Cardinal rules of wine

Chill your wine – and also cool your reds in summer. Here in South Africa, you may have noticed that we do not live in the temperate climes, or have the “room temperature” of Europe. Room temperature here is too often close to blood temperature. Wine should be enjoyed cool: whites well chilled, bubbly frigid and reds should slide into the mouth refreshingly.

Don’t show people the label on the bottle if you can help it – avoid snobbery and promote the idea of enjoyment. We all do it, some bottles come out when the right people are around the table, the wine presented more as a talking/bragging point than as something to be simply drunk. When a wine is truly good, it will stand out and surprise people – isn’t this better than the reassuring preconceptions?

Use good glasses – bigger is better. Here it is good to be a snob. The glass does more to help or harm a wine than the label. A generous tulip-shaped glass or a glass that is not over-full is a good start; from here you can choose to spend many hundreds of rands on crystal if you want to. Scoff at the Paris goblet, the near-unbreakable troglodyte of the restaurant world. Ask for a brandy snifter instead.

Drink the wine you like – but try something new with an open palate. We have so many new wines that are entering the market and these are exciting times. The prices should also be stabilising, so it’s a good time to experiment a little. The tried and tested deserve our loyalties, we all like wine through the wines we like; but that’s no reason not to play around. This is not a moral arena.

Remember to match wine to mood – or use it to create the mood. Mood means the food, the place and the people or any combinations of these. Try to present the style of wine that will add pleasure to the time and place for this is the primary function of wine – to make life better.

Respect light and uncomplicated wines – and try to age the age-worthy. They all have their right to be in the glass, at the time that is right for them. Again, avoid snobbery… but if the wine in front of you is unrelentingly bland, the last rule always applies: life is too short to drink bad wine.