Wine Talk: Keep it simple

In time for the High Holy Days, here’s a short guide to buying, storing, drinking and cooking with wine.

Wine (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Most of the wine one purchases is drunk at home, so it is important to feel comfortable with the use of wine, a subject that can be so daunting.
This is my unsophisticated guide to enjoying wine at home.
Purchasing Buy wine in a supermarket where the wines are kept well and there is a quick turnover. If you need advice, a specialist wine shop is a better place to buy. Remember, these days there are wonderful wines that cost less than NIS 40. You do not have to buy expensively to drink well. However, the cheapest wine is never the best bargain.
Packaging costs (label, capsule, cork, bottle) are roughly the same. So the difference between a bottle that costs NIS 20 and one for NIS 40 is the wine itself.
Remember where and who you are.
Don’t automatically go for the import. Just because it is Chateau Something from France doesn’t mean it is better than the equivalent Israeli wine.
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Storing wine is a food product that will deteriorate if left in the wrong conditions. so avoid direct sunlight or direct heat on the bottles from any appliances. lay the bottle down so the cork stays moist. if you don’t have a wine rack, then a wine carton makes a perfect rack. you can find an empty one at your local supermarket.
lay the bottle-filled carton on its side or place it upright with the bottles of wine upside down.
To open a bottle of wine, use a bottle opener you can work with. There are all sorts of contraptions, and there is no shame in using the one that works for you.
Wines with synthetic corks and screw caps are okay. Many quality wineries use these for good wines, so don’t consider it less of a wine just because it has a screw cap.
Temperatures The labels on the backs of wine bottles explain the various degrees at which the wines should be served. However, this is too much information. No one knows the difference between 12º or 14º or 6º and 8º, so let’s not be pretentious. Who has thermometers to check wine temperatures, anyway? Instead, put your hand on the bottle and you’ll know instinctively if is very cold, cold, chilled or at room temperature.
Basically all sparkling, sweet or inexpensive white wines should be served very cold. If that means putting a bottle in the freezer, so be it. Just don’t forget it! Most better quality white wines should be cold, and light red wines should be chilled.
Actually, in the Israeli climate and with our high alcohol contents, I put all my reds in a domestic fridge for 20 minutes before serving, even the expensive ones – or, rather, especially the expensive ones. So much for wine snobbery! It comes out slightly chilled, not too cold, and will warm up in the glass.
Serving Everyone asks if they should open a bottle to let it breathe. In truth, this is a waste of time because the only part of the wine that is exposed to the air is the bit in the neck of the bottle. Best is to tip the wine out into a carafe or water pitcher, and then pour it back into the bottle. The wine will be softer, more approachable, and you will have the pleasure of serving it from the bottle.
You need one wine glass (per person) to enjoy wine. Buy a glass that feels good to you in terms of stem, a reasonable size, not too small, and one that is hardy enough for the dishwasher. When you pour wine, the glass should be half full, no more. As you finish pouring, twist the bottle slightly.
It will make you look professional and avoid drips.
If you know in advance that you are not going to drink the whole bottle, immediately after you pour the wine, put the cork back in. If it doesn’t fit in, then try it upside down. It will go in more easily.
Then put the bottle, whether red or white, in the fridge. This will slow down the aging process. Remember, the enemy is air, so if you want to save half a bottle, it is better not to leave it open to the air during the meal. A bottle like this will last a good few days. No need to buy any of the vacuum wine savers, which are sometimes not as good as the advertisements say. You can always transfer a bottle of wine into a small empty mineral-water bottle. You can squeeze the plastic bottle as you fill it to ensure there is no air in it.
Which wine with what food? It doesn’t matter. Good wine goes with good food and good company. Drink what you like. If you want to think about it beforehand, match the wine to the mood, not the food.
Opening sparkling wine warrants attention because a flying cork is dangerous.
Undo the wire surrounding the stopper with a finger on the top of the bottle at all times. Then point the bottle away from people, hold the cork in one hand and the bottle in the other and gently rotate the bottle, while easing the cork.
The cork should make a sound like an erotic sigh rather than a loud pop. Fill the glass slowly at a slant, and it will help you to avoid spillage.
Cooking Cooking with wine is important, but don’t cook with undrinkable wine. The cooking will only concentrate the unpleasant flavors. On the other hand, you don’t need to cook with an expensive wine, either. Use wine to keep fish moist or as a marinade for meat. It is a useful way to color a sauce. Add wine early on in the cooking process, and you will get the wine sans alcohol, well integrated in the dish. Add late, and you will get more wine flavor.
Pour a spare bottle of mediocre wine into a pan. Boil the ingredients to get rid of the alcohol. Then pour the wine into an icecube tray and freeze it. You’ll then have cubes of wine flavor to use in cooking without having to open a special bottle.
Wine does not have to be complicated.
Don’t get bent out of shape trying to be an expert or be under pressure to do things right. All that matters is to open that bottle and just enjoy it!
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery. He regularly writes about wines in Israeli and international publications. [email protected].