Anne Mullin from wineonline.ie guides you through the process of serving wine.
Perhaps the most important aspect of wine service as it can greatly affect the taste and the aroma of the wine. White wines benefit from chilling but if left in the fridge overnight will chill to around 4°C, enough to mask all the flavour and aroma. If served at around 8-10° they will be so much better. If a wine needs to be chilled quickly, iced water is a far more effective means than placing it in a container of ice cubes.
The term ‘room temperature’ for red wines can be very misleading as it has a huge variant and in many cases is too warm anyway. Most red wines are best served at ‘cellar temperature’ around 15-16° to embellish the flavour and lift the natural aromas. If a red wine is very cold try decanting it into a warm jug or pouring it into warm glasses. You can also use a microwave but be careful not to cook the wine – 15-20 seconds will usually suffice. Some light red fruity wines benefit from light chilling to around 10° e.g. Beaujolais, especially for summer drinking.
Opening the bottle
Remove the metal foil using a sharp knife or special foil cutter ensuring that no jagged bits 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 it proves difficult to remove try pushing it into the bottle and decant the wine into a jug 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 a coffee filter. Be especially careful with Champagne and Sparkling Wine as the corks can eject with tremendous force and cause injury. Always open these bottles at an angle away from you (and your best china). Remove the restraining wire and hold down the cork while twisting the bottle from the base. As the cork ejects, angle it out of the neck to release the gas ‘softly’ – racing drivers take note – anyway, you will enjoy a lot more of your wine!
Many people like to open serious red wines hours in advance to allow the wine to ‘breathe’. It can be effective in removing any ‘bottle stink’ or ‘mercaptans’ in a wine but the best form of breathing is agitation in the glass.
A much debated subject and generally only necessary for wines which by nature of the way in which they are made, throw a sediment such as Vintage Port. Decanting can help a wine to breathe or aerate. When decanting, the wine should be poured slowly and steadily into a clean glass jug or decanter. Using a candle or bright light will show the sediment as it gathers in the shoulder of the bottle.
The simpler and plainer the better. Ideally, but not necessarily tulip shaped with a wider bowl and tapering narrow at the top. A long stem allows for ease of swirling and the glass shape will trap and deliver the aromas. Holding the glass by the stem minimises temperature change and avoids unsightly finger marks. Many people like to serve white wine in a larger glass followed by red wine in a smaller version, which can be aesthetically very pleasing but often has little bearing on the style of wine served. You will also need more glasses.
Never fill the glass. The half way mark is fine. It may look mean but you can pour as often as people 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 before red, young before old and keep the good wine until last. If you hold the bottle by the base and give your wrist a slight twist as you finish pouring you will avoid the dribble factor. Try it – it works!
Anne Mullin is an experienced wine taster and director of www.wineonline.ie