Perhaps your colleagues back from Bordeaux are coming over for dinner, or your in-laws decide to turn up without warning. Follow these simple tips to ensure your dinner or party goes off without a hitch.
1. Preparing to serve:
-Remove the bottle from the rack and leave it to stand for at least 24 hours before opening. This is enough time to allow the deposits to fall to the bottom.
-Take the wine out in advance. If you store red and white wines together at 11-12⁰c be certain to remove the red wines 1 to 4 hours in advance. Keeping them at cool (air-conditioned) room temperature allow bottles to reach 18⁰c.
-If you have been caught unaware it is best to warm red wine in your glass rather than in a microwave or next to an oven. It is easier to cool down wines and this is quickly achieved with an ice bucket filled with a mixture of ice and water. In Asia, white wines are generally served too cold and red wines too warm. Complex full-bodied white wines benefit from slightly warmer temperatures so that all the layers of flavours can be appreciated.
Ideal Serving Temperatures
(degrees centigrade ⁰c)
Full bodied and tannic reds (eg. North Italian wines, Cabernet Sauvignon blends)
17 – 18
Medium to full bodied reds (eg. Red Burgundy, Rioja )
15 – 17
59 – 63
Light Reds (eg. Beaujolais, Valpolicella)
13 – 15
Dry Full Bodied Whites (Rhone, Oaked Chardonnay)
13 – 14
55 – 57
Dry Medium & Light Bodied Whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Sancerre)
10 – 13
Sweet Whites (Sauternes, Coteaux de Layon)
6 – 8
43 – 46
Champagne & Sparkling Wines ( NV, Vintage and Australian red sparkling)
6 – 8
43 – 46
2. How to open a bottle:
-Use a foil cutter to trim off the upper part of the metallic foil which covers the neck of the bottle and leave a small margin below the lip.
-Mould formed by humidity or dampness is sometimes detected on the top of the cork but this does not necessarily indicate a faulty bottle. If the cork is loosely fitted in the bottle air may have been let in but the wine may not always be oxidised. Taste it first before passing judgement!
-Remove the cork. This must be done with care, as old corks are partial to crumbling if pulled too hastily. A double pull corkscrew is recommended rather than new “bunny” or “screw pulls”.
-Push the corkscrew into the centre of the cork and while keeping it straight; turn the screw gently down into the bottle with even pressure until it is almost fully down. Holding the bottle firmly pull the cork out gently to prevent it from crumbling or splitting in half.
-If the cork crumbles you can use a specially designed wine needle. Push the needle fully through the cork and as you start to pull the needle upward claws are released at the bottom of the needle which grip the cork so it can be pulled free. Other options are thin strips of metal which fit around the cork and can help to rescue crumbled corks. If all else fails, then the cork must be plunged into the wine and the wine decanted using with a fine sieve.
-Wipe clean the neck and top of the bottle to remove any cork or residue before pouring.
-If you see crystals on the bottom of the cork it is likely to be tartrate deposits, which are perfectly harmless.
3. How to decant:
-Ensure the decanter looks and smells clean
-Hold the bottle in front of a light and pour the wine slowly into the decanter or glass. The deposits will slowly accumulate in the shoulder of the bottle. Continue pouring until the deposit can be seen near the neck.
-If you decide to decant the wine directly into multiple glasses line them up and keeping the bottle as horizontal as possible pour the glasses simultaneously using the same technique as if you were using a decanter. The reason being is that each time you bring the bottle back to a vertical angle the sediment is mixed back into the wine.
-An ideal pouring measure is about 90ml in a standard tulip shaped glass leaving enough space in the glass to swill the wine around and appreciate the bouquet.
-If you are decanting large formats e.g. imperials or jeroboams you may need to use a special large format decanter or multiple decanters. Use the same process as you would to pour into numerous glasses (as mentioned above).
-For wines with excessive sediment or a lot of floating sediment, use a fine sieve created for this purpose or a coffee filter, though this latter option can also remove some flavour.
4. Re-Corking your wine:
-There are various ways to preserve wine at home. Depending on the wine style, simply putting the cork back into the wine can achieve this purpose over a few days or using an inexpensive hand vacuum pump with special plastic stoppers can preserve wines fairly well. However, this depends on style. Generally red wines last longer than whites and fuller bodied styles longer than lighter bodied styles. Aromatic white wines do not benefit very much from the vacuum pump preservation since much of the lively aromatics can be stripped away. Delicate or mature wines also do not benefit from the vacuum pump and a simple cork stopper and cool temperatures such as those of a normal refrigerator can do the trick.
-Still dry whites can retain their freshness for up to two or three days. Still red wines can retain their freshness and fruit for three to five days depending on style.
-Recorked Fortified and Sweet wines can remain fresh for up to five days. The temperature at which the wine is stored will also affect the preservation of the wine. Keep all wines stored at 12oc or cooler. Take red wines out in advance prior to drinking and allow the bottle to reach optimum-drinking temperature naturally.
5. Getting the Right Glasses:
The ideal glass is a fat tulip shape where the round bowl at the base of the stem tilts upwards and inwards to form a narrower rim where the bouquet can be detected. Austrian Georg Riedel has capitalised on the glassware industry producing glasses, which have slightly different lips and bowl shapes. These are made as “ideal” glasses that enhance specific styles such as Burgundy, Chianti, Chardonnay, etc. His theory is that the size, shape and lip of the glass affect the aromatics and the flow of the wine into the mouth enhancing your tasting aptitude for that specific style.
Wine drinkers discernment of how a wine will taste is largely affected by how the wine is presented. Therefore serving wine in glamorous, hand blown glass enhances perceptiveness. Whether such glasses enhance the taste of a wine exponentially to the cost is a matter of opinion but if you find yourself drinking from one, appreciate the meticulous art of craftsmanship which goes into production for it takes a team of four people to blow one glass and together they produce a maximum of 35 per day.
Other glasses include the standard ISO shaped glass, which is used by professionals and is practical for tasting a large number of wines quickly. It is not ideal for a evaluating fine wine over a period of time since the glasses and pouring size are too small. Champagne and sparkling wines are served in flute shaped glasses, which are long and thin and allow minimum gas to escape. The tall shape allows the bubbles to escape in slow thin streams to the top so the sparkling wine can retain its freshness. An alternative style is the shallow wide rimed bowl glass which are actually not ideal since the bubbles are dissipate too quickly stripping the wine of freshness
Remember to find the right food to match (link to pairing guide) and ensure your night will be a success!