“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.” – Ernest Hemingway

Drinking wine brings people together. When the cork is pulled on a bottle of wine, people come together and most likely have at least one thing in common – they like drinking wine. There’s no doubt that when sharing a bottle of wine, the bottle being shared will likely be the center of the conversation at some point. More often than not, those imbibing want to know what kind of wine they’re drinking, where the fruit comes from, and what types of characteristics it displays. These wine chats often lead to wine drinkers having the urge to learn more about what’s in the bottle; therefore, they can converse with a bit of knowledge at hand.

Gain some knowledge about wine – the easy way

There are many ways to educate yourself on the world of wine; there are a plethora of books, the internet has endless resources, and wine 101 classes are widely available. But, one of the easiest and quickest ways to gain some basic knowledge about wine is to be taught the tricks of the trade from a wine professional or wine expert. The next time you’re out tasting wine, ask your server or bartender to share a trick of the trade with you – wine professionals love to share their knowledge with inquiring wine drinkers. Some of the many tips and insider how-tos are listed in this piece, so read on to learn a few tricks of the trade and begin to feel confident in your wine knowledge when sharing a bottle with friends.

Double-hinged wine keys are the best
This double-hinged wine key is one most preferred by industry professionals

Double Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew aka Waiter’s Wine Key:

The Waiter’s Corkscrew (also known as the Waiter’s Wine Key [great insider term] ) is a double-hinged wine bottle cork pulling dream machine. It’s consistently touted by wine professionals as being one of the best wine keys on the planet. The double hinge/two-step mechanism means a cork will rarely break, its sharp blade removes foil easily and it is durable and built to last (I’ve had mine for over twenty years), and it is affordable.

How to remove the foil capsule of a wine bottle with ease
Where to cut the foil capsule on a bottle of wine

How and Where to Cut the Foil Capsule:

The foil wrapping that sits around the top of the bottle’s next is called a capsule. There are three methods commonly used to remove the foil:

  • Use the corkscrew knife to cut a circle around the top of the bottle on the foil just below the very top and then use the tip of the knife to pop off the portion of the foil above the cut line. Note: the foil should be cut far enough down the side of the bottle to be sure the wine does not flow over the foil when pouring a glass of wine. This doesn’t affect the wine, but it does make for a sloppy pour and cause drips down the side of the bottle
  • Use a foil cutter. Foil cutters are an inexpensive wine accessory that is slightly flexible and wraps around the foil at the top of the bottle. Grasping onto the cutter will make it wrap tightly around the foil and then twisting it cuts the foil off perfectly. The top of the foil usually comes off with the cutter when the cutter is removed from the top of the bottle, leaving a perfectly removed foil.
  • No accessories needed here, and this is the most insider method of the three: hold the bottle with one hand tightly and wrap the other around the foil. Pull up, vigorously, and the foil will almost always just slide off the top of the bottle. This is a personal favorite when in a rush. But, it doesn’t always work. Some foils are on so tightly that they’ll require one of the other methods. 
A foil cutter slices the foil capsule off with precision
A foil cutter used to slice off the top the foil top with ease and perfection

The Two Most Commonly Mispronounced Wine Names: Merlot and Riesling. 

  • It’s not MerLOT. The word Merlot originated in France along with the wine grape. If a French word ends with a letter t, the letter t is silent (with very few exceptions); therefore, Merlot is pronounced Mer-low. Ironically, Cabernet (also a French word ending with a silent t) is rarely mispronounced.
  • It’s Reeze-ling or Reese-ling, not Rize-ling. It’s not just commonly mispronounced, it’s commonly misspelled. Riesling is considered to be one of the finest wines in the world. Just remember the “i before e except after c” rule when spelling Riesling and think Freezing Riesling when pronouncing it – Riesling is commonly used to produce the dessert wine called ice wine, where the grapes must freeze prior to being harvested.
Hoe to properly pronounce some of the most commonly mispronounced wine names
It’s pronounced “Reese-ling” or “Reeze-ling”

Sediment is not a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing

Oftentimes, in both white wine and red wine, sediment (grainy or crystalized) is found on the underside of the cork as well as in the bottom of a bottle or glass of wine. In white wine, it appears crystallized and is sometimes referred to as “wine diamonds.” In red wine, it’s dark-colored grainy (or clumpy), and is usually referred to as lees. Sediment is a completely natural byproduct of winemaking – it is nothing more than grape skins and seeds (red wine) and tartrate crystals (white wine) – formed when tartaric acid (a natural component of grapes) attaches itself to potassium when exposed to cold conditions. Have no fear, sediment/lees/wine diamonds are all completely harmless and simply indicate the wine has not been through loads of harsh treatments; therefore, sediment is a good thing and likely reveals that the wine is high quality.  

Sediment can be shocking to those who don't realize that it means they've got a great wine.
Sediment is definitely a good thing

Sight, smell, taste

Using our senses to taste through wine will ultimately enhance our wine tasting experience. The three senses that we use are sight, smell, and taste, also known as swirl, sniff, and sip. Using these three senses will help us to better understand what’s in our glass, and as wine professionals, this is one of the most important aspects of our jobs. The three steps to follow when evaluating the wine in your glass: 

  • Step 1. Swirl: Swirling wine isn’t just for show, it’s a super important part of the wine tasting process. The swirling reveals the legs of the wine that stick along the sides of the glass – the richer and more tannic (or sweet) the wine, the more it will stick to the walls. This is also a great time to see if the wine shows signs of age. Older red wines will be brickish-brown in color, while younger, youthful red wines will be a ruby-pink hue. Perhaps most importantly, swirling helps to release hundreds of aromatics that makes the aromas fresher, fruiter and more intense – which takes us to step 2.
  • Step 2. Sniff: After swirling, quickly stick your nose far into the glass and take a deep whiff. Our brain processes aromas and transforms them into flavors that we are familiar with – a just picked strawberry, a freshly baked cherry pie, or a hike through the forest after a heavy rainfall. Because your brain identifies with something that you’ve experienced, identifying flavors and aromas is a natural thing and what you come up with is never wrong.
  • Step 3. Sip: When taking a sip, think about the taste as well as the texture. With taste, we recognize salt, sweet, bitter and sour. A bitter taste indicates that a wine has tannins while a sour taste indicates acidity. Saltiness is likely connected to a mineral note, and sweet of course means that sugar may be present. Texture can be rich, velvety and soft, which means the wine has likely been oak aged. A crisp, light and refreshing wine describes a wine that’s been stainless steel aged. Flavors and textures can be identified along the front, middle and back of the tongue.
Swirling your wine releases hundreds of aromatics
Swirling your wine has many benefits

Making the most of your wine experience

Knowing these simple tricks of the trade will certainly enhance your wine drinking experience and may also make you look and feel like a pro. While feeling and looking like a pro certainly has its benefits, there’s nothing more beneficial than knowing that when the cork is pulled on a bottle of wine, people come together and have great conversation while creating lasting memories. “Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.”— Michael Broadbent

Wine brings people together and helps to create memories and lasting friendships