Taste wine like a pro

How can you tell if a wine is corked? What are legs? Get answers from Sunset wine editor Sara Schneider

Diane DiPrima

Wine tasting:
 1. Swirl. Gently swirl the wine in the glass to release the aromas.
 2. See. Look at the wine's color; it sets up expectations. Red wine picks up color as it picks up flavor from the skins and seeds. Wine with an intense color is likely to have an intense flavor. Keep in mind that red wine lightens with age, and white wine darkens with age.
 3. Sniff. Get your nose in the glass, you can't be polite about it. The first sniffs tell you the most; it's best to take a few quick sniffs instead of one long sniff.
 4. Sip. Keep the wine in your mouth to taste it for 3 to 4 seconds, swirl it around all over your tongue. Experts pull air through the wine while it's in their mouths.

Q. Is there a proper way to open wine?

A. Cut the foil first. It's not always easy to cut it cleanly. Next, use any number of wine openers as long as the worm is a helix ― a coil wrapped around a cylinder. That shape ensures that the screw follows the path of the point exactly, causing as little damage as possible to the cork.

The Butlers Friend is a two-pronged wine opener. It was used by butlers to open wine without placing a hole in the cork. The butler could drink a little wine, fill the bottle with something else and replace the cork without detection.

Q. Which are better, corks or screw caps ?

A. I think the world needs more screw caps. All white wines should be in screw caps with maybe the exception on a really good Riesling that has a chance of aging. Whites stay fresher with screw caps.

Q. Do you really need different glasses for different types of wine?

A. One good set of wine glasses is fine. Some types of glasses are better for certain types of wine but they are not so much better that you should waste anxiety over it. A rule to follow is never use a glass that's more expensive than you can afford to break.

The glass you choose should have a big enough bowl to swirl wine in without it splashing out of the glass. Both red and white wine should get swirled to release aromas before drinking. It's also nice to have a thin rim on the glass. Wine going over a thin rim just seems more fun than it going over a thick rim. Thin-rimmed wine glasses are usually more expensive than thick-rimmed glasses.

Wine glass guidelines:
• Glasses with a wider bowl are good for red Burgundy (made from Pinot Noir grapes). It's a delicate wine without a heavily tannic structure.
• Wide but vertical glasses are good for Bordeaux, Cabernet, Merlot, those varieties that are more tannic.

Q. How much wine should you pour?

A. Most people overfill the glass. As a rule of thumb, fill the glass no more than ⅓ full. This leaves enough space to swirl the wine.

Q. Are lead crystal wine glasses safe?

A. There seems to be little evidence that lead leaches from glass in the amount of time it takes to consume a glass of wine. It's officially considered safe by the government.

They have done a lot of tests. It's true that if an acidic beverage like wine sits in a lead crystal vessel for a long long time, the lead can start leaching out of the glass. It's probably not advisable to let wine sit in a lead crystal decanter for a long time.

The benefit of lead in glass is that it makes the glass much more brilliant. It seems to make your wine better.

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