Things to Know When Ordering a Glass of Wine

There are millions and millions (and millions) of single adults in America today. That’s one reason so many restaurants now complement their wine lists with a number of by-the-glass options.

One potential downside is that we don’t always get a “fresh” glass of wine. So, it was only a matter of time until one of our followers wrote in about it…

QUESTION: My girlfriend is very particular about wine. If we can’t agree on a bottle to share when we go out, she’ll order a glass, and she’ll always ask whether the bottle was opened that day. If not, she asks for a new bottle to be opened. It’s kind of embarrassing for me, but she insists that “day-old” wine isn’t as good as fresh wine. Is that true, or is she just really picky?

ANSWER: There’s a long-time restaurant owner in Chicago who says that when she was starting out in business, she had to decide between owning a restaurant or a bakery. She chose a restaurant because many baked goods stay “fresh” for only a day, whereas many other foods—the kind you find in a restaurant—will last for several days.

I understand where she’s coming from. I believe that homemade soup tastes better on the second day than on the first, and better still on the third day than on the second. And who doesn’t love leftover pizza for breakfast? But does the same reasoning hold true for wine?

It depends. On several things:

  • Quality. A high-quality wine typically remains enjoyable for two or three days after it has been opened—especially if you use any of several methods to limit the oxygen in the re-sealed bottle.
  • Age. Older wines—10 years or more past their vintage—usually need to be consumed within hours of opening. The initial exposure to air once the cork has been popped hastens the aging process; evolution in the bottle that had taken years suddenly takes mere hours. Very old wines can fade in less than an hour after being opened.
  • Type. A big, tannic wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon often benefits from a few hours of aeration. The wine needs some time to “settle down.” A bright, high-acid wine such as Sauvignon Blanc needs no time at all.

Generally speaking, a restaurant operator will be happy to open a fresh bottle for a customer because that bottle eventually will be consumed by other by-the-glass customers. So, it’s certainly no crime to ask for a fresh glass, regardless of the wine’s quality, age or type.

But to answer your specific question: Is your girlfriend picky?

Hey, she chose you, didn’t she?

Posted in Wine FAQ
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