperature happens to be around 60 degrees.
Wine Mistake #2: Pouring Too Much Wine in a Glass
When you’re hosting a party or enjoying a glass at home, it can be easy to get excited and fill your glass to the brim. Don’t make this rookie mistake. We’re not saying that you can’t enjoy a second glass of wine, but smaller pours will help you enjoy each glass – and each sip – to the fullest. Wine glasses are designed to have some extra space at the top. Does this help you avoid spilling red wine on the carpet? Absolutely, but that’s just a bonus. The reason for this design choice is so you can more easily swirl your wine. Swirling – i.e., introducing a little O2 into the equation – opens the wine up and brings out its many aromas.
The Fix: Simply pour the wine to the widest part of the glass. This allows the greatest surface area for your wine to aerate while you swirl it. If you don’t feel comfortable swirling wine mid-air, you can always place the glass on a surface and make small circles with your hand. Sniff your wine before you sip it, taking note of the flavors you pick up. Slowing down and being mindful about tasting will help you enjoy all of the many flavors and aromas in wine.
Wine Mistake #3: Storing Wine in Warm Places
Yes, even before you’re ready to drink your vino, temperature matters. Some wine newbies will store wine on the countertop, near a window, or worst of all, on top of the refrigerator. If you leave wine on top of an appliance, please know that we’re screaming on the inside. We’re not saying that you need to invest in a fancy wine cooler in order to enjoy a glass of wine. We’re simply suggesting that you find a cool, dark place with a relatively consistent temperature to store bottles that are waiting to be opened.
The Fix: The back of a closet is a solid choice for storing unopened bottles. It’s usually the darkest part of a home, and won’t see huge temperature shifts. The back of the pantry is also a good spot. Remember to store wine on its side before you open it to prevent the cork from drying out. After you open it, though, store wine standing upright to minimize the amount of surface area that’s exposed to oxygen.
Wine Mistake #4: Saving Opened Bottles for Too Long
We get it. It’s sad to see a beloved bottle go. However, once you open a bottle of wine, an invisible hourglass gets turned over and you have to finish the bottle before the sands run out, or else…it’ll taste bad. That’s right. It’s not dangerous or harmful to drink two-week-old wine, but at some point it will start to taste like vinegar.
The Fix: Most bottles will last for three to five days after they’re opened. White wine can last up to seven days in the fridge. While you shouldn’t store red wine in the fridge before you open it, it’s fine to pop it in the fridge afterward to help it last longer. You can also turn your leftover wine into wine ice cubes for future wine cooling.
Wine Mistake #5: Pairing Faux Pas
When you get a wine pairing wrong, both the wine and the food will taste worse. It’s a double tragedy. Some common wine pairing mishaps include:
Acidic foods with tannic red wine (e.g., cheese and red wine)
Spicy food with high-alcohol wine
Dessert with dry wine
The Fix: You don’t need to become a sommelier to get a handle on wine pairing. If you follow some basic pairing tips and trust your palette, you’ll be fine. Most cheeses, but particularly more acidic cheeses like goat cheese, pair well with sparkling or light, acidic white wines like Chenin Blanc. If you must have a red, choose an aged cheddar or another low-acid cheese. Spicy food – including your favorite Thai take out – pairs well with sweet and fruity low-alcohol white wines like a German Riesling or Moscato d’Asti. Make sure to serve the wine cold in order to give your tongue a break from those hot spices. When it comes to dessert, here’s a rule of thumb: the wine should be sweeter than the dish. Try a port or a sweet red like Banyuls.
Wine Mistake #6: Opening a Bottle Incorrectly
This is one of those common rookie wine mistakes. But no judgement – we’ve all been there. Whether you’ve got a stubborn cork, a missing corkscrew, or you just never learned how to open a bottle, don’t worry! It’s simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Failing to open a bottle properly can reduce your wine’s shelf life, and even harm you if you accidentally break the glass, leave foil shavings in the bottle, etc.
The Fix: It’s simple! Use this graphic:
And if you’re stuck with a bottle but no corkscrew to open it with (tragedy!) use these tips.
In Vino Finito
It’s no big deal if you’ve made these very common wine mistakes – this is a judgement-free zone. However, by correcting these mistakes, you’ll be able to enjoy your wine to the fullest. If you’re a current Bright Cellars member and confused or concerned that you may be making other common wine mistakes, reach out and we can help! Our Wine Concierge team at firstname.lastname@example.org love to share their wine expertise!