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A handful of abbreviated practical tips from Christine Ansbacher’s new book, “Secrets from The Wine Diva” that will give you instant wine savvy!

• The fastest way to chill your wine
Add a third of a cup of salt to an ice bucket to make salt water which cools your wine 50% faster than tap water.  Great for the holidays and parties when you have thirstier guests than anticipated.

• How to avoid red wine headaches
1. Histamines are naturally present on grape skins and are present in higher concentration on red grapes than white grapes.  So take an anti-histamine 30 minutes beforehand.
2. If histamines don’t bother you and you still get a headache it could be the tannins (preservatives) in red wine.  So give up Cabernet and Merlot and drink wines with less tannin like Pinot Noir, Rioja, Chianti, Beaujolais-Village, Barbera, St Nicholas and Dolcetto.

• The easiest way to get out a stubborn cork
Put the neck of the bottle under hot water for 10 seconds which makes the glass expand temporarily so you can easily remove the cork

• How the cooking method can tell you which wine to pick
When foods are browned via broiling, grilling, baking and roasting, the juices are caramelized.  Connect these caramel flavors from cooking with the caramel flavors of oaked wines like Chardonnay and Cabernet.  My memory trigger is browned foods go best with oaked wines --and oak floors are brown).
2. When foods are cooked in clear liquids -- steamed, poached, lightly sautéed, or braised -- no extra flavors are added, so reach for “clear,” unoaked whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Muscadet; and reds with very subtle oak like Barbera from Italy, Shiraz from Australia, Beaujolais Village and Chinon from France and  Merlot or Pinot Noir from Chile

• Best wines for Sunday brunch
The refreshing prickle of bubbles and mouthwatering acidity of Champagne and sparkling wines cut right through egg dishes and cream sauces (like the Hollandaise on your Eggs Benedict).  Next best choices are high acid whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis whose good acidity can also scour your tongue and cleanse it of the egg yolks and Hollandaise sauce.  Why?  So you can really taste the next bite of food!

• Best wines for Thanksgiving, BBQs and Easter
Spicy, salty and smoky foods and ingredients cry out for wines that don’t add more heat or lots of other flavors.  So pass on high alcohol wines that translate to heat in your mouth, like CA Chardonnay and Cabernet.  These wines are also a no-no because they also have lots of competing oaky, caramel flavors.  Great food wines for spicy, salty, smoky dishes have refreshing acidity that acts like a firefighter to hose down and cool your mouth.  They should have gobs of fruit flavor, which translates to a touch of sweetness in your mouth, which softens those spicy, salty, smoky flavors.  Ideal white wines include Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chablis; red wines include Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Beaujolais Villages and Chinon. 

• Why Cabernet DOES NOT go well with all red meats
Cabernet can give your gums a leathery, “dried out” feeling because it contains a high level of a preservative called “tannin.”  Cab is wonderful with red meats that are richly-marbled like steak, chops, lamb so that the fat in the meat coats your palate and acts like a buffer against the tannins, making the Cabernet seem softer and more pleasant to drink.  However, Cab is not a good food wine for lean red meats like filet mignon, tenderloin, London broil, flank steak and ostrich that have precious little fat to coat your palate.  These lean red meats taste better with less tannic reds that are more “fruity” like Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Beaujolais cru.  Their fruitiness makes up for the lack of richness in the fat.

• Three steps to make a $10 bottle of red wine taste three times as good
Play “tag” which stands for Temperature, Aeration and Glassware.
1. FEEL THE BOTTLE.  If the red is slightly cool to the touch, serve it.  If it’s warm, meaning ambient room temperature (70-75 degrees), ask for an ice bucket and give the wine a dip for five to 10 minutes so it gets slightly cool like the temperature of a wine cellar.
2.  HAVE THE WINE AERATED IN A DECANTER (or glass pitcher at a more casual restaurant) before serving it.  
3. ASK FOR BIG RED WINE GLASSES   The big bowl lets you swirl and limber up the wine so it tastes better (just as you limber up and stretch before you exercise).  For use at home, or as gifts, buy the Riedel 'Vinim' line at about $15 a glass, or the Ravenscroft line at about $10 a glass.  Wine glasses are the gift that keeps on giving.  So gift yourself first!

• How to remove a cork in ONE second!
Cork Pop  $18

• Three ways to remove red wine stains
“Wine Away”  Citrus-based stain remover.
2. Take high acid items like lemon juice or white wine vinegar. Mix with water and dab stain.
3.  Use a high acid, unoaked white wine like Sauvignon Blanc and dab stain.

• Three reasons to refuse an opened bottle at a restaurant or return it to the store
Say “The wine is not sound.” Then follow up with one of the more explicit words below
1.  CORKED   = wine smells like wet cardboard, or damp newspapers
2. COOKED   = wine has no bad odor, but it tastes lifeless and the fruit tastes boiled or stewed
3. OXIDIZED = exposed to oxygen, whites turn brownish ands reds take on a seriously nutty smell like sherry

• Five ways to keep an opened bottle really fresh for three to four days.
  Clean, stoppered beer bottle
2.  Small, clean Perrier glass bottle with a metal screw top
3. Aerosol can of nitrogen which is heavier than air so it creates a blanket over the wine,
4. Pour off half of a newly-opened bottle into an empty half bottle
5.  Vacu-Vin, a pocket-sized, hand-operated pump. 

• How long you can  store wines in the refrigerator
Wines start to deteriorate and lose flavor in two to three weeks.

• What ‘bridge’ wine to order when people are having chicken, fish and meat
Cabernet Franc wines from France called Chinon (like the woman’s hair style called a chignon) as well as Bourgueil (my memory trigger for this wine is “boy oh boy”)
2.  Shiraz from Australia (just say to yourself the wine is “sheer as”), and lighter CA Syrah
3.  Pinot Noir from California, Oregon and Burgundy (like Volnay, Santenay)
4. Merlot – Chile and Italy are generally lower alcohol than their CA cousins
5. Rioja crianza from Spain
6. Chianti from Italy
7.  Cotes-du-Rhone, baby brother of Chateuneuf-de-Pape, from France
8.  Beaujolais-Villages from France
9. Barbera from Italy

• Why you don’t need to buy a Champagne recorker to save an opened bottle of Champagne
Just as you can pop off the top of a carbonated soft drink, put what you can’t drink back in the fridge and enjoy it the next day -- you can put Champagne and sparkling wines in the fridge and they will keep their bubbles for up to 24 hours. 

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