Delving Into Core Principles and Practices of the Wine Universe

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Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

It’s the dog days of August and I’m wilted from the heat we’ve been experiencing. I’ve decided for this week’s column to reprise a previous nugget I wrote for you. Hope you enjoy it.

Here are random factoids, choice nuggets to elevate your game or to supplement your memory banks. Some of you will consider these to be revelatory; others may have a “tell me something I don’t already know” reaction.

  1. Always clear your palate before you taste a wine. Previous foods in your mouth will influence your experience with a wine. You will not enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon if you just finished off a bag of salty chips.
  2. Wine is best experienced when paired with food. In combination in your mouth, a “new” flavor is created. Remember that regional wines evolved over the centuries as accompaniments to regional foods, not as stand-alone expressions of a grape. I have often changed my opinion of a wine once it interplays with the flavors and aromas of a food dish.
  3. Aromas dominate your appreciation of a wine. Our physiology has four elements of taste and over 10,000 elements of aromas.
  4. Corollary to Number 3 above: swirling the wine in your glass releases the aromas and bouquet more quickly. Always swirl. It’s functional, not snobbery.
  5. Sub-corollary to Number 3: Don’t fill your glass more than a one-third; it allows the aromas to concentrate in the other two-thirds. Swirl a glass that has curved sides and a rim. It funnels and therefore concentrates the aromas toward your nose as you sip the wine.
  6. Don’t swallow too soon. Hold the wine in your mouth for a few seconds and “chew” it. This will allow the wine to coat the sensory areas of your tongue and mouth, enhancing your ability to appreciate the many nuances of the wine.
  7. Red wine is healthier than white wine. The red grape skins that ferment with the juice contain compounds that are powerful antioxidants. One of these, resveratrol, has been proven to be a key to our overall health.
  8. All grape juice is white (with one or two minor exceptions). Red wines derive their color from the grape skins, which are fermented with the juice and thereby impart the familiar color to the wine.

Corollary: Red grapes can produce a white wine – just remove the skins before fermentation begins. A classic example is sparkling wine, which invariably is produced from some or all red grapes. Brut Champagne is part Chardonnay and part Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier; Blanc de Noir (White from Black) on the label signifies only red grapes were vinified in the production of the wine; Blanc de Blanc – you’ve got it, only Chardonnay was vinified. Rosé Champagne signifies that the skins of the red grapes used in production were allowed to sit with the fermenting juice for a very short period – just long enough to infuse a light red/pink color to the wine.

  1. Generally speaking, during the course of a meal or a wine tasting, enjoy the lighter wines first and then move to the heavier wines. Your palate will thank you and will remain fresher for a longer period of time. Likewise, white wines should generally be enjoyed before reds; dry wines before sweet wines; and young wines before older ones.
  2. Need to chill a bottle of wine quickly? Don’t put it in the fridge or the freezer. Rather, place it in an ice bucket filled one-quarter with water and the remainder with ice. Fill as high as possible in order to surround the neck of the bottle. Add a hearty pinch of kosher salt, wait 10 minutes, open and pour.

Feel free to refer to these facts whenever you wish to impress friends with your wine knowledge, but most importantly to better understand the fundamental precepts and practical wisdom of wine appreciation.

Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.


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