Wine 101

There’s a lot of information about wine out there, on the internet, in books, and from the mouth of any wine expert who thinks you’re listening. Most of the time, it’s TMI for those of us who just want to enjoy a glass of wine without thinking too hard. When we developed our new wine program, we wanted to make sure that our wines are as accessible to our customers as our Sun Basket meals. Here, Sun Basket’s deputy editorial director, Ashley Goldsmith, sat down with our sommelier, Chaylee Priete, to get schooled on the basics. 

Any tips for how to pair wines with my meals? 

The rule about white wines with fish and red with dark meats isn’t all that helpful. The key to great wine pairing is to identify the dominant flavors and go from there. A soy-braised fish can go nicely with a light Grenache, while a dry Chenin Blanc makes a good match with lean cuts of beef like filet mignon. Maybe you trying to highlight the fact that the dish is braised in a rich sauce, or is a wintery dish that’s savory, or maybe you’re searing a steak and serving it with lime and fresh herbs. Also, think about where you’re eating. A crisp white might taste better when you’re having dinner in the backyard, while a full-bodied red shines when you’re eating near the fireplace. Most importantly, drink what you like. 

What’s the best way to store wine? 

Lay any wine that you plan to keep unopened for more than a month flat on its side and store in a cool, dark place, away from vents and your stove. Wine is sensitive to light and temperature changes so if you have a wine rack for storage, be sure that it’s out of direct sunlight, too. If you’re going to drink a bottle of white wine within a few weeks of receiving it, keep it in the fridge so it’s cold when you’re ready to pop it open.

I only drank one glass of wine with dinner, how long can I store the open bottle?  

Once it’s exposed to air, wine oxidizes, the same way an apple turns brown after it’s been cut and left on the counter. If you know you won’t be going back for seconds that night, immediately recork the bottle and put in the fridge (yes, even a bottle of red). This limits the wine’s exposure to oxygen, heat, and light and keeps it drinkable for two to three days. Pro tip: If you accidentally tossed the cork, place a small sheet of plastic wrap over the bottle opening and secure it with a rubber band before putting it in the fridge.

I was too lazy to unpack my wine when it arrived and now it’s time for dinner but my bottle of white isn’t cold. How can I chill it quickly? 

Grab a bucket or a large pot and fill it half-full with ice, add cold water, a handful of kosher salt and stir. Submerge the bottle of wine up to its neck in the ice bath. In 10 minutes—before you’re done cooking dinner—the wine will be chilled. 

Now that I’m enjoying a glass of wine with dinner regularly, should I invest in fancy wine glasses?

We think it’s safe to say that the best vessel for wine is whatever glass you’ve got on hand. There’s a whole world of glassware out there designed to enhance the aromas and flavors wine, but you don’t need anything fancy. Look for glasses that are durable enough for regular use with a tulip shaped bowl and a thin lip.