wine beginner

The Beginner's Guide to Buying Wine

The Beginner's Guide to Buying Wine on LibationsAcademy.com

Hey Champ! Are you new to wine and totally freaked out about how and where to buy it? Don't worry, we've all been there. The best way to get comfortable with buying wine is to taste it often, which means...you have to buy wine in order to get comfortable with buying it. Sorry!

But fear not, I have 5 tips for you on how to buy wine when you have NO idea what you're doing. Above all, don't be overwhelmed. Don't think there is some magic secret to buying wine and don't put pressure on yourself to find "the perfect bottle". Just keep trying new things and educating yourself by hanging out with me here at the Libations Academy. 

Watch the video or keep reading below for my beginner's guide to buying wine! 

Want Dani's cheat sheet of wines to buy as a beginner? Get that here! 

How to Open Sparkling Wine

Hey there! I'm so glad you've decided to learn how to open sparkling wine like a pro! Watch the video below to see how to open in action. Please note: opening sparkling wine can be very dangerous. Always make sure to keep the cork pointed AWAY from people when opening. 

 

In today's video, we're going over how to safely open a bottle of Champagne (or Prosecco or Cava or whatever your sparkling wine of choice is). Safety is of the utmost importance here because the last thing you want is for your party to come to a halt because someone got whacked with a flying cork from across the room! 

Here are the proper steps of opening sparkling wine:

  1. Make sure your bottle is chilled. And I mean CHILLED. The warmer a bottle is, the more it will want to release it's pressure, equaling a difficult experience for you. 
  2. Remove the foil from the top of the cage. Place your thumb on top of the cage and loosen it with your other hand (turning the handle 6 times). The cork is now vulnerable to pop off (even with the cage on!). Keep it pointed away from you or other people at all times. 
  3. Keeping your thumb on top of the cork to prevent it from popping out, turn the bottle onto a 45 degree angle. 
  4. With your hand on the top, begin turning the base of the wine slightly to slowly loosen the cork. You can turn it completely around or rock it back and forth (reference the video for this insanely difficult step to put into words!). The cork should begin coming out SLOWLY...keep it where you want it by applying pressure and maintaining control.
  5. As the cork comes out, begin bending it a bit to create an air gap between it and the bottle. This will prevent your bottle from making that loud "POP" noise (which is the ultimate goal, believe it or not). The cork should remove slowly and a small "hiss" should be the only noise coming from it. 

Don't be nervous with this method of opening sparkling wine...it's the method sommeliers use! Sure, I've had bottles completely explode and wine shoots everywhere, but it happens. Just be sure that the cork is never pointed towards anyone or anything that can break! Have fun learning and enjoy your bubbly! 

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How Long Wine Lasts After Opening a Bottle

We all love drinking wine, but what should you do when you can't finish an opened bottle? How long will it still be drinkable? The long answer is...it depends. But the short answer? 1-2 days.

Say what?! Yes! A bottle of wine maybe only has a day or two after it has been opened. After about 48 hours, the flavors in the bottle will have changed so much that the wine will taste drastically different than when you first opened it.

Now, like everything in wine, there are definitely exceptions to what I just told you. If you opened, say, a 4-year old Barolo that was so giant that it needed some time to “open up” and become drinkable, then it will probably be good for a little longer. But we’re talking about everyday wine here, friends. And 90% of wines out there fall into this category. So believe me when I say your wine has 48 hours before it needs to go down the drain.  

So why is there this short timeline for drinking a bottle of wine? Because as soon as you pop that cork or twist off the screw cap, the wine will come into contact with outside air. Oxygen is a big killer of wine and as soon as it touches it, there’s no way to stop its effects. Over time, oxygen essentially turns wine into vinegar. From the moment you open the bottle, changes will start happening to your wine. 

At first, oxygen might “open up” wine a little bit, releasing desirable aromatics and flavors. But as time goes on, those aromatics start changing for the worse--any fruit components go away, tannins and structure deteriorates...it’s a sad process. 

How to Slow Down Your Wine From Going Bad

What can we do about it? Like I said earlier, there’s no going back once that bottle has been opened. But there are some things you can do to help your wine stay fresh a little longer.

If you have decided that you can’t finish a bottle until later, here's what I do: stick the cork back in it (or screw the cap back on) and put the bottle in the refrigerator. Do this no matter if the wine is white, rose, or red. Cooler temperatures in the refrigerator (rather than just leaving the bottle on the counter) will reduce the effects of oxygen in the wine and give your bottle a little more time before changing too much to be undrinkable. Drink the rest of that wine the next day...if you wait any longer, the wine may have changed too much and won't display the flavors that the winery intended it to. 

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There are some other gadgets out there that can help your wine last a little longer, but really nothing more will prolong the aging time to more than an extra day or so. I used to have this suction pump thingy that claimed to suck oxygen out of the bottle to preserve it. It didn’t work for me so I don’t recommend this method.

There’s also wine spray that you can buy at most wine stores and amazon. I personally don’t use this either but know of many restaurants that do...and it works pretty well. All you do is spray it into the inside of the bottle and it pushes out the oxygen and replaces it with heavier argon gas. Still--drink your bottle within a few days of using the wine spray because your wine will still change! Just not as quickly as if you didn’t use it.

The final contraption out there for wine preservation is the Coravin system, which is very pricey (think $200-$300) but pretty effective. A Coravin has a needle that you inject into the cork of an unopened bottle of wine. Then you squeeze a trigger which will dispense wine from the bottle through a spout. It replaces the wine with Argon gas which will not alter the wine, so theoretically no oxygen comes into contact with the wine. Although many people praise the Coravin system, I have witnessed that the wine still changes in the bottle over time...so don't bank on opening a bottle months after being Coravined and having it taste the same way. 

Bottom line--drink your wine within 1 day of opening it. If you don’t finish it, put the cork back in and stick the bottle in the fridge to help keep it fresher longer. If you find yourself with a wine that has been opened for more than 2 days, just taste it to see if it is drinkable. If you still like it, drink it! Otherwise, down the drain it goes!

How to Build a Home Wine Collection: 6 Wines to Start With

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If you are just getting into wine, I bet you don't have a little collection of bottles at your house waiting for you when you want to pop something open. But just like how speeding to the grocery store because you need a loaf of bread is annoying, you shouldn't stay in the habit of having to run out to grab a bottle of wine every time you want one! 

To help you out, I've put together a list of the 6 types of wine to buy for your home collection when you're just starting out. These are my top 6 "staple" wines that I always seem to need for one occasion or another. Start keeping these wines at your house regularly (just 1-2 bottles of each at a time will do just fine!) and you can forget about running to the store whenever you want wine! 

1. Bubbles

Okay, so if there’s ever just ONE bottle of wine to keep at your house at all times, make it bubbly.

First of all, bubbles go with almost everything. Since it is carbonated, it can scrub away flavors in many dishes, refreshing your palate. Second, I’m a firm believer of always having sparkling wine around just in case you need to celebrate something. What if you get a big promotion tomorrow? What if your friend you haven’t seen in months pops by to surprise you? What if your kid got an A in school? These are things to celebrate! There’s nothing easier than having a bottle of sparkling wine on hand for one of those “let’s have a bottle of wine” moments. We easily forget about bubbles, thinking they are only for special occasions...but in truth they are for any occasion! Whether it’s Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or whatever, make sure you’ve got a bottle of sparkling wine available at home.

2. Chardonnay

Other than bubbles, this is the only other white wine that makes the list. That may seem surprising, but honestly...Rose will cover any other white wine situation. Chardonnay comes in all shapes and sizes, but the type of Chardonnay I’m talking about having on hand is full-bodied Chardonnay with creamy, buttery notes. Now...there’s a lot of bad Chardonnay being made in this style, but if the wine is balanced with great acidity and fruit flavors like lemon, apple, and pear...it’s a winner. This style of Chardonnay is going to pair with anything from lemon chicken to fettucine alfredo to popcorn. Apparently I eat a lot of these foods at my house because I’m always running out of Chardonnay!

3. Rosé

Rosé all day everyday! There is truth to this phrase in that Rosé pairs with almost everything, which is why you should always keep a bottle of it at your house! Rosé has flavors of a red wine but drinks like a white, making it incredibly versatile. Rosé is my go-to for daydrinking as well so...always gotta have it available. Side note on Rosé though: it doesn’t stay fresh very long (only about a year) so make sure you drink it!

4. Pinot Noir

Being the lightest of the major red grape varietals, Pinot Noir finds itself in many wine drinking situations. I personally love Pinot Noir with earthy dishes, especially ones that feature mushrooms. Other light dishes like salmon and chicken also go great with it. I actually don’t drink Pinot Noir as much as some of the other wines I’ve suggested here, but it would be really terrible to need it and not have it available. Keep one around!

5. Sangiovese

Spaghetti, anyone? I am CONSTANTLY needing to replenish my supply of Sangiovese because I’m always drinking it. You may know this grape variety better by the region it is most famous from...Chianti. Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in Italy and for a good reason...it goes so well with Italian food! The wine is high in acidity which goes great with foods that are also high in acidity...especially anything with tomatoes. Since tomato sauce is a staple in my household, I always find myself reaching for a bottle of Sangiovese over any other red wine in my house.

6. Cabernet Sauvignon

Last but not least, we can’t forget about Cabernet Sauvignon! This is the most in-demand wine in the world and the easiest wine to pour when company comes over. One of your friends may not like Sangiovese or Rosé, but he or she probably won’t complain if you give them Cab! Steak and Cab are best friends, by the way, so if you’re a meat eater like me you will find yourself sipping on it often.

There you have it my friends, these are the 6 styles of wine that I always have around and what I suggest you start out with in your home collection! Add any other styles that you love and don’t forget to try new things! As time goes on, you  will find your own wines that you need to have around all the time. Let me know in the comments below if there are any wines besides the ones I suggested that you NEED to keep at home!

Wine Aromas: What to Smell for in Wine

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When you stick your nose into a glass of wine, do you just smell....wine? 

We've all been there, I promise. Actually, it's pretty normal to only smell "wine" when you are not a seasoned wine taster because your brain is trying to make things easy for you. Although there are a ton of different compounds in wine that your brain can detect, why would it confuse you with that? Instead, your brain sends out one signal: you're smelling wine. 

Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses out there, linking many aromas to memories (and is one of the reasons why experienced wine tasters have less risk of getting alzheimer's disease...score!). Remember that scene in Ratatouille where the food critic is taken back to his childhood after tasting the ratatouille served to him? You might give credit to the flavors of the food giving him that flashback, but really...its the aromas and his sense of smell doing the work.

This is why smelling your wine before tasting it is so important. Your nose deciphers what is going on in your glass, then your palate just confirms it.

So, how do we train our brains to dig deeper than just smelling "wine"?The easiest way to start is to look for fruit that you might be smelling (and don't say "grapes!"...most wines do not smell grapey). Do you smell fruit? Ask your brain what kind of fruit. You could be smelling citrus, tropical fruit, red fruit, black fruit, or tree fruit. Then dig deeper...lets say you smell red fruit in your wine. Is it strawberry, cherry, cranberry, raspberry, or redcurrant? Is it unripe, ripe, jammy, baked, dried, or overripe? See where I'm going with all these questions? Just dig deeper and make your brain work a bit. It will be hard at first, but in no time you will be smelling your grandpa's pipe tobacco or that time you were finger painting in preschool. 

Check out the video above, and make sure to download the Wine Aroma Cheat Sheet I've created to help you pick out what you may be smelling!

Final note: Don't be afraid of being "wrong" when picking out aromas in wine. Everything is subjective and there are no wrong smells out there. If your brain says you smell a shoe store in a glass of Cabernet, write it down. As you get better at smelling wine, you might calibrate your brain to recognize that shoe store aroma as leather, but you'll never get there if you don't explore first. Have fun with this and don't be intimidated. It just takes practice! Happy smelling my friend! 

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How to Taste Wine Like a Sommelier

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Hey there wine taster! Welcome to the beginning of an amazing journey through the world of wine. Today I want to help you learn how to stop DRINKING wine and start tasting wine.

What’s the big difference between drinking wine and tasting wine? Your whole life, you’ve been drinking it (or...I guess...you’ve been drinking it since you’ve been ALLOWED to). You might swirl it around, smell it a bit, and take a sip. You determine that you like it or dislike it, but that’s about it. You’re not making your brain work too hard to think about what exactly it is that you’re tasting and why you like or dislike it. And because of that, you’re not doing yourself any favors if you are interested in becoming a better wine taster (and wine enthusiast in general).

From this moment forward, I want you to dig deeper and really THINK about the wine in front of you. Really look at it. Really smell it and try to pick out 3-5 things you specifically smell. If you smell something sweet, dig deeper. If you smell something fruity, dig deeper. What kind of fruit? Is it tart, ripe, jammy, or dried? Then taste your wine, and really explore what it is that you’re tasting. How is the mouthfeel? How long does the wine linger? (So many questions!)

It might be really hard at first as a beginner wine taster (do you often just smell “wine”?), but practice is all you need to get better! One of the easiest ways to get over the “I smell wine” hurdle I so often come across with students is to smell and taste two wines side by side. Your brain may not know exactly what is different about the two, but it will be able to distinguish at least that there IS a difference. From there, you can continue training your brain to eventually pick out specific aromas and flavors that are going on in whichever glass is in front of you.

Check out the video below for the exact wine tasting process I teach to beginners. Then, start practicing as much as you can! (wink wink)

Cheers!