Wine is highly subjective. Most people know what they like — and what they don’t — after the first sip. But when it comes to vino 101, do you even have a clue? What’s the proper temperature to serve wine, for example? And how should decanters be used and wine be stored if you don’t have access to a cellar? Just how long can you keep that open bottle before it’s undrinkable? If you’ve asked yourself any of the above at some point, you’re not alone, and we’re here to help, along with Bob Bertheau, head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Get ready to pour a glass in honor of your new #SommStatus.

Brit + Co: At what temperature should wine should be served?

Bob Bertheau: In general, white, rosé, and sparkling wines are served at cooler temperatures than red wines. I personally like aromatic white varietals like Riesling to be served nice and cold, around 45 degrees. For richer, rounder chardonnays, I like them slightly warmer at 55 to 58 degrees. Most red wines should be served in the low 60 degrees so they can warm up slightly in the glass. Often red wines are served too warm to begin with.

B+C: How long can wine be left in the refrigerator?

BB: An opened bottle of red or white wine will keep well for about three to four days in the refrigerator, but be sure to re-cork the bottle before putting it there. Take the red wine out of the fridge about a half hour before serving to warm it up slightly. By all means never leave an open bottle of wine on the counter as it won’t stay as fresh as long.

B+C: Do you have to serve white wine with fish and red wine with meat?

BB: A big cabernet, Bordeaux-style blend, or Washington merlot cuts through the full body and richness of steak, and I personally like our Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot ($20) for its dark berry fruit flavors and elegant tannins. But honestly a white is fine too, if that’s what you like drinking. Heavier fish like salmon can also pair nicely with a red wine like pinot noir or merlot.

B+C: What’s the deal with uncorking wine and letting it “breathe”?

BB: Just opening the cork isn’t really going to benefit the wine. Younger, bigger reds can be tight and will benefit from having time to open up in the glass or a decanter before being served. I recommend pouring whatever amount of the wine you anticipate serving into the decanter.

B+C: If a wine has a twist-off cap, does that mean it is of lesser quality than wine with a cork?

BB: Not at all. We are finding that twist-off closures are great for keeping wines fresh, and consumers like how easy they are to open. We still like traditional corks for red wines meant to be aged longer, but we are putting more of our wines under Stelvin twist-off closures.

B+C: What’s the proper way to taste wine? Are we all doing it wrong?

BB: Fill about a quarter of the glass with wine, then swirl the wine in your glass. This will help the wine open up and release the aromas in the glass. Smell the wine — what do you smell? For white wines maybe fruit aromas of apple or citrus and for reds, perhaps cherry, blackberry, and blueberry depending on the wine. What spice notes do you smell? Spices and aromas like vanilla, toast, pepper, chocolate, and coffee come from the oak barrels used to age the wine. Now sip the wine and let it linger in your mouth. Pay attention to the wine’s texture and weight in your mouth. What are the initial flavors? Note the aftertaste — how long does the finish last? And most importantly do you like the wine? It’s all about finding a wine you enjoy.

B+C: How does rosé get its pink hue — by mixing white and red grapes?

BB: Rosé is a red wine made like a white wine. After being harvested, the red grapes are left on the skins for a period of time to allow the grapes to extract just the right amount of pink berry color from the skins, leaving delicate, bright fruit flavors and aromas. The juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks for three weeks to maintain the fresh fruit flavors.

B+C: If I don’t have a wine cellar, can I still age my wine?

BB: The key is to store wines in a consistent cool temperature away from direct light. Big red wines really do benefit from proper storage of 62 degrees or cooler, for long-term storage.

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