10 Common Wine Questions Answered by a Wine Expert

Learning about wine can be a little intimidating and a whole lot of fun! Our wine expert, Ian Blackburn, answered some common questions people have about drinking wine and learning about wine.

How long can I keep a bottle of wine once it’s opened?

Typically, wines last a day or two once opened. Here are a few things you can do to help it last longer!

1) Refrigerate the wine. Wines go "off" once they have been opened because they are interacting with oxygen while warm. Cool the wine and you slow down the rate of those reactions. 

2) Removing the oxygen from the bottle (or limiting headspace) helps to limit the reaction. 

3) Coravin has a great product that makes your wine last longer once it’s been opened! Click here to learn more.

Why do I get headaches when drinking wine? Is it from the sulfites?

Sulfites are blamed for many issues - but are often not the cause.  If you are sensitive to Sulfites - you know it …. Sulfites in wine are very limited; in fact, did you know they are a naturally occurring substance?  Sulfites are found in quantity many dried fruits, juices, and foods like bacon!  With wine production, sulfites are added as a protective measure to limit oxidation, spoilage and/or bacteriological issues. Sulfites cause very severe allergic reactions to those who are sensitive, but allergies to sulfites are actually extremely rare. Many people only get headaches from red wine. The cause of these headaches is most likely the histamines and other complex organisms that grapes carry on their skins. Don’t forget, wine contains alcohol and the body absorbs alcohol very quickly…. add a few histamines and bam! 

At which temperature should I drink my wine? 

We tend to drink red wines too warm, and white wines too cold.  I am the person at the restaurant whom is putting their red wine in the ice bucket and leaving my wine wine out of the ice.

Below is the recommended temperature serving list.

Ideal Temperatures:

  • Sparkling Wine 40 – 55°
  • White Wine 45 – 60°
  • Red Wine 50 – 64° with a growing trend of drinking reds colder and colder.

What’s the best way to learn about wine?

To learn about wine, you just have to experience as much wine as possible (no great hardship, right?). Go to tastings whenever you can and ask questions. When dining out, order a glass that you aren’t familiar with and open up a search on your phone. Host comparative tastings with friends and read as much about wine as possible.  Remember the process should be fun and relax & enjoy it!  We also recommend classes and tastings organized by reputable organizations such as LearnAboutWine.com

What makes a wine buttery?

Typically - we are talking about white wine (a buttery red would most likely be flawed), and the white wine has probably gone through a secondary fermentation known as MLF or Malo-lactic Fermentation.  California Chardonnay is typically where we see this occur - as the warm climate of California ripens the fruit and also leaves less total acidity in the wine.  When MLF takes place the notable aromas are more detectable in this environment - and promoted by use of Oak and time on lees.  There are mass market wines that really lean into this style and thus the high end wine market is pushing back and focusing more on balanced wine. 

What are “legs”?

Have you heard the phrase “That wine has great legs”? Legs typically result in wines with higher levels of alcohol.  Alcohol can cling to the glass and resemble “viscosity” - but probably has as much to do with porosity of the glass and the temperature of the wine (this may require more advanced physics and chemistry to explain further) When you swirl your wine, take some time to investigate the slow drip down the side of the glass; If the legs that run down the side of the glass are thin and move quickly, the wine probably has a slightly lower alcohol content. If the legs are thicker and move slower, this could indicate a higher alcohol percentage…. but again, there are a number of possible influences to this wine phenomenon.  

What is a tannin?

Tannins are naturally occurring compounds that exist inside grape skins, seeds and stems and can also exist in the oak barrels. The scientific word for these compounds is polyphenols. Polyphenols release from the skins, seeds and stems when they soak in the grape juice and are what give certain wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, their characteristic dryness. You experience the effect of tannins any time you drink a wine that creates a drying sensation in your mouth and some people feel it on the teeth and tongue.  Think of a cup of tea that has the tea bag left inside for too long… and its bitter… so we add cream and sugar to bring it into balance.  With wine, we tend to use the oak and blend various varieties together in the wine (even in tiny amounts) to make the tannins more enjoyable and less harsh.  

What’s the deal with screwtop wines?

Screwtops are quickly replacing natural cork in many wines of the world. Natural corks are naturally irregular and good cork is increasing in cost drastically. Natural cork also has an opportunity to become “corked”: a cork taint known as TCA infects the wines and steals away the freshness of the wine, leaving a wine to smell stale, like wet cardboard.  Screwtops are perfectly uniform and provide a tight seal for wine, avoiding the issues that might arise with cork-finished bottles.  Optimally, any wine that your going to drink in the near term could switch to screwcap without issue, and debates continue about how wines age under the stevin (a leading brand of screwcap).  Amazingly, cork was used to close the bottle but there maybe more benefits to the exchange of oxygen than we first realized and thus the search for truth and the debate continues…. but never assume a screwcap wine is inferior to a wine with a cork. Stevin is not your grandmother's screwcap.

How should I store my wine?

Wines are affected by heat, light, and vibration. The tricks to storing wine are simple. 

1) Store your wine in a room that is consistently below 70F (optimally at 55 degrees in a wine cellar) with little temperature variation. 

2) Keep it dark - as light breaks wine down… and hopefully the room is not overly dry as well… as wines can evaporate and if the room is too warm and too dry...evaporation can be harmful.

3) Keep the bottle laying on its side to keep the cork wet and limit the cork from drying out.

4) Leave the bottle alone until you’re ready to enjoy it - wine bottles enjoy little movement, change of temperature and or light/heat/oxygen.

Is drinking wine good for you?

Please note we recommend you talk with your personal health advisor; but in general, one glass a day is considered healthy. Benefits to heart health, blood health, and brain health are continuing to be discovered…. so a glass or two a day may be exactly what the doctor orders.  Please note that American doctors tend to be much more conservative than European doctors - in Europe - wine is considered more of a medicine while in America - it is often considered more of a drug.  Doctor's advice will vary.  

If you have more wine questions you'd like answered, leave a comment below! We will have it answered and add it to our blog!

If you're looking for an online wine store to buy wine from, Merchant of Wine online wine store has 500+ wines from around the world at incredible prices.  Check It Out HERE!

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