Don’t Pour Wrong. How to Serve Wine the Right Way

Nobody will complain if you serve wine badly at a party but they will think about it for sure. Here are a few guidelines you can follow to make sure the wine you serve is the best it can be for your guests.

Wine Serving Temperature
Different types of wine taste best when served at particular temperatures.

Types of Wine Temperatures Instructions
Sparkling wines 45-50° F (7-10° C) Chill for about an hour
Roses and blushes 50-55° F( 10-13° C) Chill for about 45 minutes
Inexpensive white wines 50-55° F( 10-13° C) Chill for about 45 minutes
Fine white wines 55-65° F(13-15° C) Chill for about an hour
Light-bodied red wines 58-62° F(14-16.5° C) Chill for 30 minutes at most
Most red wines 60-65° F(15-18 C°) Chill for 15-30 minutes at most
Dessert wines 60-65 F° (15-18 C°) Chill for 15-30 minutes at most

How to Aerate and Decant Wine
The flavour and aroma of many wines improve when the wine comes into contact with air. To aerate a wine, pour it from the bottle into a carafe or a wide-mouthed pitcher that holds a bottle’s worth of wine.

  • Young, tannic red wines: Reds such as Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, and most Rhone Valley and Italian red wines need at least an hour of aeration.
  • Full-bodied white wines: Whites such as Burgundy and Bordeaux also benefit form a good aerating, though a half hour is usually enough.

Some older red wines and all older ports develop sediment over time as the tannins join together, harden, and drop out of solution. Though the sediment isn’t harmful, it can stick to your teeth. Such wines need to be decanted in order to remove the sediment. To decant a wine that contains sediment, stand it upright for a day or two. The sediment will sink to the bottom. Then pour the wine very carefully into the decanter, leaving the last inch behind.

How to Serve Wines in Sequence
When accompanying multiple-course dinners, wines are traditionally served in the following sequence:

  • White wine before red wine
  • Dry wine before sweet wine
  • Light-bodied wine before full-bodied wine
  • Straightforward wine before complex wine

For instance: a white or light-bodied red with the hors d’oeuvres; a fuller-bodied, more intense and complex white or red with the main course; and if you’re feeling ambitious, perhaps even a Port or Sherry with dessert.

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How to Pull the Cork
Unfortunately, the most popular corkscrew currently on the market – the kind with wings that looks like a child making a snow angel – is not very good. But better corkscrews are out there. Here are three of the best:

  • Waiter’s corkscrew: Waiter’s corkscrews have curved or straight handles that contain a foldout lever, a metal spiral worm that twists into the cork, and a blade for cutting the foil that covers the cork. The key to using a waiter’s corkscrew is to make you twist the worm down through the centre of the cork. Once you do, press the lever onto the top lip of the wine bottle and lift the cork by lifting the far end of the corkscrew. You can buy a quality waiter’s corkscrew for as little as $12.
  • Screwpull: The Screwpull corkscrew is remarkably easy to use. Just keep twisting the corkscrew in the same direction: the screw will insert itself into the cork and, once inserted, pull the cork from the bottle. A good Screwpull model costs about $25.
  • The Rabbit: The Rabbit corkscrew (made by Metrokane) is even easier to use – it takes virtually all the effort out of removing a cork. Just push and pull on a lever, and the cork comes right out. The downside is that the device is pretty big and, at $50, a tad expensive for a corkscrew.

If Cork Gets in the Wine
Even with the best corkscrew in the world, you’ll probably still have a cork-pulling debacle once in a while. If so:

  • Fish out the bigger pieces with a cork retriever – a metal device with long, thin stiff rods that can be dipped into the wine bottle.
  • Then pour the wine through a very fine strainer. If you don’t have a strainer, you can also use a coffee filter as long as you run water through it first.

From our archives – Jan-Feb 2010. Source: 2008 Barnes and Noble Inc. Printed with permission.