Wine Wisdom

Inexpensive does not mean poor quality when it comes to wine

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Editor's note: This is the final column of a three-part series.

We covered a lot of territory in the previous two weeks, ranging from proper temperature to appropriate wine glasses. But there's much more to discover. The final four tips should send you well on your way to becoming a serious wine enthusiast.

7.  You can purchase wine storage units that offer to keep your wine at the proper temperatures, thus extending its life. This is fine if you're a collector, with the intention of keeping wines for years and years. However, if you consume your wine within weeks of purchase the process is really quite simple.
Never store your wine close to a heat source, such as a sunlit window or above your stove. Placing bottles in a small wine rack on your kitchen counter is fine if you intend to enjoy them within a few days. If not, place them in an unfinished part of your basement. If you buy by the case, simply invert the bottles in the box to keep the corks wet. Never store your wine in a closet. The warm temperatures will ruin them faster than anywhere else in your home. If you do not have an unfinished basement, store the wine in the darkest, coolest place you can find.

8.  Hopefully the controversy over twist tops has quelled, and you have become aware that the associated technology is every bit as good as the old cork method. Yes, I know that there was a certain sense of assurance that you had purchased a wine of substance if it was enclosed in cork. But the fact is that many really lousy wines have cork enclosures and some fabulous vintages use twist tops. So now you really need to focus on what is in the bottle rather than its closure.

9.  Matching wine and food. Well, the fact is that there are really no shortcuts to doing a good job in this area, and I have read a lot of very poor recommendations in newspapers, magazines and on-line from a host of wine professionals, chefs and "connoisseurs" who might have alternative agendas (like getting a commission from a particular wine producer or distributor). Some general rules of thumb include: Cab and Merlot go great with beef; light, fruity wines (Pinot Gris, Viognier, Gruner Veltliner) are wonderful with chicken and pork; acidic wines (Sauvignon Blanc) are terrific with shell fish.
On top of that, remember that the versatile Pinot Noir can be wonderful with grilled fish, particularly salmon; Riesling is great with spicy foods; and Champagne seems to go with practically everything, especially desserts. Last but not least, don't look down your nose at Rieslings because they're sweet. Take the time to discover the dry Rieslings of Alsace and Australia they're incredible.

10.    Finally a word about price. A wine need not be expensive to be delicious. You should purchase wine at a price with which you are comfortable. Frankly, very expensive wines offer an array of complex flavors that are usually only discernable by an experienced palate. You'll know if and when you get there, and then you can decide if the price is worth the experience. For now, just enjoy what makes you happy.

Bob Monica is general manager of The Conference Center at NorthPointe and former owner of the Wine Shoppe Bistro in Dublin.

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