How to Sip Like a Sommelier With Peter Neptune

Are you a novice at tasting nectars? Here’s a crash course from a master somm. 

To decant or not to decant? Does the shape of the glass really matter? Always seeking answers, we sought advice from master sommelier Peter Neptune, who ranks among California’s top experts and teaches certification courses throughout SoCal, including from his newest spot at SoCo in Costa Mesa.

It’s always nice to start with a framework, so let’s begin with your three cardinal rules of wine drinking. 

Serve wine at the proper temperature: Many white wines are served too cold and many red wines are served too warm. Try wines outside of your comfort zone: Even sommeliers tend to drink the same styles of wine over and over. Try new things. Look for wines from the same region as a certain dish or recipe. And make tasting notes of the wine you drink, so that you can remember the wine or compare your notes with the same wine tasted at another time. 

Why decant — does it really make a difference? 

It exposes the wine’s aroma and flavonoid compounds to oxygen, which helps release additional compounds and soften tannins in red wines. A bottle of wine really doesn’t breathe through the small opening at the top of the bottle when you open it. You have to decant it. 

Your favorite varietals for winter are… Pinot Blanc from Alsace, Gamay from Beaujolais, red and white Burgundy, Sangiovese and Tempranillo

Does it matter what kind of glassware they’re poured into? 

That’s a tough one. I do think there are differences in how certain wines taste from glass to glass, but I don’t obsess about it. I’m good with a high-quality Burgundy balloon for nearly everything, including Champagne! 

Speaking of bubbly — what will you be popping on New Year’s Eve?

I really like the small grower producers called récoltant manipulants. They make small quantities of Champagne from their own vineyards, and you really taste the vineyard through the wine. Currently, I’m obsessed with Goutorbe-Bouillot, which makes a Champagne with a blend of more than 30 vintages in it. Laurent Perrier Brut Rosé — I really love this rosé made in the Saignee method from Pinot Noir grapes. And Henriot Cuvée des Enchanteleurs vintage 2000 — this tête de cuvée Champagne is an extravagance but worth every penny. It spends more than 12 years on the lees and is complex and creamy beyond belief. 

Want to become a sommelier? The Neptune School of Wine offers courses certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. 

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