Gary Crandall keeps an impressive 1,200-bottle collection at his home in Wexford. A bottle of red, a bottle of white … it all depends upon his appetite.

Wine 101: Decanting the basics

Scott Finlay, a seasoned sales representative for Aleph Wines, graciously imparts a foundational Wine 101 to ignite your tasting voyage.

Story by Sheila Paz

Slipping into the journey of wine goes beyond the simple act of uncorking the bottle and pouring it into a glass. Scott Finlay, a seasoned sales representative for Aleph Wines, graciously imparts a foundational Wine 101 to ignite your tasting voyage. Discerning your preferences among wines not only enhances your tasting experience but also simplifies it. With dedicated practice, you’ll unravel the intricate dance of flavors on your palate and the delicate aromas that tantalize your senses.

White versus red, what’s the difference?

Learning what distinguishes white and red wines will lay the groundwork for understanding the nuances of the top six varieties, which will help narrow down which wines you may like. Finding what your palate likes will open the door to many other variations of wines. Let’s dive into the specifics of each. 

Pinot Grigio: Delightfully lightweight, Pinot Grigios are crisp, have invigorating acidity and radiate brightness. It is a genuine palate refresher, making it an ideal summer wine, best served chilled between 45 to 50 degrees.  

Sauvignon Blanc: Renowned for its versatility, Sauvignon Blanc’s flavor profile changes based on the region, from New Zealand to California to France. Its acidity creates a distinctive mouth feel with a mineral characteristic, making it a sublime companion to the Lowcountry’s abundance of local shellfish. Serve it chilled at 55 degrees for prime flavor. 

Chardonnay: Having America’s top-selling white wine title, Chardonnay boasts a weighty profile with a grand flavor spectrum and exceptional temperature versatility. With its multiple advantages Chardonnay has been dubbed the “queen of white wines.” Scott prefers a cellar temperature of 55 degrees to accentuate its floral notes. 

Pinot Noir: As the most versatile red, Pinot Noir’s acidity and depth make it a perfect companion for pairing with rich, fatty foods like salmon. Its ability to enhance, rather than overpower, the flavors of a dish makes it a great choice of wine. 

Merlot: Known for its approachable and versatile character, Merlot caters to a wide range of palates. With a medium to full body and velvety tannins, it offers a smoother mouthfeel, making it a superb choice for those favoring a gentler red wine experience. 

Cabernet Sauvignon: One of the most prominent red wines sold is Cabernet Sauvignon. The Bordeaux varietal commands the palate with bold structure, substantial tannins and a pronounced fruit-forward profile. Its intricate layers of flavor invite people to savor each sip as it leaves a lingering, dry finish. 

Different glasses with wine served on table
Stemmed versus stemless glasses…should you really be using a stemmed glass? The answer is yes because the stem is great for practicality and enhanced wine-tasting experiences. Using a stem prevents the warming of wine through hand-to-glass contact and allows for an unobstructed view of the wine’s color and depth as you swirl the wine before smelling it.

You need glasses

Advice for matching the right shape to the grape.

Selecting the perfect vessel for your wine is the key to savoring and relishing the wine-drinking experience. The shape of your wine glass plays a pivotal role in how you taste, smell and see your wine. Here is a short guide to choosing the right glass for your wine. 

 large bowled glass

Red wines flourish when served in a large bowled glass. This will enhance the aeration due to more contact with the wine and air. Perfect for a bold red like Cabernet Sauvignon. 

fluted glass

As for bubbles, opt for a fluted glass. Its narrow, elongated shape maintains carbonation by minimizing contact with the air. The glass’s design enhances the experience with the bubbles that tickle your nose during the experience.

narrower bowled glass with a tapered top

For white wines, choose a narrower bowled glass with a tapered top. The smaller bowl will keep the wine from being over-aerated while still funneling the wine’s aroma to your nose. Chardonnays need a different glass from other white wines and benefit from a slightly wider bowl.

Riedel wine glasses

When selecting your preferred wine glass brand, the choices are as wide as a red wine bowl glass. Scott Finlay of Aleph Wines recommends Riedel for its finely tuned designs catering to wine lovers’ various needs and styles. Riedel has been creating wine glasses for ages and is worth the investment. 

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