When we move into new digs, one of the first things we do is to arrange the place so it suits us.
Hanging pictures, moving furniture, painting, and numerous other activities — it normally take months, if not years, to get it right.
Fixing wine after you get it home from the store is easier, but some people feel compelled to simply consume it just as it comes from the winery. Open it, pour, sip.
But some wines are not in a perfect state to appreciate without a quick fix. For instance, white wines generally are chilled first.
Most people have no real understanding about how enjoyable wine can be when is repaired properly. Of course, most wine doesn’t need fixing, but some do. Here are several ideas that can measurably improve your enjoyment of everyday wines.
Thirty-odd years ago, I had lunch with the late Pete Seghesio at the family home on a hot August afternoon. Pete poured the winery’s latest Zinfandel.
“The alcohol is 14 percent,” he said. “Too much,” so he added a healthy splash of water to his wine glass. “It’s better this way,” he said.
I have used this tactic ever since. Some wines simply have too much weight. Any wine with 15 percent-16 percent alcohol is a candidate to improve with a little water. A dash of water can open up the aromatics and make the wine that much more enjoyable.
Another way to do this is with a small ice cube. Many red wines are served far too warm to enjoy. Reds ideally should be at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, not room temperature, which is too warm for enjoyment.
Especially with higher-alcohol wines, a small ice chip plopped into the glass not only cools the liquid to a more appropriate temperature, but as it melts it helps to tame the heat of excessive alcohol.
But be careful. Too much water can dilute some wines too much.
A variation on this can help all wines that are too warm, especially whites.
If you don’t want to dilute the flavors, but haven’t got the time to refrigerate a bottle long enough to cool it down, go to a local kitchen supplies or gadget store for small water-filled plastic cubes that can be frozen and stored in the freezer.
We have a dozen available at all times in a covered glass dish in our freezer, and regularly use them when we want to consume a white or sparkling wine from the cellar that isn’t cold enough.
Chilling rocks, stones, and metal cubes do the same thing, but most tend to lose their cold temperature more quickly and are far more expensive.
Plastic ones may be found for $5 or less for two dozen.
(Tip: Buy a set and test them in a delicately scented white wine such as Pinot Gris to see if they impart any plastic aroma to the wine. Some cubes do, some do not.)
To improve the aroma of almost all wines — white, red, and pink — I often decant young wines to aerate them.
Many white wines these days have trace amounts of sulfur dioxide, which is used in virtually all wine to protect the fruit and keep them aromatically appropriate.
This is especially helpful for wines that are sealed with screwcaps, many of which are made reductively and which can have slightly aberrant aromas.
Very tannic red wines can be hard to swallow (literally!), so decanting them is a great idea. Aeration helps in tannin management.
If you know the wine well, sometimes decanting it a day before you consume it is best! Local wine and port collector Bob Andrews routinely decants wines like Barolo and vintage Ports a day before the wine will be consumed. I have never known a single bottle of his to be harmed by this practice; in every case, the tactic was brilliant: a wine that had had enough aeration to benefit.)
Some years ago, I asked a winemaker friend what he did when he encountered a sauvignon blanc that was very bland and had no particular varietal aroma or taste.
“Add a tiny drop of Tabasco to your glass,” he said, adding that it improved the Sauvignon Blanc varietal character.
“But not two drops!” he warned.
Most people who encounter red wines with a slight vinegary aroma are put off and usually dump it into the sink.
Last week, the last two ounces of a bottle of syrah that we had consumed days earlier developed some volatility. Instead of dumping it, we added it to our pasta sauce and allowed it to cook until all the alcohol was gone! The added flavor was excellent.
Wine Item of the Week: Govino Decanter ($14.95): This slender BPA-free polymer decanter is unbreakable and holds 28 ounces, so it allows the decanting of full bottles (less than 26 ounces). Govino, the same company that makes the unbreakable polymer stemless wine glasses for use on patios, pool decks, and when camping, just announced a new version of this decanter with a cover to protect a wine from actually losing its more delicate aromas. And the new version is dishwasher safe. You can find them on www.Govino.com.