Having chosen your wine, whether for an important dinner-party, or simply self-indulgence, correctly serving your wine, can greatly enhance its enjoyment.
This is perhaps the most important aspect of serving wine - as it can greatly affect the aroma and taste of the wine. White wines benefit from chilling - but if left in the fridge overnight, this will chill the wine to around 4°C, enough to mask many of the flavours and aromas. Most still white wines should be served at around 8-10°C to better show their personality. If a wine needs to be chilled quickly, iced water is far more effective than placing the bottle in a container full of ice cubes.
The term 'room temperature' for red wines can be very misleading and in most cases is too warm (especially in summer). Most red wines are best served at a temperature around 15-16°C to express their flavours and lift the natural aromas - (serve full-bodied red wines at 17-18°C). If a red wine is very cold try pouring into a warm decanter or pouring into warm glasses. Some lighter, fruity red wines can benefit from light cooling to around 12-13°C - (e.g. a red Beaujolais), especially for summer drinking.
Opening the bottle:
Remove the metal or plastic foil using a sharp knife or special foil cutter ensuring that no jagged edges remain on the pouring surface - this can cause unsightly dribbling. Most modern corkscrews are effective but invariably an old or weak cork may break or disintegrate. If the cork proves difficult to remove try carefully pushing it into the bottle and pour the wine into a decanter using a skewer or kebab stick to hold it down. If there are bits of cork in the wine, filter it through a simple kitchen funnel using coffee filter paper.
With Screw-cap closures check that the top is not dented on the edge or that the cap is loose before cracking the seal - as the closure maybe faulty and allowed air to spoil your wine. Be especially careful with Champagne/ Sparkling Wine as the corks can eject with tremendous force and cause injury. Always open at an angle away from you (your guests and best china). Release the restraining wire and use the wire to hold onto the cork while twisting the bottle from the base. As the cork is released, angle it out of the neck to release the gas 'softly' - so Formula 1 racing drivers take note - you will enjoy a lot more of your wine.
During my 24 years in the wine industry - I have found virtually all quality red wines benefit from decanting. Not just those specific styles of wine known to deposit sediment such as Vintage Port, or very old red wines. Decanting for varied lengths of time - can help a wine to breathe, integrate and even soften. When decanting, the wine should be poured slowly and steadily into a clean glass vessel or better still a Riedel Decanter. Using a candle or bright light will show the sediment as it gathers in the shoulder of the bottle - (try your best to stop pouring before the sediment reaches the neck of the bottle) - if you really want to enjoy the very last drop from the bottle - pour through a coffee filter.
Ideally for light, aromatic white wines, a tulip shaped glass with a wider bowl and slightly tapering top will best express the subtle characters in the wine. Though a wider fuller bowl is more ideal for an oaked Chardonnay and a taller glass with a wider bowl and opening is best for most red wines (for more details: click here). A long stem allows for ease of swirling the wine and the glass shape will trap and deliver the aromas.
Holding the glass by the stem minimises temperature change from your hand and avoids unsightly finger marks on chilled white or sparkling wine glasses. It also aids in seeing the full colour of the wine which can give you clues to the style of wine and the enjoyment soon to be had - with the cuisine you are pairing it with.
Never fill the glass. Pouring to the half way mark is fine or better still - pour to the widest part of the wine glass. It may look mean but you can pour as often as your guests require. It allows the wine to breathe in the glass and for the recipient to swirl the wine and enjoy the aromas. As a general rule serve white wine before red, softer, younger wines before more intense, richer more complex wines. If you are serving very old, fragile aged red wines - possibly serve these before much younger, fruit driven, higher alcohol styles wines, as they can mask the subtle notes if enjoyed first.
After you finish pouring the wine into each glass - tilt the tip of the bottle upwards so that the wine stops flowing and while leaving the tip of the bottle over the glass - slightly rotate/ twist your hand, so if the bottle does drip wine, it falls into the glass and not onto the table cloth or worse on their lap.
Wine is at its best when it is: sipped, savoured and shared with good food and friends. So make sure you don't get too serious - and enjoy each wine on its own merits - cheers.