The Answer to Every Wine Question You Ever Had

Never be disappointed again by a bad choice or strange flavor, wine knowledge can be mastered.

(Photo: Getty)
(Photo: Getty)

Ever wondered how to taste wine for the fullest effect? What the actual rules are for decanting? To grab some wine hacks, the Observer consulted Keith Beavers of In Vino wine bar in the East Village over a few glasses of a fine Bordolino blend. This self-taught expert is no sommelier nor is he professionally trained. Instead Mr. Beavers immersed himself in the wine world by reading every book he could lay his hands on and quizzing sommeliers.

“I love teaching people about wine,” Mr. Beavers enthusiastically told us as he detailed his weekly wine courses at In Vino and the instructional videos and articles he creates for Vine Pair, one of the most popular wine websites.

Here are his answers to the most tricky wine questions:

How long does a bottle last after opening it?

“Let’s talk about apples,” Mr. Beavers said. “Slice an apple in half, leave it, and it will start to brown. That’s because oxygen is attacking it, and that’s what happens with a bottle of wine.”

The wine is going through a natural process that slowly turns it to vinegar. So, how long wine lasts depends on how long this process takes. The short answer is: Every wine is different. Cheap, manipulated wine will begin to sour, like vinegar, more quickly. Anything above the $15 range will usually be fine for a week at least.

Mr. Beavers’ tip: Have an empty half bottle around the house. If you know you’re not going to finish a whole bottle, pour half into the half bottle and refrigerate it. It will last longer.

What wine should be chilled?

All white wine should be chilled.

Red wine shouldn’t be chilled, but those with high acid, Pinot Noir, for example, can be.

Don’t let a bottle sit in a bucket of ice, though, because it will never open up. Chill it first and then just have it on the table.

(Photo: Wikipedia)
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Can you send back a bottle in a restaurant?

Mr. Beavers admits this is tricky, but he ultimately believes it’s your money and you should enjoy your dining experience. If the wine doesn’t meet your expectation, don’t feel too bad; the restaurant will just serve that bottle by the glass. This situation can be avoided all together if you have a conversation with your server at the start of your meal, explaining the types of wines you enjoy and the ballpark price you are willing to pay.

What’s the correct way to do a wine tasting?

Step 1: Smell the wine

Step 2: Swirl the wine a little. Agitate it. (Note: Doing this while casually drinking does nothing).

Step 3: Smell it again. The scent will be slightly different.

Step 4: “Nose the wine” which means recall scent memory. No need to find the perfect descriptor; just try to find a scent you recognize, even if it’s a simple as a wine you’ve had before.

Step 5: Taste it.

What’s up with decanting?

Most often, decanting is all about the fun of it.

Any wine (white or read) can be decanted, but decanting doesn’t actually improve a wine at all. It does, however, open up the wine more quickly and have benefits for well-aged bottles. Historically, decanting was done out of necessity. The winemaking process has been refined, so there’s no need to decant most bottles today. Doing so for show is, however, fine, it allows the wine to open up a little more quickly.

 So, red wine comes from red grapes and white wine comes from green grapes?

The short answer: Red wine always comes from red grapes, but white wine can come from either.

(Photo: Flickr/wplynn)
(Photo: Flickr/wplynn)

Is a wine’s year always the harvest year?

Yes. Certain wines improve over time, so when shopping for a quality wine, knowing when it was made will give you an idea of where it’s at now in that aging process. Some wines, however, should be drunk in their youth, such as Beaujolais Nouveau in November and Rosé throughout the summer.

What do I need to know about the different types of glasses?

A company created wine glasses for specific wines, but there is doubt that a “merlot glass” gives you “the ultimate merlot experience.” Mr. Beavers and many wine experts believe that was just marketing and a way to sell more glassware. Any stemmed wine glass should do. Stemless glasses do affect a wine’s temperature, but they’re perfect for casual picnic sipping.

The Answer to Every Wine Question You Ever Had