Kix Brooks Uncorked!

updated 03/12/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/12/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

1 FANCY LABELS CAN BE DECEIVING
Wine bottles adorned with eye-catching labels may be trying to wow you with something other than the quality of the wine inside. "The exception is Italian wines," says Brooks. "Italians do everything with flair, and some of their best wines have colorful, wacky labels."

2 PICK THE RIGHT GLASS
Whether pouring red or white, make sure the stemware you're using has a narrow mouth, advises Brooks. "That way you get a good whiff of the wine. It makes it easier to taste."

3 WHEN IN DOUBT, ORDER CABERNET OR CHARDONNAY
"With steak, cabernet is a no-brainer," says Brooks, who also recommends it as a basic first-date wine and all-around table wine. As for whites? "Chardonnay is a nice fruity wine with chicken, salad and in the summertime."

4 TAKE RISKS
"There are a lot of great wines out there that haven't been discovered yet," he says. "Finding them is part of the joy of collecting and drinking wine."

5 OLDER DOESN'T ALWAYS MEAN BETTER
Although European wines tend to take a longer time (often 15 to 20 years) to reach their peak in taste, "in America our wines peak fast and are made to drink early," says Brooks. "Even nice red wines will be ready to drink in two years and peak in another three to four years. After that they're not any good."

6 KEEP IT COOL
"I prefer to keep my white wine in the 54- to 55-degree range," says Brooks. As for reds? "I like them a little cool, too. Put a bottle in your refrigerator 30 minutes before you serve it."

7 SCREW CORKS ARE OKAY...
"But I'm a romantic," he says. "There's a whole ceremony involved in pulling the cork out of a bottle of wine. Screw corks, for me, go against the fun of it."

8 EYEBALL THE CORK
"It should be wet," he says. "But if there's wine up the side of the cork, that means it got hot and it's been in a bad situation."

9 GIVE IT A SWIRL
Says Brooks: "When you swirl your wine, it won't taste as bitter. You're allowing oxygen to get in, which causes the nuances of the wine to open up."

10 DON'T JUDGE A WINE BY ITS PRICE TAG
"Our Syrah won best of show in a blind tasting," says Brooks. "At the time, it was a $20 bottle of wine; now it's an $80 bottle."

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