Over the past few years, I have enjoyed the experience of drinking wine. Over those delectable years of wine sipping, the hobby of tasting the succulent graceful wares of the grape have come into my realization. At family gatherings, Final Friday on Main St. (a traditional Downtown Cincinnati hipster's gathering) and delightful conversations with friends are all great reasons to break open a bottle of wine. I'm much more interested in socializing and in the Wine Advocate's ratings.
All of us want to, at least, act as if we know the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundies, but most of us do not. There are not too many things that is more embarrassing than to suggest a nice white wine to go with a nice juicy steak. The good thing is that you do not have to be a complete expert to tell the difference. By knowing a few basics of wine consumption, it will help you to enjoy the next high-end bash without sticking your foot in your mouth.
1. Don't Fake It
As just knee high to a grasshopper and playing in the backyard, we all pretended at one time or another. Little Billy wanted to be an astronaut and little Luanne dreamt of become an accountant. Let us leave that to the children. A true mark of sophistication and maturity comes from not being afraid to ask questions of people who actually know what they are talking about. Always ask for suggestions. This can save time from basing decisions on how cool the bottle looks or the price range.
2. Taste IT Before You Buy It
When a server brings you a wine glass with just a sip of the Chardonney that you are about to order, he is not asking you to judge the quality of the wine, but just to make sure that it has not gone bad. Place your fingers at the base of your glass and swirl the wine a little bit (this "opens up" its flavors), lift the glass to your nose and mouth, enjoy its bouquet and then sip, holding the wine in your mouth for a moment before swallowing. If it tastes all right, simply say "Thank you" to the server.
Because we are all trying to aspire to that level of greatness, we know that when hosting a party, you serve yourself last. This is no different when serving wine. The person that is being honored, or the closest person to you, should be served first.
4. To Chill Or Not To Chill
This is real cut and dry. You chill white wine and you serve red wine at room temperature. The flavor of red wine is often improved by exposure to oxygen, or by "letting it breathe". With white wines, you want to drink them as soon as the are poured, but there are a few white wines can also be improved by "decanting" -- that is, pouring wine from its original bottle into a container with a wider opening, or into a glass.
5. Size Does Matter
In most of our lives, the shape and size of one's tool does not necessarily correlate to your enjoyment level. This is not the case with wine glasses. For the most part, oversized goblets don't have to be reserved for the big wine drinkers. They are meant for the wines that will make your palate think it were in Italy or California. This particular type of glass should not be filled more than halfway and not wine glass should be filled more the three quarters of the way. Glasses shaped like tulips should be used for white wines.
Of course, there are many more things that you will need to know and understand about wines before you take that position as a sommelier, but by following these five steps, you can at least act like you know what you are talking about.
Great Places Downtown
The Wine Cellar
This downtown winery is located in the heart of Mt. Adams, The Wine Cellar features a large selection of unique wines and is also a full service bar, featuring over 50 wines by the glass.
The Wine Cellar offers weekly wine tastings as well.
Nicola's Ristorante Italiano
Just 8 years old, this restaurant has become one of the most beautiful fine dining restaurants in the city. Nicola's offers valet service (a rarity for downtown eateries) for your convenience, Thursday through Saturday evenings, and you can always feel comfortable coming in dressy casual attire. If you are dining with a large party on a Monday through Thursday night, ask to organize your own personal tasting menu for your party, with wine pairings to complement your selections.
The Celestial Steakhouse
I know it sounds like a crazy name, but this "state of the art" wine cellar is located between the dining room and the lounge, allowing all the guests an opportunity to peek into the cellar and enjoy its amazing collection. Our constantly changing wine list features about 750-800 selections from around the world. Of particular note are the abundance of Champagnes, Dessert Wines and Ports. The Celestial has been the proud recipient of The Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 1991 and The Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence since 2004.