Although many rules are made to be broken, there are, nevertheless, basic guidelines as to the most sensible way to serve wines thoughout a meal. Basically they are:
- White before red
- Dry before sweet
- Light before heavy
- Young before old
- Ordinary before fine
Water available on the table will help to cleanse and refresh palates
SERVING TEMPERATURE Temperature Converter
Serving temperature of wine varies depending on the style of wine and your personal preference. Serving a wine that is a bit too cold can reduce it's aroma and flavor. The less expensive wines are usually stored at lower temperatures.
When the French coined the term "chambre" (room temperature), even the wealthiest lived in homes that were far less warm than what we are used to. "Room temperature" often meant a few degrees above the cellar from which the wine came (about 10°C / 50°F). Warming wine to modern room temperature (which can be 20°C / 70°F or more) is detrimental to wine flavor.
Not all reds are the same. Even the finest red can seem dull and heavy if served too warm, and some red wines are at their best slightly chilled. The more tannic the wine, the more it will benefit from being served less cool, and younger, fruitier wines are usually best at a lower temperature.
Red wines are normally served chilled between 6°-19°C / 43°-67°F.
The colder the wine (or any food or drink), the less one can taste it. Consider the aroma, flavour and the texture - the lower the temperature, the less a sine will smell and the richness will be less evident.
White wines are normally served chilled between 5°-12°C / 42°-55°F.
Chill, but don't over-chill, particularly if the wine is dry.
If you're chilling in a hurry, an ice bucket filled with water and ice cubes is more effective than ice alone. Serve only small portions at first, giving the rest of the wine a chance to chill.
To warm a wine up, just set it in a bucket of tepid water.
Chill, but don't over-chill, particularly if the wine is dry.
Fortified wines such as a Madeira, Muscat, Ports and Sherries are served at 12°-18°C / 55°-65°.
An elegant and properly shaped glass can greatly enhance the drinking of wine.
If you haven't got the "right" glasses, make sure you at least have glasses that are smaller at the rim than across the bowl. This will prevent the bouquet of the wine from escaping.
Glasses for white wine usually have a longer stem, so the wine glass can be held without the hand warming the bowl of the glass.
Don't overpour. A third to half-full is about right.
Now, if you really want to get fussy...
Each wine has it's own distinguishing characteristics and glasses should allow the bouquets and aromas to be fully enjoyed. Light wines such as Pinot Noir (red) or a Chenin Blanc (white) need a more closed or narrow opening at the top to keep the aromas in the glass so the "nose" may be fully enjoyed.
Heavier wines such as an oaky Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon require a larger opening at the top allowing the aroma to escape a bit as to not be overpowering.
Very heavy full bodied wines such as Burgundy or Bordeaux need even larger (16-24 oz.) glasses with a larger opening at the top.
In general, light bodied wines need a smaller opening to keep the aromas in and heavy wines need a larger opening so as to not be overpowering.
The champagne flûte:
The best glass for serving champagne and carbonated wines. The stem allows the glass to be held without affecting the temperature of the drink and the bowl is designed to retain the carbonation by reducing the surface area at the opening of the bowl.
The flute has generally replaced the champagne coupe or saucer, the shape of which could not be worse for allowed carbonation to quickly dissipate.
You uncork a bottle of wine or you're in a restaurant and the waiter/waitress has removed the cork and placed it on the table for your it scrutiny. What do you look for?
The cork should be supple, not dried out so that air may have entered. As well, if the cork shows a stain of red wine (only) reaching the top of the cork, it may indicate a faulty seal and therefore a spoiled wine. If the bottom of the cork shows crystallization, the wine may need to be decanted or poured so the crystallizations do not end up in the glass.
Although screw top bottles are not as romantic as corked bottles, numerous tests have proven that they are more effective at sealing the wine and eliminating the risk of corkiness.
Perhaps the best solution for sealing wines is the synthetic cork. They're more efficient then regular corks in providing a better seal, they don't taint the wines, and they don't break off in the bottle. You can still use your favorite corkscrew, and still enjoy that satisfying "pop" as you liberate it from the bottle neck.
Decanting both lets the wine "breathe" (just taking the cork out does not expose much of the wine to the air), and separates the wine from sediment. This usually applies to older, red wines - young wines and white wines usually do not have to be decanted.
Wines are full of organic things - like yeast and grape skins - and very small particles settle out of the wine over the years after it is bottled. This is a normal and expected occurance, and older red wines, which have more skin contact, usually have more sediment.
Nowadays, with modern production and filtering methods, we are not used to seeing much sediment in wine. However, excessive filtering can remove flavour from the wine.
- Don't shake or move the bottle excessively when you take it from storage (you'll mix the sediment back in).
- Keeping the same side down that was down during the aging process.
- Pour the wine slowly and gently into the decanter.
- If the wine has a great deal of sediment, you can pour with the aid of a light (or "over a candle") - this helps you to see sediment in the neck of the bottle before it gets to the opening.
- Don't let the sediment end up in the decanting container.
- Let the wine breathe before serving. You don't want air getting to the wine during storage and aging, but exposing a good surface area of a wine to the air can bring out its aromas or "nose".
At a certain point air causes more damage than good. Wine can sit in the decanter for 1/2 to 1 hour before drinking. If you let the wine sit out too long, it could warm up too much (not good for flavour) and, as wine + air = vinegar, if exposed to air for over 8 hours, a vinegar taste may begin to overpower the good flavors.
For the nervous or unsteady-of-hand, coffee filter paper will effectively separate sediment from liquid.
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