Enjoying wine does not need to be more complex than simply drinking what you enjoy, but there are a few easy ways to enhance the experience. Here are a few tips for making your next glass of wine even better than your first.

Learn more: Tips for pairing your salad and wine this new year

1. Store your wine properly.

Take care to ensure your wine isn’t exposed to extreme heat. Once you have purchased your wine, make sure to get it out of the heat as soon as possible. It’s best to place it in the temperature-controlled cab of your vehicle, rather than the trunk and never, ever leave your wine in the hot car. 

Once you are home, make sure wine is stored in a cool, dark place. A wine fridge is ideal, but if you are not ready to make that investment pick somewhere that does not receive direct sunlight, doesn’t get too hot, and drink it shortly after buying it. Wine with corks should always be laid on their side when being stored so the cork does not dry out and crack. 

2. Adjust your serving temperature.

Proper serving temperature greatly impacts the aroma, flavor, and enjoyment of a wine. It is common knowledge that white wine needs to be chilled, but most whites are not meant to be served ice cold. If you are drinking an aromatic or full-bodied white, pull it out of the refrigerator a little earlier than usual. The proper serving temperature for these wines is 45-55°F. Cold temperatures mask the delicate scents of aromatic whites, such as Gewurztraminer. If you are drinking a white wine and it lacks aromas, try cupping the bowl of your glass with your hands to warm your glass a bit.

On the flip side, not all reds are meant to be served at room temperature, and the wine version of room temperature does not match most home thermostats. In the wine world, room temperature is 59-64°F. This is the ideal serving temperature for medium to full bodied red wines. Wine is not meant to be served above 70°F. You will notice a distinct difference in balance if you chill the bottle for 15 minutes before serving, the most notable being reduced alcohol burn. Lighter reds, such as Beaujolais, should be served lightly chilled (around 55°F).

3. Try pairing wine with food.

Pairing wine with food can be a daunting task but applying a few basic pairing principles can change the way you look at wine (and food) forever.  When choosing a wine to go alongside a dish, make sure to match the intensity of flavor. This is part of why bold reds are well suited for red meats, while white wines are often served with lighter meats, such as fish or chicken. If a dish is acidic, it needs to be served with a high acid wine. Dessert will be best matched by a sweet wine. These are all examples of congruent pairings (pairings with several shared elements). 

Sometimes complementary pairings (pairings with few shared elements) are better suited to a meal. For instance, spicy food needs a wine with a touch of sweetness, such as Riesling. Dry, high alcohol reds only intensify spice and alcohol burn. Acidic wines with fat, creamy sauces are another fun complementary pairing to try (think Sauvignon Blanc with baked mac and cheese). If you are nervous about practicing wine pairing at home, ask for help from a server or sommelier next time you are dining out.

Author: Sarah Andrewson is supervisor at Merkin Vineyards (Level 3 -The Wine & Spirit Education Trust). Merkin Vineyards & Caduceus Cellars make high elevation wines out of predominantly Italian and Spanish varieties from their 110 acres of estate vines in northern and southern Arizona. Owner and Winemaker, MJ Keenan, along with his wife, Jennifer, and Winemaker Tim White, are producing roughly 8,000 cases a year in their tiny underground concrete facility known as The Bunker. Join Merkin Vineyards for a wine tasting, lunch or dinner. For more information, visit https://merkinvineyards.org