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Randall Murray: Basic tools of the trade to become a wine connoisseur
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When purchasing wine glasses, buy ones with a flat or beveled rim. Then you may select a wine glass for each specific wine if you wish. Wine glasses, from left: The broader-based glass with the wider opening is for red wines. A narrower, tulip-shaped glass is for whites. The thin, tall glass called a flute is for Champagne or sparkling wine. The final glass is for red, white or rose wines.

WINE OF THE MONTH

Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2013

The wine: Lush but dry white table wine

The grapes: 100 percent chardonnay

The source: Napa Valley

The verdict: Looking for a memorable gift for the wine geek in your life? Try this terrific, classic chardonnay from one of California’s terrific, classic wineries. Sequoia Grove’s cabernet sauvignon has for many years wound up on my top 10 list of cabs. This equally impressive chardonnay follows close behind. Sequoia Grove is not one of those ultra-exclusive producers that trot out 500 cases of $150-a-bottle wine that wind up in high-end eateries or collectors’ cellars. Nearly 5,500 cases of this Chardonnay left the winery and should be available in better Georgia wine stores with just a little searching. I love the full, defined flavors of this wine. I was surprised to learn it had not undergone malolactic fermentation, a process that softens the wine. This is soft, but well-defined by lots of hands-on tender loving care and oak barrels. What makes it even better is this wine will age well for three to five years. So buy a bunch; some to drink now and some to save.

The price: About $30

OK, so I’ve finally convinced you not to cower and snivel when somebody asks, “Hey, you got any wine here?” “Here,” of course, being your own abode.

It’s not that complicated, like wine itself.

Wine is just old grape juice invaded by yeasts, which ate up nearly all of the sugar in the juice and created alcohol, which killed the yeasts. Then it got stuffed into bottles.

Simple.

So is serving wine. You need some basic tools, equipment and knowledge.

As for the knowledge, start with the “Dummies” books. The best is “Wine For Dummies,” which will tell you all you need to know about locating a good wine, getting it home, storing it and serving it.

There also is “Red Wine For Dummies,” “White Wine For Dummies” and now “Champagne (and sparkling wine) for Dummies.”

These books rip out the pretense, myth and mystique to make the neophyte wino comfortable. And you know who you are. Your palms start to flush when handed the dreaded “Wine List.”

GLASSES

Next, glassware.

You need not go out and blow $50 a stem for Reidel or Spiegelau glasses. Yes, they are very nice. But really, you have better ways to spend your children’s inheritance.

You can find some nice stems for $8-$15 per glass.

But make sure to check the rims. A rolled or rounded rim will generally be found on cheaper glassware. But a flat, or beveled, rim is the mark of quality.

Why is that important? It isn’t, really.

Purists will squawk the rounded rim interferes with the flow of the wine into the mouth. Purists say things like that. But you will find that better glassware generally has the beveled edge.

Check the photos on this page for which glass to use for different types of wines.

Broader-based glass with the wider opening is for red wines. A narrower, tulip-shaped glass is for whites. The thin, tall, elegant glass called a flute is for Champagne or sparkling wine.

There’s a fourth glass pictured. If you don’t want to fuss with different glasses, then it’s appropriate for red, white or rose wines. The flutes, however, are de rigueur for bubbly.

CORKSCREWS, ETC.

Your next issue is getting the wine from the bottle and into the glass. Many wines today — including very good ones — are sealed not with a cork, but with a screw top.

That’s great! No worries about a corkscrew.

But for cork-finished wines invest in a little gizmo (see the photo) called a foil cutter. Snug it up against the foil covering the cork and twist. Sharp little blades slice the foil into a coin-sized circle. Then grab your corkscrew.

As I mentioned in December’s column, I finally broke down and got a battery-operated corkscrew. My choice, after much research, is made by Oster. For the opener and charger, I paid about $26. It, too, is pictured here.  By the way, the foil cutter that came with this gadget (not the one pictured) is less than useful.

For 30 years or so, I used only the Screwpull manual corkscrew. And it’s still a wonderful piece of equipment. It boasts a long, thin, Teflon-coated screw that handles all sorts of corks with ease.

It does require a bit more work than the Oster. But in pulling thousands of corks over the decades I can count on 1 1/2 hands the number of times a Screwpull has let me down. And the Screwpull foil cutter is great! (That’s pictured.)

MISCELLANEOUS

Another 21st century item I’ve embraced is the aerator.

This thingy plugs into the neck of the bottle and breaks the flow into three or four separate streams when you pour the wine. This simple action exposes more wine to more air, making a significant difference in aroma and flavor.

Aerators are used for young, red wines; almost never with whites.

It’s also nice to have chilling sleeves on hand for getting white, rose and sparkling wines cold quickly and keeping them cold. They are filled with a gel and you keep them in the freezer until needed.

Sleeves for regular bottles will not fit over a Champagne/sparkling wine bottle. You must get one made specifically for the bubbly stuff.

Other gadgets — some cheap, some overpriced, some totally unnecessary — are available. But here’s your basic toolbox for enjoying wine with friends and family.

Keep repeating this mantra: “It’s really simple, it’s really simple.”

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at murrwine@aol.com. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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