How to Select, Store, and Serve Wines

by Lydie Stassart, Tastemaker in Residence

Here are some French wines you cannot go wrong with:

  • Whites: Pouilly- Fuissé or Meursault if you want to splurge.
  • Reds: Côtes de Rhône, Gigondas, or Vaqueyras, and if you want to splurge, Châteauneuf du Pâpe. 
  • Champagne or sparkling wines, such as pressecos or cremants. There are of course many wonderful American, Chilean, Spanish, Italian or Australian wines on the market as well.

When I entertain in Florida or in Nice, I like to serve a dry, chilled rosé wine, but unfortunately in Minnesota, rosé wines should only be served on a warm, summer day.

How to Read Wine Labels

VIN DE TABLE: basic table wine without specification of origin or grape variety.

VIN DE PAYS: higher rate than table wine. It is guaranteed to originate in a specific region rather than style and tradition.

VDQS: vin délimité de qualité supérieure.  It specifies the type of grape. High quality wine from an approved regional vineyard.

AOC: appellation d’origine contrôlée. It guarantees that the wine is produced according to strict standards. It indicates the geographical origin, quality and grape variety.

CHAMPAGNE is of course the celebratory beverage of choice. Legend has it that in 1693, the vintner and Bénédictine monk Dom Pérignon first discovered champagne after drinking from a bottle of wine that had re-fermented, producing bubbles. It can literally be paired with any food, at any time of day (for brunch, lunch, or dinner or with desserts), and it can be served throughout the meal. You should keep champagne chilled in a champagne bucket, filled with half cold water, half ice cubes.  As Napoléon said about champagne, “In victory, you deserve it; in defeat, you need it.”

When purchasing wines, note that young wines should rest for one to two weeks before being served, old wines should rest for two to three months.

A good white wine needs to age two to ten years, a good red wine five to twenty years.

Champagne and sparkling wines do not need to be stored, they are ready for consumption.

You only decant red wines . Before you do so, let the bottle rest upright for 24 hours.  Decant 1 to 2 hours before serving. Champagne and white wines are served chilled.  Red wines are served at room temperature. In order to avoid dripping while pouring, place a ring or pourer on the bottle, and never add ice cubes to wine.  Wine should also be drunk in its dedicated glass, it will taste much better.

The term champagne is exclusively used for sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Some use the term champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, which is incorrect.

Here are some facts about champagne:

It takes about 1.2 kg or about 2.6 pounds of grapes to make one bottle of champagne. It is not known exactly why the biggest champagne bottles were given biblical names but here is a chart with their names and contents.

  1. the smallest bottle being a “quart”
  2. a “demie”
  3. a “medium” or 50 cl.
  4. a “bouteille” or a standard size bottle of 75 cl.
  5. a “Magnum” or the equivalent of 2 standard bottles of 75 cl.
  6. a “Jeroboam” equals 4 bottles
  7. a “Rehoboam” or 6 bottles
  8. a “Mathusalem” or 8 bottles
  9. a “Salmanasar” equals 12 bottles
  10. a “Balthazar” is the equivalent of 16 bottles
  11. a “Nabuchodonosor” or 20 bottles
  12. a “Salomon” or 24 bottles
  13. a “Souverain” or 35 bottles
  14. a “Primat” or 36 bottles
  15. a “Midas” or “Melchizedec” equals 40 bottles or 30 liters, and weighs 99 pounds. To open for a wedding celebration or if you have a big family, and I guess it is tough luck if the wine is corked!

(Tip: if you are decanting a red wine, here is a tip for cleaning the carafe afterwards. Use a baby-bottle brush. This will allow you reach the bottom. To dry the carafe, roll a sheet of Paper towel and insert it in the carafe. The sheet should touch the bottom so that it can absorb the moisture).

Wine glasses should be filled only 1/3 at a time. Wines should be served in a certain order:

A white wine precedes a red wine.

A young wine precedes an old wine.

A light wine precedes a full-bodied wine.

And they are served from the right side.

This is a quick tip to calculate how much wine you need to purchase for your dinner party.

Number of guests X by the hours your guests will drink : 5 (which is the number of glasses per bottle)  = number of bottles you will need.

How to Cure a Hangover

A hangover is caused by:

  • dehydration
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • substances found in poor quality alcoholic beverages (sulfites, additives…)

Immediately after a party, drink water, lots of water: 2 glasses if possible, 4 glasses is even better. This is the best way to fight headaches.

Prepare a bottle of water on your nightstand before you leave for your event.

The following day, upon waking up, eat a banana or take some vitamin C. Avoid orange juice; it is too acidic.  Or else, drink a clear broth or a soup loaded with minerals.

Drink a detox- or chamomile tea only.  Regular teas and coffees have a diuretic effect and will accentuate the dehydration.

Eat rice.  This will coat your stomach and give you the slow carbs that you will need during the day.

As a last resort, try a Bloody Mary (but easy on the vodka!). But this option is far from generating a consensus.