As the head of leading Chilean winery Viña Montes, Montes is a bona fide grape guru. We took advantage of our time with him and got the full lowdown on what it takes to host a successful home wine tasting. His number-one rule? Have fun!
What type of atmosphere should you aim to create with your wine tasting?
It should be relaxed. It’s really about having a good time and enjoying yourself. I hate it when people are so serious when it comes to tasting wine. I like to invite friends over so we enjoy good food and wine together.
How many bottles of wines should you have? Do you believe less is more?
Normally I choose three main wines to accompany the food I’m going to prepare. I choose what kind of food I’m going to cook first and then select the wines that taste best with those dishes.
Are there any rules to follow to ensure you pick the best bottles?
It’s important to know the differences between wine-growing regions. If you’re having wine from a certain part of the world, you will more or less get a sense of the taste and aroma of wines from that region. So when you choose a Piemonte, Rioja, Bordeaux or Mendoza, for instance, you’re going to be getting the flavors of those areas.
How should you organize the tasting itself?
Keep it simple: Put the wines in the order you want people to drink them. And I would recommend staying away from blind tastings, as they can be confusing for non-professionals. Keep it more relaxed and informal so everyone has a good time.
Any advice for newbies who are just learning to love wine?
You should always be very careful about when you use a decanter. A decanter is like a gun. With one shot, you can kill the wine. People think every wine needs to be decanted. Big mistake. Some wines should only be opened a minute before pouring. You really have to be careful when you decant.
Also, the temperature of your wine is key. It’s like food. Do you like roast lamb? Yes. Do you like cold lamb? No. Same with wine. If it is too cold or too warm, it’s horrible. Temperature is one of the most important things to take care of.
What’s the number-one thing that can make or break your wine tasting?
The type of glass you use. This is very, very important. You don’t need to have the fanciest glasses or 10 different shapes, but you need to have at least one glass for red wine and one for white. You don’t want to open up a special bottle of wine and then serve it in a plastic glass, do you? That doesn’t do the wine justice. You need to use a crystal glass with a good shape. Your glasses for red wine should have a wider opening, while the glasses for white should be narrower.
Any other words of advice?
Believe it or not, the best way to cut a wine is with a green apple like a Granny Smith. You don’t need anything fancy. Keeping things simple and relaxed so that you can have fun with wine. That’s more important than everything else!