Mastering the basics of wine with Dennis Meadows


Dennis Meadows is the assistant wine purchaser at Ricardo’s Trattoria in Lowell. He’s also been managing the spacious bar for eight years. I met with Dennis on Tuesday to learn the techniques of properly opening a wine bottle, how to pour a glass of wine, and the best way to store an opened bottle to preserve maximum freshness and flavors. Dennis know his stuff. As you can see in the video, which will be uploaded on this site Thursday, Dennis is a consummate pro and makes everything look effortless. He can swirl a glass of wine without spilling a drop faster than anyone I have ever seen, even the top sommeliers in Napa Valley. His tips on selecting wine at a restaurant, especially when you are unsure and seek a sommelier’s assistant, are down-to-earth and positive. It makes for a more friendly and enjoyable experience. Hint: Pick the food you are going to eat first, and ask the sommelier for the best pairing selections. Ultimately, though, Dennis said it comes down to what you like. If you prefer a special white wine with steak, order it.

One question that I forgot to ask in the video — What’s the difference between corks and screw caps? — was answered later. Dennis said there is a shortage of cork as worldwide wine consumption has soared. He said the industry is using screw caps more than ever. Bottles are easier to open and don’t add any cost to the price. He said screw caps don’t affect the taste. He made a very good point: Screw caps suggest that the wine should be consumed soon and not cellared for long periods of time. More than 90 percent of wine produced today is ready for consumption off the shelf, said Dennis. So don’t fear for the quality of wine or the taste if you see a screw cap show up atop your favorite bottle. It’s a trend that is going to continue.

Of course, Dennis said the contentment and romanticism of having a waiter or waitress open a corked bottle on a special occasion will never go away. “High end wines will still have corks, just for the prestige factor, and that’s nice when you are out with friends or family and celebrating. It’s a fun experience. But the bottom line is the wine is what you drink. Don’t fret over what keeps it sealed in the bottle.”

Thanks, Dennis. Salute!