Serving Wine

Wine Serving

Ever been stuck in a restaurant wondering what ancient Byzantine necromancer created the rituals associated with wine selection and pouring? Let us help unveil the mysteries. Read on brave wine drinker. Let's get to the bottom of this so you can kick back, order and enjoy.

Temperature

There are many archaic ideas from the past that we have left behind- the flat earth theory and wearing white only in the summer - and all for good reason. Room temperature joins the ranks. There is a nasty rumor that wine should be served at room temperature, an idea that came from the dark ages- a time in northern Europe when central heating and air did not exist (seems dark to me)- and most rooms stayed cool at about 50 degrees fahrenheit.


In general, lower temperatures emphasize bitter, salty and tannic tastes, and people's need to complain about the weather, while higher temperatures emphasize sweetness, aromas and the alcohol content and people's need to complain about the weather.


As a rule of thumb, whites should be served cooler than reds at about 35-50 degrees fahrenheit, and reds at about 50-57 degrees fahrenheit. Now, that might be room temperature to you if you live in a museum.

Decanting

Not unlike other things that are youthful and inexperienced, a younger more robust wine will require faster, more rigorous treatment. A quick decanting will aerate the wine further and quell the need for instant gratification by getting the wine promptly from the decanter, to the glass, and in your mouth. Take it easy with those old, cellared wines and pour them gently by letting it slide slowly down the side of the decanter. Good things are always worth the wait. Decanters are still used for aged wines, and wines with traditionally more sediment like Barolos, the Grands Crus de Medoc, old Ports, etc. De-cant seriously expect you to drink sediment.

Pouring

Like squeezing a full-figure into a small bikini, pouring a full-bodied wine into a small, inappropriate glass is a travesty to all involved. We suggest a 20-ounce glass for reds and a 12-ounce glass for whites. While some might note improperly outfitted wine more than others, it is best to buy the nicest glassware you can; ignorance is not blissful wine drinking.


Avoid lush-ious portions: Generosity is not sharing the wine with your attire or the tablecloth, so unless you want to spill, keep your wine enthusiasm at bay by leaving half or more of the glass empty for room to swirl.

Stemware

It is important to remember that the shape of the glass affects the taste of your wine. Universally speaking, Reidel wine glassware is the choice of many winemakers.

  1. Proper stemware doesn't just refer to great legs. The perfect shaped glass will do more than just make the wine look good; thin and delicate in all the right places, and full and round in others, it will make you aware of all the great things you look for in a wine. An ideal sized bowl will prevent you from looking a fool by giving you room to swirl the wine without spilling and splashing. No one likes spillage.
  2. Fine if you want to wedge that huge new plasma into your unfurnished studio, but don't dare pour an expensive, robust red wine into a small, poor quality glass. A 20-plus-ounce Bordeaux glass is perfect for allowing these big boys to open up and release their intoxicating aromas and perfumes. With white wines you can concentrate their lighter, more floral notes in a narrow-bowled 11-plus-ounce Chablis glass.
  3. It's shameful that you need to be reminded again to fill the glass less than half full to accommodate swirling. There are anonymous groups for people like you. Some things need to be swirled to go down just right. The only exception is sparkling wine. You don't want to lose those amazing bubbles!
  4. Try not to man-handle the bowl of the glass. Holding the glass by the stem not only keeps incriminating fingerprints at bay, but also keeps your hand from heating the wine.
  5. Lots of things seem like a good idea after a long night of wine and spirits- cleaning your nice stemware is not one of them. Like big life decisions, committing to drive someone to the airport, or offering to paint your co-workers house, washing glassware is one of those things better left until the morning after the event. You'll be less likely to chip or break the glass.
  6. It's not really another forced tip to go green, but seriously save the soap and wash your glasses with plain, hot water- not so much to save the earth or money, but because detergents are going to leave an obnoxious residue on those nice glasses you took my advice on and bought and, worse yet, could taint the taste of the next wine you pour into that glass.

Tasting

The swirl and sniff method of introductions- while invented by dogs- has been perfected by wine lovers the world-over as a way to ascertain the aroma of their wines. You'll note a positive relationship between leaving your mouth slightly open while getting familiar with the scent of your new, uncorked friend.

  1. Akin to the ancient bar mating-ritual, the initial pour is your opportunity to give a wine the up-and-down before obliging any purchase. In wine tasting, it is socially acceptable to smell and taste the object of interest. Pretense aside, this little charade allows you to check for the oxidation- commonly known as "corking"- of your wine. You like? Give your blessing to the server and share your excellent taste with your friends.
  2. Just as leaves turn brown, the pits of white t-shirts turn yellow, so the color of wine indicates its age. A younger wine will be a bright red, while an older wine tends to take on a deeper, more brick red color.
  3. Anything that has been hidden away for too long- needs time to readjust to the outside world. Thus, red wines older than 10 years need a little time to breathe and should be decanted first.
  4. Even your liquid wit and charm needs a little time to open up. Don't dump and down, but swirl to allow oxygen to release bouquet and aroma (seriously, its time to start expanding your wine lexicon). Breathing with your mouth open isn't just for the sinus-challenged; smelling with mouth slightly opens the nasal passage and creates a circular air flow that allows you to taste those subtle differences other wine lovers ramble about.
  5. With the wine in your mouth and your mouth slightly open, bring air through teeth and quietly move the wine back and forth in your mouth and then close and hold for a few seconds for the perfect finish. Sounds more like a gymnastics floor routine, but results will help your give your wine the perfect score.
  6. While few successfully master other important zones on the body, it's entirely possible to properly identify and personally experience the 4 flavor zones of the tongue. The tip of the tongue detects sweetness, sides are susceptible to acidity, the center notes saltiness, and finally the back picks up bitterness.
  7. Kinda like the way you bask in the delicious glory of a perfectly executed one-liner, the aftertaste of your wine- if it is high quality- will linger and leave you re-running the good notes and memorable finish long after the sip.

Wine Lists

  1. Harder than choosing a baby name, but easier than picking a gift for your girl/boyfriend on your first Valentine's Day together: selecting a wine from a list. You fail standardized tests, not a wine selection- don't be intimidated and have fun.
  2. Make nice with the Sommelier- that "wine guy" who is well-versed in all things wine. (It's pronounced suh-mal-'yAy, don't worry- a lot of people struggle with that). While insider advice did not bode well for Martha this handy gent [or lady] can give you apt guidance on food and wine pairings, and even more useful- which wines are in your price range.
  3. Gather preferences from your fellow diners. Talk of red versus white and grape varietals (grape background and origins) is socially acceptable.
  4. You can wear socks with sandals, just as you can attempt to pronounce wines on your own, but in both cases, very few people can successfully pull it off. Pointing is traditionally considered rude; in this situation, however, it is much less offensive to the winemaker's native tongue to just point out the selection to your server.
  5. You might be above checking your bag for fries at the drive-thru, but do make sure it is the wine you ordered when your server presents the bottle by checking the label. Treat it like your credit card bill and make sure the numbers (vintage) add up to what you originally ordered.
  6. The server will pour a small amount into your glass (relax, you'll get more)- use this little teaser to see, smell, and taste the wine- paying special attention to check for signs of the wine being "corked". One you give your approval, the server will pour for the table and return to give you a more agreeable portion.