Ask the Somm


Welcome to The Kirby’s “Ask the Somm”

On this page, we will post the answers to our guest’s most frequently asked questions, and will also provide you with an opportunity to ask your own. Our sommelier, Mindy, looks forward to hearing from you and helping you navigate the wide world of food and wine.  Cheers!

From Our Guests… 

Is it ok to drink white wine with red meat?

Kate from Saugatuck, MI

Dear Kate from Saugatuck,

Yes, if that’s what you prefer! While there are guidelines for pairing wine with food, drinking what you enjoy is what’s most important!  Most of the time, I will serve a white or rose wine with fish and chicken and a red wine with beef and lamb at The Kirby.  If you are having Snapper Veracruzano, for example,  you may pair a white Albarino with it.  Another alternative would be a light, dry Greek wine or even a light Sangiovese from Chianti which will go well with the tomatoes and olives in the sauce. Just be careful not to overpower the food with the wine.

How long should I keep or age a bottle of wine?

Alex from Grayslake, IL

Dear Alex from Grayslake,

This is a great question. About 90% of wines are made to be enjoyed when they’re bottled. The other 10% or so can develop complexities and benefit with aging.  Ideal storage conditions for aging include a constant 55 degree temperature that is away from light, heat, temperature fluctuation, and vibration. Even with all these factors maintained, there’s no guarantee that a wine will improve with age. If you decide to age wines, start with a Bordeaux from France or a Barolo from Italy.  Pick wines from good vintages that are priced reasonably.  Sometimes these wines have such aggressive tannins that they drink better years later.  My most prized “ager”, believe it or not, is not the 99 pt, collector’s ’96 Margaux from Bordeaux.  It is my $10 bottle of 2001 Monchof Riesling from Germany.  Expect to see some on The Kirby’s wine list. Here’s a little secret.  Winemakers and sommeliers age Riesling more than any other wine due to its low ph/high acidity.


I received a bottle of wine for my anniversary. When should I open it?

Maeve from Melrose Park, IL

 Dear Maeve from Melrose Park,

Do a little research on the bottle.  Reading reviews and tasting notes may help you decide (or give me a call at The Kirby).  The Wine Curator website offers aging potential charts.  Although,  there is no guarantee of how a wine will taste, it might be fun to hold on to it and pair it with some spectacular food on that next “special” occasion.

What’s the proper temperature to serve wine?

Tom from Chicago, IL

Dear Tom from Chicago,

I have a lot to say about this one, Tom.  In this country, we often serve white wines too cold at 40 degrees  just like Coca-Cola.   It is best to serve a wine at the temperature that reveals its characteristics.  If you take a white wine up, closer to 50-55 degrees, its aromas and essences will appear.  If you keep your wine in the refrigerator, take it out and let it sit out an hour before you serve it.  Serve red wines slightly below room temperature, around 60 degrees or so.  A lighter red such as a Beaujolais or Chianti tastes wonderful with a slight chill.  Try a heavier red between 60-65 degrees.  See what you think and what temperature works best for you.

How can I tell if a bottle of wine is bad?

Andrea from Wheeling, IL

Dear Andrea from Wheeling,

Smell is a dead giveaway. If it smells like vinegar or cabbage it’s probably gone bad. A wine that smells like wet cardboard may be a corked bottle. Corked wine is a term for wine that has become contaminated with cork taint caused by the presence of a chemical compound called TCA.  If you think your wine is corked, send it back in the restaurant or take it back to your wine shop for an exchange.

How long can I keep an opened bottle?

Trish from Chicago, IL

 Dear Trish from Chicago,

I would say two days is the maximum that you will want to keep an opened bottle. Champagne or other sparkling wines should be consumed immediately. If you do not usually finish a whole bottle, think about purchasing half bottles or 375ml.  Another option is to get a vacu vin pump or a can of wine preserve for $10.  They are both inexpensive and easy to use and can give you an extra day.


Why does the same wine taste different at different times?

Robert from Douglas, MI

Dear Robert from Douglas,

There are a multitude of reasons why the same wine can taste different at different times.  One has to do with what you are eating. What we eat has an enormous impact on the way wine tastes.   The temperature of the wine also makes a big difference in the way it tastes. If a wine is served too cold, you really won’t be able to enjoy either the full aromas and flavors.  Sometimes, we open up a bottle and pour a glass.  Then, an hour later we pour another glass and the wine tastes different because it has had exposure to air.  It has opened up.

I’m planning a party soon. Can you help me figure out how much wine I need?

Joy from Glencoe, IL

Dear Joy from Glencoe,

Believe it or not, the formula is really quite simple.  An average pour of wine is 5 ounces and a 750ml wine bottle contains 25.35 ounces, so basically you’ll have 5 glasses of wine per bottle.  From there, it’s simply a question of how many guests will be drinking wine (as opposed to beer, soda, cocktails or other non-alcoholic beverages provided), and how many glasses each person will drink.  Here’s an example that we’ve used here at The Kirby.

 Number of Guests: 100 

Percent of guests drinking wine: 60%
Average number of glasses of wine per guest: 3

So the calculation we would use looks like this: 100 guests x 60% who are drinking wine = 60 guests. 60 guests x 3 glasses each = 180 glasses of wine. 180 glasses of wine with 5 glasses per bottle = 36 bottles (or three cases of wine).

 Keep in mind that many wines are also available in larger 1.5L bottles, which are twice the size of 750ml bottles, so you would need half as many bottles for your 60 wine lovers.  If you are buying in large quantity make sure to ask the wine shop if you can return any unopened, unchilled  bottles for a refund, but remember it is always better to have leftovers than run out!  Leftovers can be used a parting gifts for guests.



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