How to serve wine
Serving wine: an art that anyone can learn
The temperature at which a wine should be served depends on its structure and age, its personality, the season and the temperature of the venue.
When a wine is excessively cool, it is exaggeratedly harsh and thin and the bouquet loses its finesse.
Temperatures above 20 °C deprive the wine of its balance and make it taste banal. Red wines become overly warm: people forget that ‘room temperature’ has gradually risen in modern times; the wine’s tannins are too dry and the alcohol dissociated from the rest.
Unfortunately, a wine only needs a few minutes to heat up in a room without air conditioning. In such cases you need an ice bucket and a thermometer or you should invest in an air conditioned wine cellar.
A few tips about temperatures
- white wines of the muscat, riesling and sauvignon type are served at 12-13 °C
- white wines of the chardonnay, chenin, marsanne and roussanne type are served at 14 °C
- sparkling wines of the Champagne brut and crémant type are served at 8 to 10 °C
- sparkling wines of the Champagne millésimé, grande cuvée type are served at 10 to 12 °C
- sweet white wines are served at 8 to 10°C
- fruity, thirst-quenching red wines are served at 12 to 14°C
- Burgundy reds require a temperature of 14 to 17°C.
- the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley are more tannic and require a serving temperature ranging from 16 to 18°C.
The richer a wine is in tannins, the higher the temperature should be.
Choice of glasses
The wineglass is one of the tools of tasting and has to satisfy all the requirements of the eye, the nose and the mouth. Transparent, smooth and sober, it should showcase the wine, emphasizing its colour, tints and thousand and one nuances. It should not be so big that it alters the wine’s bouquet. The bowl should be oval shaped, tapering upwards in order to concentrate the aromas. The lip (the part that touches your own lips) should be thin in order to enhance contact. It must have a stem, as this is the part of the glass you hold: if you hold the bowl, the heat in your hand will be transmitted to the glass.
There is nothing worse than a glass that tastes of dishcloth, detergent, musty cupboard or cardboard.
Always rinse wineglasses for a long time in cold water.
Never leave wineglasses upside-down on the shelf; they will taste musty.
Similarly, store decanters open, without their stopper.
Clean decanters with coarse salt and vinegar, and rinse them abundantly with water.
There are two precise reasons for decanting:
On the one hand, decanting separates the wine from any deposit it may have. On the other hand, it oxygenates the wine: this is aeration.
When you can see that a bottle has a deposit at the bottom, you must decant. In front of a light source such as a candle, slowly and delicately pour the wine into the decanter and stop pouring when the deposit reaches the bottle neck.
Young red wines
With young red wines, aeration is a very good idea (release of gases, reduction aromas, aromatic profile, etc.), although generally speaking more tannic wines decant more easily (Bordeaux, Rhone Valley, etc.); the tannins seem mellower and less aggressive after decanting.
Old red wines
With very old wines, which are fragile and sensitive to oxygen, decanting is more difficult because the sudden intake of air can prove fatal.
Use a bottle-pouring basket (metal or wicker).
White wines, especially those vinified in barrels, gain in expression, harmony and smoothness when decanted, as well as in complexity.
Try decanting a Champagne; it loses a bit of gas but gains in fruitiness.
Decanters and carafes come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and prices.
Each type of decanter serves a purpose:
- wide bottoms for plenty of aeration
- high necks to conserve the aromas
- small carafes for a refreshing drink