What temperature should I serve wine?
Serving wine at the right temperature has a huge effect on how a wine tastes. It is important to get it right to optimize a wine’s flavour profile.
Serving white wine
There is a knack to chilling white wine. Over-chill a white wine and you are likely to mask all its flavours, under-chill it and it can be too flabby and overblown.
The table below provides a general guide on chilling times based on different white wine styles.
Specialist wine chilling cabinets are also an excellent way of achieving the correct temperature.
Serving red wine
Tannin levels determine the temperature at which red wine should be served. Fruity reds that are low in tannin, such as Beaujolais, can be chilled like a full-bodied dry white.
The more tannic a wine, the warmer you should drink it. However, If a red is served too warm, it can become ‘soupy’, and all you will be able to smell and taste will be the alcohol. Beware of the expression ‘serve at room temperature’ which was developed in the days when dining rooms were around 5 degrees cooler than they are today in the UK. In the summer you can actually chill most red wines for about an hour, before leaving to stand for around half an hour or so.
Should I leave a wine to breathe?
Drawing the cork and leaving the bottle to stand for an hour or so before drinking does virtually nothing to aerate the wine.
Decanting is often little understood, largely because its affect on a given wine is unpredictable. The practice of decanting arose from a time when it was commonplace for wine to be drawn off into a jug directly from a cask in the cellar.
The ongoing debate surrounding the art of decanting, and whether or not it is a useful exercise, centres largely on the question of how beneficial a mixture of wine and air is. The process of wine ageing involves slow oxidation caused by small amounts of air being either trapped in sealed bottles, or entering through the cork, and it is a natural assumption that decanting telescopes the process of maturation into a matter of hours.
Evidence suggests that it is usually young wines that benefit the most from decanting. Generally for fine wines up to 10-years-old, decant 2-3 hours before drinking, while for older wines 30-60 minutes need only be allowed - any more than this and a wine can ‘fade away’ in a matter of hours.
However, as we shall see, whether to decant or not also depends on the type of wine…
Decanting red wines
In young red wines, what little oxygen there is in the bottle has not usually had sufficient time to take effect, and decanting enables the wine to mature at a quicker rate, making it more approachable in its youth. Some full-bodied young reds can benefit from 24 hours in a decanter, whereas an hour will make all the difference to others.
The object of decanting older wines is to separate the wine from its lees (sediment) and to let it take the air and the temperature of the room. However, the danger with decanting older wines is that a sudden rush of oxygen may prove too powerful and provoke a speedy decline in flavour and overall drinkability.
Vintage Port should be decanted to remove sediment, and always passed to the left at the dinner table!
Decanting white wines
Since white wines have little or no sediment and are chilled, decanting has no beneficial affect to the taste, though some argue that it looks more aesthetically pleasing.
How to decant
Keep the bottle in almost the same position as in the rack from where it came, (so that any sediment remains along the lower side). Wipe the lip of the bottle clean, and if possible decant with a table lamp behind the neck of the bottle to enable visibility of sediment. Stop pouring when the sediment reaches the neck.
What type of glass should I use?
The correct choice of glass can greatly affect the aromas released by a wine.
At wine tastings, experts use ISO wine glasses – where a bulbous bottom facilitates ample swilling and a tapered neck concentrates aromas. For table wines we recommend using a 41cl ISO sized glass – the width allows the wine to breathe rapidly and maximum expression of flavours.
If you can’t get hold of ISO glasses, tulip-shaped or inward-curving glasses will do just fine.
How much should I pour?
Roughly about 1/3rd of a glass – which will allow for good swirling, without overspill and the inevitable slosh on your self!