For most wine consumers, the beverage stirs passions and engenders great affection. Most of us who really like wine have memories going back many years to a certain bottle or glass of wine on a specific occasion, special or not. At our wine dinner just this past week, one of the folks at our table asked: “what was the first wine when you drank it, you really got the whole thing?”
The whole thing, I took to mean, was the nuance of the wine and the realization that it was something I would love. I didn’t hesitate. For me, it was a bottle of 1982 Jordan Cabernet. I was in a steak house in Dallas and the wine was spectacular. I knew it right then.
For the memories it creates, the mystique that surrounds a really great bottle of wine or the relationships it fosters between friends and family — it matters how wine is presented. Maybe not every time, but most times wine is worthy of a nice and well thought out presentation. I understand, as much as any wine consumer, that on a Wednesday after a long day, my first thought is wondering which bottle has a twist cap and hoping that there’s a clean glass left in the cabinet. But on a weekend or when having friends over to dinner or when you are headed out to dinner, it is nice to go through the ceremony and use your best wine accouterments.
The next time you are about to open your better-than-average Wednesday-night-wine and you will actually sit down with others for a nice meal — pull out the decanter. If you don’t have a decanter you may want to make the investment. We sell them in the shop starting at about $50 and it should be part of every wine consumers repertoire. I will tell you it makes an impressive and important visual statement on any table. For a wine you want to soften a bit by exposing it a bit more to oxygen, this is the least manipulative way to accomplish it. You will notice a difference in the wine, all while making an impressive presentation.
If you haven’t yet made the investment in a nice set of wine glasses you should. The biggest difference and the most important thing to look for is a cut-edge glass as opposed to a rolled-edge glass. A cut-edge is much thinner, allowing the wine to hit your palate more cleanly. Cut-edge is available in glass and crystal, so while a set of nice Riedel stemware makes for a great presentation, you can accomplish the same thing at a more gentle price if you prefer. We have cut-edge glass and crystal, stemmed and stemless, starting at $8 in the shop. We also carry the full line of Riedel which, if you can afford them, are great glasses. Regardless of your choice, you will notice the difference in look, taste and feel.
Wine openers range from the utilitarian to the great looking. Most times you just want to get into the bottle of wine, and we all have our favorite style of opener for getting the cork out quickly and cleanly. Sometimes when you want to make for a more elegant presentation it is nice to pull out an elegant wine opener. They will cost a bit more money but will look better on your table when not deployed to remove a cork. The waiters’ style corkscrew, from Laguiole, France, will look great on your table and also makes for a really nice gift. While many wine consumers are intimidated by using the standard waiters’ style, they are not hard to use and there are a couple of easily learned tricks. Stop by the shop to pick one out and we will show you how to use it so your presentation is seamless.
The last part of presenting a really nice glass of wine is the trick of pouring the wine without the drip running down the side of the bottle. While there are some gadgets that help stop the drip, there is also a trick to it — no need to invest any money in the solution. Pour the wine in a steady stream and at the last minute, turn your wrist so that your hand will be on the underside of the bottle and tip it up to stop pouring at the same time. It will take a bit of practice to get the timing down, but it will make for a lovely presentation.
While no great presentation will make a wine taste better, it sure doesn’t hurt to have the wine, and your service of it, look good too.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.