DENTON (UNT), Texas — University of North Texas wine connoisseur Han Wen, an assistant professor of hospitality who teaches courses on wine, shares tips for how to shop for, serve and gift wine on a budget.
When selecting wine as a gift, what are the key things to look for?
- “Choose a gift wine based on the recipients’ tastes and preferences,” says Wen, but barring that, she suggests shoppers “find popular wines from classic regions.”
- Another option, she suggests, is to “pick a pair of wines, such as a dry and a sweet, a white and a red, a still and a sparkling, or a complex and a simple.” “That way, your recipient will likely enjoy at least one,” she says.
What are ways to creatively give wine gifts?
- “Buy from a winery you’ve toured, for a meaningful story about how the grapes grow and how the winemaker produces the wines,” says Wen.
- “Some people select wines with vintages that match the birth year of the person who's accepting the gift,” she adds. “Also, some websites allow you to personalize the wine bottle with a picture or customized text.”
How should wine be served during holiday dinners?
- “Serve wine and food together to enhance the dining experience and the tastes of both,” says Wen.
- She recommends pairing wines with similar foods. “Pair white meat with a white wine, such as Chardonnay; pair red meat with a red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Savory foods go well with unoaked white wines. Acidic or fatty foods go well with acidic wines. Salty foods go well with tannic wines. Desserts pair nicely with sweet, fortified and sparkling wines,” Wen notes.
- Similarly, wines developed alongside local cuisines are always great. “For example, serve Spanish wine with Spanish food,” she says.
When shopping for an inexpensive wine, what should consumers focus on?
- “Think about your tastes and preferences, and then search for wines that match,” says Wen. “If you're not sure how the wine tastes, use an app such as Delectable or Vivino to search for ratings and wine tasting notes.”
- Wen adds that for those who are uncertain, it’s hard to go wrong with “classic and regional wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Chardonnay from Sonoma County, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Shiraz from Australia or a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend from Bordeaux.”
How should wine be stored and served?
- “Store wine in a cool place, like a basement or cellar,” says Wen. “Refrigerate red wines 15 to 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate white or sparkling wines for a minimum of three hours and then take out 15 to 30 minutes before serving.”
What are signs of bad/poor tasting wines?
- “When opening a bottle, first check the condition of the wine to make sure it is not oxidized or impacted by cork taint,” says Wen. “Ensure it does not look hazy, and smell the wine to check for undesirable odors. Also taste the wine; oxidized wine will lose most of the characteristics wine usually has. Sometimes by looking at the condition of the cork, you will find out the condition of wines.”
Wen teaches students age 21 and older about wines, beers and spirits in UNT’s Survey of Beverages class for the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Students learn about current consumption trends of beverages in the hospitality industry; how to identify, evaluate and taste beverages; to understand the legal issues related to serving alcoholic beverages in the hospitality industry; and to examine the implications of alcoholism.