Julie Harrison - Serving Wine

Publish Date
Friday, 15 April 2016, 11:25AM
By Julie Harrison

No matter if are enjoying an inexpensive or very pricy wine, serving it correctly can greatly improve the experience. The temperature of a wine has a major influence on how it smells and tastes. Decanting a wine and the type of glass you use can also add to your appreciation.

The general idea that white wine should be served straight from the fridge and red at room temperature is rather simplistic. The colder the wine the more muted the aroma and taste of the wine so if your fridge is at the usual 4 degrees Centigrade the wine will be too cold. Wine served too warm may be flat and flabby with an alcohol hit on the nose

Sparkling wines are best served at around 6 degrees centigrade. The cooler temperature maintains the bubbles and prevents frothiness. Cold reduces perception of sweetness and acidity. For this reason acidic, light, aromatic white wines such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are good at a cool 8 degrees C. These aromatic wines can handle the cooler temperature as they are what they say they are – aromatic. Sweet wines are also good at this temperature with the cold balancing out the sweetness. Full bodied wines with more elusive aromas need to be served a bit warmer; so wines like Chardonnay are good around12 degrees C. This temperature is also ideal for light, fruity reds with the cooler temperature giving a sense of structure to these low tannin wines. During summer we are probably drinking all reds too warm. Pinot Noir and medium bodied reds are good around 15 degrees C and even full bodied reds like a good Bordeaux or Shiraz are ideally served at no more than 18 degrees C. Remember though that a heavy red served too cold will emphasise harsh tannins and astringency.

Austrian glass maker Riedel revolutionised how we think about wine glasses in 1986 when he introduced lines of glasses for different wines. Some question the necessity of having a specific wine glass for each variety but there are a few guidelines that enhance your enjoyment of a wine when it comes to what you serve it in. Glasses should be thin, clear and with a stem. Crisp, young white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling are better in a long stemmed, smaller glass with straight sides and a smaller opening. This helps to keep the wine cool as well as concentrate and hold in the wines bouquet. A more full bodied white like Chardonnay is better in a glass with a larger opening and bowl. This sort of glass helps emphasise the creamy texture of these wines and allows release of the wines aromas. The shape also helps pick up the acidity of the wine.  Red wine glasses have shorter stems and big bowls. The large bowl means you can swirl without spilling which together with the increased exposed surface area helps to aerate the wine, softening the tannins and releasing the wines aromas.  There are two main types of red wine glasses; the Bordeaux glass and the Burgundy glass. The Bordeaux is taller and is for heavy Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends or Shiraz.   The Burgundy glass is for lighter reds such as Pinot Noir. It is shorter with a slightly ballooned shape the narrower opening concentrating the delicate aromas. Champagne should be served in a tall, thin flute to retain the bubbles and concentrate the bouquet and flavours.  In reality 3 sets of glasses will get you through most wine situations; a smaller glass for aromatic, light bodied whites, larger glasses for reds and full bodied whites and a set of Champagne flutes. If you are serious about wine tasting a separate set of glasses for the full bodied whites and a set of glasses for Pinot Noir would be a helpful addition.

In most cases decanting a red wine will enhance the wine. Correct decanting will remove any sediment in an older wine and will also aerate the wine. Because of this it is quite often useful even in cheaper wines as aeration will help soften harsh tannins. Wine aerators are useful as an alternative to decanting. It is quite interesting to use an aerator on a bottle of wine and compare it with a bottle of the same wine that has not been aerated; there will be a difference. Sometimes a wine may have a hint of rotten egg aroma to it and decanting will help rectify this reductive smell.

Remember not to overfull the glass (especially with the large red wine glasses!) 150ml is the standard wine serve which means you should get around 5 glasses per bottle. There needs to enough room so you can easily swirl the wine and for the aromas to collect in the top area of the glass so you can appreciate them.   If you are ever in a situation where out of politeness you have to drink a white wine you really don’t like then chill it as cold as you can as it will make it more neutral!

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