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Every now and then I get asked how I come up with ideas after more than 150 columns. Actually some of the best ideas have come from readers across the Midwest. Today’s column is an example of that. It seems lately I’ve been asked a lot of ‘wine basics’ questions.

Grape Sense LogoSo a list of suggestions, guidance, and ideas that may help you enjoy wine even more seemed like a good idea for this Grape Sense outing. You can find list after list available in wine books and the internet but I’ve selected some I think are most helpful.

Wine storage – Keep your wine in a dark, moderate temperature to cool spot. Ever wonder why wine comes in dark bottles? Light will break down the chemical structure of the wine. Buy a simple wine rack. They’re easy to find in most any home store. Keep it away from heat and away from direct sunshine or bright light and you should be fine. Never store wine on top of a refrigerator or near a heat source.

iStock_two-wine-glassesWine glasses – You can find wine glasses at Wal Mart or Target. You can also spend close to $100 apiece for Riedel crystal wine stems. But the best and least expensive advice is to buy two different kinds of glasses. Buy a big bowl wine glass for your red wines and a smaller glass for your white wines. It took me a long time but it makes a difference.

If you have advanced to wines which are a little more complex and expensive, then you can look to different shapes and better stemware. If you are getting serious about your wine, Riedel (and other companies) offer crystal wine glasses at a number of price points.

Washing wine glasses – You might say, huh? It’s important to clean your wine glasses thoroughly immediately after using them. Use mild dish soap sparingly, rinse thoroughly, and dry immediately. The slightest residue can affect the taste of your next glass of wine.

Wine Ratings – Ratings are one of the most controversial topics in oenophile circles. They are meant to be a guideline. If you buy highly-rated wines and like them, then the ratings are useful to you. I’d recommend you take advice from your local wine shop owner. Then when you return, tell them what you like and didn’t like.

Value wine – You like wine and want to enjoy it more often but don’t like the price of better wines? Go abroad! There are good U.S. made value wines. But if you look at South American wines, Spanish wines, and French Rhone wines, you’ll find some great bottles in the $9-$15 range.

wine-snobRestaurant wine – Unless you’re fabulously wealthy, buying a bottle of wine in a restaurant is seldom a bargain. Restaurant wines are often marked up 100 percent or more. I will order a glass of wine in a nice restaurant, but usually refuse to pay $50 for a bottle I know costs $22.

Chilling wine – There is more advice on wine temperature than you can sort out. Put a white wine in your refrigerator for an hour or less. For a lighter-style red wine, I’d open the bottle and chill about 10-15 minutes before serving. One old adage rings true, most white is served too cold and most red too warm.

It would take all of the pages of this newspaper for a comprehensive list. If you have a specific question, drop me a line at the email address below. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find one for you.