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Author Archive: "Natalie MacLean"

How Long Do Wines Keep Once Opened?

The answer is a highly subjective, according to both the wine and the drinker. Generally, dry white wines have the shortest life once opened. I find they lose their character after even one or two days, especially cheaply-made, oaky New World whites. (Whites with good acidity and lots of character from Burgundy are an exception.) For reds, I think that most start to slip after two days, though again it depends on how well the wine was made. There are always exceptions.

Sweet and fortified wines, such as icewine, port and sherry, have a longer life because of their higher sweetness and/or alcohol, both of which act as a preservative. I still like most opened icewines after three to four days; ports from one week to four, depending on their quality. You can extend the life of any opened wine by giving it a few squirts of liquid nitrogen, such as Wine Preserver, a spray can sold in many liquor and wine accessory stores. Another trick is to pour your remaining wine into a clean, empty half bottle size and cork it. This also minimizes the amount of oxygen that can affect the wine. Some drinkers ...

Most Frequently Asked Wine Questions

As a wine writer, I get asked lots of interesting questions, from which wine goes with oxtail soup to how can I get a job like yours? I love hearing from readers because it's their questions that often form the basis of my articles. For this post, I'll answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

How do I find a wine if it's not in my wine store?

Many readers tell me about a fabulous wine they had on vacation or at a friend's house but couldn't find in their local wine store. To find a wine, first check the liquor store's web site, as many have searchable databases that will tell you whether they stock the wine and at which locations. Some chains have hotlines you can call. If they don't sell the wine, they may be able to give you the name and phone number of the sales agent who represents it so that you can buy directly. You can also look at the winery's web site, which often lists local retailers or agents. If not, you can e-mail the general mailbox to ask about them.

How do I know when to ...

How to Choose from a Restaurant Wine List (Without Losing Your Shirt or Your Dignity)

Many people are uncomfortable choosing from a restaurant wine list, especially when they're with people they don't know well. Will you pick a bottle they like? Will you look like a cheapskate or a spendthrift? I hope you find these tips helpful:

  • Ask for help: Find someone to help you, usually the sommelier, the bartender or "someone who knows the wine list well." Ask which wines the sommelier is most excited about or, "What can you tell me about this wine? Does it pair well with some of the dishes on the menu?"
  • Expensive Doesn't Mean Better: Knowing the retail price of a popular wine can help you gauge the markups on the rest of the list. Many diners actually mistrust a moderately priced wine, assuming it's no good. But if you know the markups (100% is considered reasonable to cover a restaurant's operating costs), you'll know if you're looking at plonk or a fairly priced wine.
  • Drink Local: Focus on the area of the list that seems best stocked, which often is wine that complements the restaurant's cuisine. An Italian trattoria usually offers lots of Chiantis that are great with pasta;


How Do I Buy a Better Bottle of Wine?

This is my first book and my first blog posting, so I'm both nervous and excited. (Is it too early to have a drink? Not if I go by Eastern time...) Writing this book was intensely satisfying: I met some of the most passionate, colorful, obsessed people in the wine industry. By telling their stories, I hope to tell the story of wine. While there are lots of useful wine encyclopedias and vintage guides, I choose to chronicle the adventures of these folks (and of my escapades with them) so that the "learning" about wine is almost hidden, the way my mother used to hide the peas in the mashed potatoes.

One of the most enjoyable experiences I had was at The Jug Shop in San Francisco. This homey wine store is housed in a former auto repair garage. Doesn't sound inviting? What makes it special is the staff: they're extremely knowledgeable but not stuffy. They know how it feels to stand in front of hundreds of bottles trying to decide which one you should buy for a dinner party... and all you have to go on is whether you like ...

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