Serving wines

There`s really no mystery to serving wine as most of us can manage to get the wine out of the bottle and into our glass without too much trouble, but here are a couple of things that may help the wine show its best. Important that the bottle is wiped clean, you’ve a good cork screw and clear, clean glasses.

Temperature: In general, white wines should be served chilled 7-12 °C and red wine at room temperature. For whites, a couple of hours in the fridge will do just fine. If you`re pushed for time, then put the bottle in an ice bucket filled half with ice and half with cold water. This will bring the wine down to the desired temperature in about twenty minutes.
For most reds, room temperature is ideal, about 18 - 20°C.
Light, fruity reds, like Beaujolais, are best served a little cooler, especially on a warm summer day.
Champagne, dessert wine, most sherry and rosé should be treated as white. Red port should be served at room temperature but tawny port can be chilled. If you use an ice bucket, remember a clean cloth to cover the bottle and to use, when pouring wine.

Opening: Try to cut the foil in a straight line round the bottleneck a few millimetres below the rim so that wine doesn`t come into contact with the foil when it is poured. A sharp knife and a steady hand can achieve a neatly cut foil, but a specially designed foil cutter does it with much less effort. Some particularly sharp foil cutters can even help with those few bottlenecks still dipped in wax or covered with particularly thick plastic.
Once the foil has been removed, aim the screw down the centre of the cork. Pull steadily straight up until cork is out. You can smell it to find out faults. If the cork crumbles under the impact of the corkscrew but won`t come out, try inserting a corkscrew with a long narrow screw at an angle and/or into a different part of the cork. If that won`t work, as with any intractable cork, you could try inserting the two-prongs of a butler`s friend type corkscrew down either side of the cork and pulling it out, or you may have to simply push the cork into the bottle using, for example, the handle of a wooden spoon. Do this as gently as possible and avoid wearing white if the wine is red, as pushing the cork can cause quite a splash. Another possible ploy which requires some cunning is to warm (and therefore expand) the bottleneck without warming the cork. A cloth soaked in boiling water can be held round the bottleneck using an oven glove.  

  Opening a bottle of sparkling wine: The pressure in a bottle of sparkling wine is about three times that in the tyre of a large truck, so champagne corks must be eased out of the bottleneck with enormous care. Holding the bottle at a 45° angle to increase the surface area of the wine and decrease the pressure in the wine (pointed away from anyone), and with the fingers of one hand over the cork, gently rotate the bottle (not the cork) with your other hand. As you feel the cork begin to loosen and lift, use your thumb to gently ease it from the bottle. If properly handled, the cork should release from the bottle with a muted “poof,” not a loud “POP.” Pour the wine carefully several times into each glass (allowing time for the mousse to subside). 

Decanting: This is the process of pouring off any sediment that has been deposited in the bottle over time to create "clean wine". It is frequently done with vintage port or older red wines that have spent many years in a bottle. Some white wines might have some crystals due to staying long time in refridgerator. The vast majority of wines do not need to be decanted at all, but if you do need to do it, simply pour the wine slowly into a glass decanter or jug keeping an eye on the neck of the bottle. When you see sediment in the neck, it`s time to stop. Decanting can also help the wine "breathe". If you serve wine straight from bottle, don’t pour the last 2-3 cm to avoid the sediments.

Breathing: If a wine has spent many years locked up in a bottle, away from the air, it will benefit from a little breathing time. This can take place in the glass or in a decanter and twenty to thirty minutes should suffice. Even young wines can benefit from a little breathing time as it allows the wine to open up and really show what it`s made of. You can test this by tasting a wine immediately after opening it and then see how your second glass tastes some twenty minutes later. There`s often quite a difference. That`s also why, if youre opening several reds, open them all at once. You give your next bottle a chance to breathe, while you are enjoying the current one. On the other hand, whites generally don`t need to be opened ahead of time, as the goal is usually to retain their freshness.

Glassware: The best glasses for appreciating wine are made of plain, thin, clear glass. Heavy, cut glass makes it difficult to see the wine properly. The glass should have a wide bowl tapering to a narrow opening; a tulip shape, in other words. This allows room for the wine to be swirled in the glass while concentrating the aromas at the rim. Champagne should be served in tall flutes or tall, thin tulip-shaped glasses. Today there are many specialty glasses designed to be used with different grape varieties. While these may, indeed, enhance the attributes of the different wines, they really aren`t necessary.

Fill level: The glass should never be filled more than about half full, some glasses even less. This allows room for swirling the wine around in the glass to release its aromas without splashing it all over the table. A good way to achieve this is to leave the glass on the table, hold the stem at the base and make small, quick circles with the base. Always taste the wine yourself before serving it to guests in case it`s faulty.

If you don`t finish the bottle, most wines will keep quite happily for a couple of days with the cork stuck back in the bottle, keeping the air out. You can even buy vacuum pumps in wine shops to remove the air altogether, which will buy you another day or two. Whites are better off in the fridge and reds left out at room temperature.