Perfect Cellar’s Wine Guide

Perfect Cellar’s Wine Guide

Wine, what a joy! A great glass of wine is the perfect partner for food, good company, or relaxing after a long day. With so many amazing wines available it can be hard to know which one is right for you. To make it easy, we’ve put together this handy wine guide to help you get the right wine every time. In it, we’ll cover everything from what is wine to tasting tips so you can sip like a pro.

A basic wine guide

What is wine and how is wine made?

Wine is fermented grape juice. Crush some grapes, add some yeast, wait a while and you’ll have some wine. OK, it’s a little more complicated than that, but whether you’re making red, white, rosé, sparkling, or even orange wine (we’ll tell you another time) the principle is the same. Well, more or less.

If you want to make a red wine then you need to let the juice soak on the skins as it’s the skins that hold the colour. White wines don’t need colour so they don’t get to lay about, they go straight to their fermentation work. Rosé wines do their own thing too. These blushing beauties either have a quick skin dip or it’s saignée for them. Saignée means ‘bleed’ in French, and rosé made this way sees juice taken from a tank of crushed red grapes to be made into a rosé wine.

Sparkling wines may be the most fun to drink, but they’re the hardest to make.  Making champagne means making the wine twice. You start by making a (rather boring) still wine. You then give it a dose of ‘liqueur de triage’ – sugar, wine, and yeast to you and me. The yeast eats the sugar producing carbon dioxide which gets dissolved into the wine making it fizzy. You can achieve more-or-less the same effect by doing this in a tank, or if you’re in a rush by using the ‘Soda Stream’ method. That involves taking a load of still wine and pumping gas through it, but it doesn’t have the same mystery, does it?

Read our red wine guide, white wine guide and sparkling wine guide.

How to serve and taste wine

Open. Pour. Drink. Enjoy. While serving and tasting wine isn’t rocket science, there are a few things you can do to get the most from every bottle. Let’s start with serving wine.

  • Temperature – this can make a big difference. Too cold and you’ll struggle to taste anything. Too warm and it will taste heavy and dull. When it comes to wine temperatures, think like Goldilocks and go for ‘just right’:

White wines between 8°C and 12°C
Rosé wines between 10°C and 14°C
Red wines between 15°C to 18°C. 
Champagne and other sparkling 5°C to 9°C

  • Let it breathe – this may sound odd, but it works. Pour a glass out – a little reward for making the effort – leave it to stand and let the air work its magic. Letting wines breathe can release aromas and flavours and give you a much more enjoyable experience. How long do they need? That depends. As a rule of thumb, younger wines – especially reds – need a couple of hours or so. Whites – including fizz – are usually good to go after an hour.

Wine tasting is easy and should be fun, just follow these simple steps.

  • Glasses – the ideal wine glass is clear, so you can see the colour, and ‘tulip’ shaped so all the lovely aromas don’t float away.

  • Appearance – be it red, white, or rosé, your wine should be bright and clear.  Red wines lose their colour as they mature, so tip your glass and run your eyes from the wine’s centre to the edge. If it goes from deep red to reddish pink, it’s probably still young. If goes from red to amber, it’s mature. Whites get darker as they age. Some old white Burgundy or white Rhône wines are deep brown. They may not look pretty, but boy are they lovely! 

  • Swirl and sniff – swirling lets oxygen in and aromas and flavours out. It’s like breathing only more action-packed. Sniffing can tell you a massive amount about a wine. For example:
    • Vanilla/butter/tropical – oak ageing. 
    • Dark chocolate – Merlot.
    • Green peppers and blackcurrants Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • Gooseberries, rhubarb, and cat’s pee – Sauvignon Blanc.
    • Eucalyptus and blackberries – Shiraz. 

  • Sip – take a sip and inhale. Your nose is 10,000 times more sensitive than your palate and by sniffing while sipping, you’ll bring the wine to life.

  • Ponder – what are you tasting? Black berries or red? Citrus fruits or tropical?  Is it heavy or light? Dry or sweet? By getting an overall impression, you’ll know what to expect next time and it will give you the confidence to buy similar wines.

Want to know the best way to get better at tasting? Practice. So, fill your Perfect Cellar and enjoy your homework.

How to store wine

Many wine lovers dream of building up a cellar. Even if you’re not the owner of a Georgian manor house with an underground one, it’s easy to store by wine at home by:

  • Keeping it on its side – corks need to be kept moist or they’ll dry out and leak.

  • Keeping it somewhere cool – wines hate being too warm. Store them somewhere cool such as in a garage, under the stairs or in an outbuilding.

  • Keep it in the dark – like mushrooms, wines love the dark and hate UV light.

  • Keep it somewhere dry – subterranean cellars may sound amazing, but they are often damp, which can lead to rotting labels, corroded capsules and lost wine. Find somewhere dry and well-aired to store your wine treasures.

How long does wine last once it’s been opened?

This is a question that gets asked a lot. A lot depends on the style of wine, its quality, how it’s stored, etc, but...

  • Red wines – with a cork or a stopper in them they can last 2-3 days. Young fine wines can actually be better on the second or third day. Top tip: keeping red wines in the fridge can also prolong their lives. Just make sure you warm them up before drinking.

  • White wines – lighter, fresher wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will often be good after 5 days in the fridge if it's stoppered. Richer, oaky wines like a white Burgundy will typically be good for 3-4 days.

  • Rosé wines – a good rosé can be enjoyable for up to a week after opening.

  • Sparkling wines including Champagne – as they lose their fizz fairly pretty quickly, they should be drunk within a day or two. Rarely a problem in our experience.

Food and wine matching

Food and wine are a match made in heaven. While the golden rule is, ‘What works for you, works’ we have a few suggestions on how you can ensure a happy union.

  • Opposites attract – white meats and fish are naturally low in acidity, so pairing them with a tangy white such as a Sauvignon Blanc will bring out the flavour. 

  • Fine food, fine wine – a marriage of equals produces the best results. The ‘Prince and the Pauper’ was a good story, but when it comes to wine and food it probably won’t have a happy ending. If you’re lucky enough to be serving a fine fillet steak then serve a fine wine. A Classed Growth Bordeaux or top-flight Rioja will have the depth and concentration of flavour to stand up to the intensity of the meat. 

  • Fight the power – you don’t want the food to overwhelm the wine or vice versa. If you’re serving a delicate Dover sole, you don’t want to club it over the head with a thumping Australian Chardonnay as the fish won’t stand a chance. Equally, a light young Pinot Noir will be overwhelmed in the company of spiced lamb tagine.

Like to know more about wine?

We hope you’ve found this wine guide useful. If you’d like to explore the world of wine then why not become a Perfect Cellar member? With our exclusive TastingBOXES, interactive tastings via Alexa, and an incredible range of wines, we have everything you need to enjoy finer wine. Perfect.

You may also be interested in reading our red wine guide, white wine guide and sparkling wine guide.

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