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STAARS: Disambiguating Wine

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Do you find the complex world of wine confusing? We are here to help simplify it for you.

STAARS is our anagram which covers the basics of enjoying and appreciating wine: Settle, Test, Aerate, Age, Read and Store.

Settle wine for 1-2 weeks after arrival: transportation shakes it up.

  • This is especially important for older or unfiltered red wines with sediment, which disperses in the bottle when shaken and can add a bitter taste. Commonly known as "bottle shock", this temporary condition is fixed with a few weeks' rest.

Test wine by looking at its colour and clarity, smelling it and tasting it to judge its character and condition, and if it seems too young to drink, further test its age by leaving some until the next day; if it improves, store it for another year.

  • Air ages wine, so a simple trick is to recork the remaining half bottle and see if it improves, stays the same or deteriorates. If it improves through this "instant aging" process, it is not ready to drink. If it stays the same or deteriorates, that's as good as it is going to get.

Aerate wine by decanting or opening the bottle up to 2 hours before drinking.

  • Letting the wine breathe opens up its aromas and flavours so that you can enjoy its potential earlier, as opposed to drinking from the bottle immediately after opening, and noticing how much better it became.

Age wine 3-5 years for white and 5-7 years for red (7-10 years for Italy and Spain).

  • Some prefer the taste of young wine (example: Beaujolais Nouveau), but tradition encourages wines to be drunk at their peak. From the time it is bottled until drinking, wine continues to age. This maturing is important with red wines as they become softer and less astringent, and, hopefully, more complex and flavourful.

Read the Label (brand, region, grape variety, vintage) to choose the wine style that you prefer.

  • Brand: knowing a producer's wines helps you find them again, and assures you the quality associated with brand recognition.Think Rothschild in Bordeaux, Antinori in Tuscany or Mondavi in California.

  • Region: two notable regions are Bordeaux and Tuscany, each with sub-regions known for their subtle variations in taste and quality.

  • Grape Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Chardonnay or Sauignon Blanc - which do you prefer? And which one does the producer make better? If a grape is shown on the label, the wine must contain a minimum amount of it (usually 85%).

  • Vintage: the age of the wine tells you when it will be ready to drink (and if very old serves as a warning if not properly stored).

Store wine in a dark, cool and quiet place where the temperature is consistent.

  • For those of you who have resisted the temptation to build a temperature-controlled wine cellar, fear not! While the ideal temperature may be 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit), in 50 years we have never lost a bottle storing it at normal room temperature. Granted we have always placed the bottles on their sides (if they have corks), in a dark closet where they can lie undisturbed. We do not recommend this approach for $100+ wines that can be aged for over 10 years; in this case, closer attention needs to be paid to the temperature.

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