Let's briefly look at the 'art' of drinking and enjoying wine.
Some people cellar wine and wait for it's 'evolution' to occur, others simply consume and enjoy. We can explore a little of both worlds.
We will draw attention to the standard procedures of evaluating wine.
Firstly we note the colour of the wine in the glass.
Ranging from clear to golden (hopefully not brown) for whites and pale crimson to inky black for reds. What ever colour you choose to describe it, it should not carry any haze and should hopefully be bright. Some older wines show some hues of brown, however this can also be indicative of poorly made, poorly sealed or poorly handled or poorly stored wine before it has been presented to you.
Next we note how the wine smells.
The aroma (derived from the grape) and bouquet (derived from the wine making process) will vary in concentration from non-existent, to almost over powering in some wines. Each variety can offer it's signature presenting florals and aromatics of spices, fruits and vegetation through to bouquets of earthiness, timbers and fragrances.
The olfactory system in our nose is more delicately structured and sensitive than out palate. We are afterall, in a base way, checking to see whether or not we should consume this potentially harmful substance. In the jungle (more often concrete), this is how it is done.
The 'nose' of a wine can give away many things including the variety of a wine i.e. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, the age of a wine, and the wine making process to some degree e.g. perhaps a waft of coconut and vanilla in a Shiraz may lead you to believe there are tell tale signs of American Oak used in the wine making process?
Now the flavour.
When sipping from the glass you naturally take in small amounts of air from the glass containing the volatiles that we have just experienced on our nose. As the wine floods the tongue, the four main regions of the tongue identify bitterness, acidity, saltiness and sweetness. Working in unison, an overall flavour is tasted and we begin to pigeon hole them into likes and dislikes and then degrees of these. Generally speaking we are categorical and dismiss the pursuit of trying to work out why we don't like the taste of something. However, if we do, we tend to explore this further, some more than others.
We also experience sensations on our tongue, separate to flavours, that may impact our overall judgement of a wine. Some tannins, say a Cabernet Sauvignon offers a very drying grainy or chalky experience which may not appeal to some. Other wines may offer an almost viscous or cloying mouthfeel that is hard to lose, not uncommon in some sweet whites. Some love it, others don't. The more experiences you have, the more you begin to identify and target the wines that best suit your palate, at the moment.
Some wines can be cellared successfully if they have followed some key points;
They are kept relatively cool (8-15 degrees is best)
The temperature doesn't fluctuate (highly variable temperatures means the wine will expand with heat and contract with cold, each time sucking a tiny fraction of air in to the bottle which contains oxygen that is harmful to the preservation agents in the wine)
There is no sunlight (wine and U.V. don't mix, and more heat)
No vibration (the wine settle out too quickly, or not at all)
That you have the discipline to let them be
It is good to remember to tag your wines with the procurement date, from whom, when it is suggested to consume, and to record succesive tasting of more than one bottle to help gauge when to consume the majority, and what to avoid if dissapointing.
An investment in a thermastatically controlled wine fridge could be your answer to ensuring you get the best life out of your wine. Otherwise head for a cool, dark central point in your house that rarely gets opened and won't be effected by our harsh Summers.
Decanting can enhance the flavour of wines. This is the act of pouring from the bottle to another vessel, usually glass, to assist in improving the wine in some way. Mostly used for red wine, the decanting process can perform a few duties including; exposing the aged wine to air so as to help volatilise some of the less attractive initial aromas from the bottle to reveal it's class. It can capture the tannin or sediment in the shoulder of the bottle when pouring which has precipitated out over the period of maturation leaving the wine for consumption clean and "grit free" to enjoy. Also it can generally help soften the wine due to the exposure to air in the pouring process making it more attractive and softer, and finally improving the showmanship and theatre of the wine drinking experience. Decanting is a very valuable part of wine drinking and should probably be done more often than not for most reds, old and young alike.
From crystal cut to hand blown, cut edge to rolled edge, computer designed to traditional everyday glassware, we see them all. The choice is yours. However note that some wine afficionado's believe the shape of the glass greatly affects the way in which the wine presents. And it does feel a lot nicer consuming that wine you've been waiting to enjoy out of a lovely weighted, beautifully shaped and designed wine glass. At wine shows around the world, an international standard tasting glass is used so as to be consistent in their judgements and to eliminate conjecture. When washing any wine glassware, it is a must that it has a final fresh hot water rinse to remove any residual detergents that may be present.