It's alcohol-guide time! But here, we're ignoring the alcohol and instead focusing on the parts of drinking wine that are more solid than liquid. Read on for your everything-but-the-wine primer…

It’s alcohol-guide time! But here, we’re ignoring the alcohol and instead focusing on the parts of drinking wine that are more solid than liquid. Read on for your everything-but-the-wine primer…

The glass

Specialty wine glasses are engineered to perfectly complement a certain kind of wine while allowing the glasses’ owner to feel smugly better than everyone else. Just kidding… ish.

You’ll at least want to stock the basics: taller, thinner white-wine glasses that allow the wine to release aromas while keeping it more consolidated, to stay cool; and more bowl-shaped red-wine glasses that allow for more surface area for the wine to “breathe.” A sparkling-wine glass is the tallest and narrowest, which limits the surface area where bubbles would escape.

Burgundy-, pinot noir- and other varietal-specific glasses aren’t necessary for anyone but serious enthusiasts.

Ultimately, what matters is the wine, not the glass.

The cork

All-natural corks aren’t the only way to stop a bottle. Still, synthetic corks and cork-less screw-tops don’t have the same porous qualities that allow just a bit of air into and out of the bottle during the aging process — something that many vintners believe is essential.

(A 2007 study by the Viticulture & Enology department at the University of California Davis showed that people couldn’t detect a difference between wines capped differently, but they also negatively perceived synthetic and screw-top wines across the board.)

The jury’s mostly out on this one, but it’s likely that what a wine is topped with has very little effect on the casual drinker.

The temperature

White wine is served chilled and red at room temperature, sure. But why?

Like with beer, refrigeration masks the flavor and aroma of a wine.

To keep white wines from tasting too cloyingly sweet, most are chilled. Red wines should ideally be served a bit cooler than room temperature, but room temperature will, of course, do.

If you’re up for an experiment, chill a glass of white wine and try it alongside the same wine served at room temperature.

Photo by Meghan Ralston