By Katie Wilson
Most of us have been supping vino for years, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you’re drinking wine properly?
As The Boutique Handbook team discovered, there’s a lot more to it than you might think.
We were invited to an exclusive wine tasting with experts Emile Wines to find out how to drink wine like a pro – and the things you should never do.
Founded by sisters Ellena and Rebecca Perry, Emile Wines are Burgundy specialists who focus on organic and biodynamic wines. They also predominately work with female winemakers.
Here’s what happened when we paid them a visit.
Tell us a bit more about Emile Wines
Buyer Rebecca says: ‘As a woman working in the wine industry for 15 years, I’ve experienced first-hand how intimidating it can be.
‘Emile Wines is on a mission to change the snobbery around wine. We want to make it fun and inclusive for all. The industry is still very male dominated and we want to appeal to a younger, more female audience.’
The sisters set up the London-based business in June 2020, naming it after Rebecca’s three-year-old son Emile who sometimes helps with local deliveries if you’re lucky.
As well as being wine importers and distributors – their clients include the three Michelin star restaurant at The Connaught – they have just launched an online wine shop and now offer tastings in their cool studio space in Tottenham, north London.
Operations manager Ellena tells us: ‘A lot of our current clients are restaurants, but now we’ve got the online shop, which delivers nationwide, and customers can come in for tastings, we’re hoping to be a lot more accessible. Our wines range from £15 to £350 a bottle, so there is something to suit all budgets.’
So, how do you drink wine like a pro? Rebecca and Ellena give The Boutique Handbook a crash course.
How to drink wine properly
Decant wine first
Before you even think about pouring yourself a glass of wine decant it first, says Rebecca.
She explains: ‘Wine needs air to reach its full flavour potential – this is why you get halfway through a bottle of wine and it suddenly starts to taste a lot better.
‘Don’t waste your money on decanting gadgets. Just pour your wine into another vessel before drinking it, even it’s a cheap bottle. Or at least take the cork out an hour before serving. I actually decant white wine more than red.’
Pay attention to your glassware
Miniature glassware might look cute, but it’s a big no no when it comes to drinking wine – and you could be ruining an expensive bottle of vino by not serving it in the right glass.
‘The bigger the glass the better for wine, as it gives the same feeling as being decanted,’ says Ellena.
‘Crystal is better as it’s stronger than glass and thinner, so there is less interference between your lips and the glass.’
How you hold your glass is also important. Ellena recommends the stem rather than the bowl of the glass, as you don’t want to warm a cold wine up with your hands.
Check the colour of your wine
Once the wine is in your glass, what can you see? Is it light or dark, is there sediment – and what does it all mean?
‘The paler a white wine is, the younger is it. White wines get darker with age,’ says Rebecca. ‘The opposite is true of red wine. Reds are darker in their youth, getting paler as they get older.’
Serve wine at the right temperature
It’s always good to give your wine a swirl before tasting it – and 125ml is the perfect pour.
Ellena explains: ‘Don’t overfill your glass. You will enjoy it more as the temperature will keep better and chilled wine won’t taste warm at the end.’
Another common mistake people make is serving wine too cold or too warm.
Rebecca says: ‘Don’t be afraid to put a red wine in the fridge if you need to. Most Pinot Noir should be put in the fridge for 20 minutes and then left to warm up for 20 minutes before serving.
‘If a wine is too cold, warm the glass up with your hands or let it stand for a bit before drinking it.’
How to taste wine properly
‘Smell the wine before tasting it,’ Rebecca says. ‘Your nose is really important as it tells you the character of the wine.
‘Notice whether it’s fresh, floral, fruity. Sparkling wines or champagnes can sometimes have a yeast or bread smell.
‘Take a little sip first, ask yourself what flavours you are getting, and how long the flavour lingers on your palate. The longer it lingers is a sign of quality.’
A wine expert for 15 years, Rebecca reveals a good wine should never taste harsh.
‘I don’t know why people put up with drinking rubbish when there are so many nice wines out there at accessible price points. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our lives, but it needs to change.’
When it comes to sediment, you shouldn’t let it put you off. Ellena adds: ‘It doesn’t mean the wine is off, it just means it’s less processed, which is a good sign. It also adds character.’
Does wine from independent makers taste better?
‘Yes!’ the sisters say in unison.
Emile Wines only work with independent wine producers and a number of the wines they import are exclusively sold by them in the UK.
Should you ever spit wine out?
The answer is no, not if you don’t want to – unless you’re an expert.
Rebecca says: ‘The only time I spit wine out is when I’m doing tastings with our suppliers and we’re trying 50 or 60 wines in a day from 8am in the morning. If you didn’t, you’d collapse!’
How to store wine properly
‘The worst thing you can do is shove a cork in a wine bottle and leave it out in your kitchen,’ Ellena reveals.
‘The kitchen is the worst place for storing wine as the temperature fluctuates so much. You are better off storing wine in your hallway or bedroom, even if it’s under the bed.
‘Wine needs no light and to stay at a constant temperature, otherwise it leads to spoilage and oxidation.’
How long should wine last?
An unopened bottle which costs £50 has a lifespan of around 10 years and gets better with age, Rebecca tells us.
While an open bottle that is stored correctly (see above) should last around five days, but will lose some of its aroma.
Should we buy a wine because of the label?
This is a topic that has long been up for debate – and something many of us are guilty of doing. But the sisters finally answer the age-old question, should we buy a wine because of the label?
‘Don’t be swayed by the label as it has absolutely no bearing on the taste of the wine,’ Rebecca assures us.
‘Most people still do this, which is why we love it when customers come into the shop as we can guide them on what to buy based on their tastes and palate.’
Are there any other wine no-nos?
‘Yes, don’t wear perfume!’ Ellena exclaims.
‘A lot of people don’t know this, but it’s one of the biggest no-nos when you’re drinking wine. The smell will totally ruin your nose and you’ll end up tasting it too.’
Read next: Where To Order Wine Online In The UK