Nowadays, showing off your wine IQ is less about rattling off fancy chateau names and more about knowing good value -- both environmentally and in the wallet. Here are some quick tips for drinking wine smarter:
1. Try a biodynamic wine
- It may sound a little kooky to pack an animal's skull with bark or hang stuffed deer bladder from the rafters, but while there is a spiritual aspect to biodynamic farming, 90% of it is just strict organic farming that pays close attention to the balance of the land.
2. Organic isn't the only way to drink sustainably
- Don't only look for the word "organic" emblazoned on the label. Most truly sustainable wineries are a lot subtler than that. Some are certified organic, but many aren't. They are simply wine producers who avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides, and try to use little or no chemicals and additives during production.
3. Opt for greener packaging
- There's nothing like popping open a bottle of wine, but you can experience the same pleasure without the pop. Innovative packaging allows you to enjoy wine in a more eco-friendly and affordable way. Plus, with some 10% of bottles corked, alternative packaging can ensure that your wine stays fresh.
4. Try a half-bottle
- Sometimes, you just can't finish a whole bottle. And, other times, you want to drink something different from what your dining companion is having. The answer to both solutions? Think small. The benefits of half-bottles go beyond practicality.
- As wine ages, the flavors change due to oxygen slowly seeping into the bottle through the pores in the cork. Over time, where you once had fruity flavors, you start to see secondary notes develop, such as earthy and herbaceous characteristics. In half bottles, wine can age up to twice as fast as it does in a full-size bottle because there is a greater oxygen-to-wine ratio inside. That means you don't have to wait 20 years to drink a great bottle of wine.
5. On second thought, go big!
- Most of us buy wine in 750-ml bottles. Sometimes, when we're celebrating, we spring for a magnum. But rarely do we go larger than that. Some restaurants stock large-format bottles and springing for one can be great fun. The Methuselah, named for the oldest man in the Bible, holds six liters; the Salmanazar, named for the King of Assyria, holds nine liters; the Balthazar, referring to one of the three wise men, holds 12 liters; the jumbo Nebuchadnezzer, a King of Babylon, holds 15 liters.
6. Experiment with a grape variety you've never heard of
- When Chardonnay becomes a bore and Pinot Noir no longer gets your motor running, it's time to start expanding your wine repertoire. Why not try a grape you can't pronounce?