PROPER SERVING of wine is important for the enjoyment of the wine. It would be most tragic if an excellent bottle of aged wine is served at the wrong temperature or with the wrong glasses. Following some of the simple rules stated below can help you impress your friends especially when you have a wine buff among them who can settle for nothing less than a perfect glass of wine. Also, what type of wine service you might expect at a good restaurant. A review of the common wine openers available.
A. THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE
Not all wine should be served at the same temperature. Depending on the body and flavor of the wine, one should vary the temperature as recommended in the chart below. Naturally, not all of us are perfectionist who will put a thermometer in the wine to test the temperature (there are some who do!). For those who are not fortunate enough to own a multi-temperature wine cooler, put the wine in the fridge two hour before serving. Take it out and let it stand for 30 mins or less, depending on the room temperature, to let it cool to the right temperature. Alternative, a quicker way is to chill the wine in a bucket of ice and water for 5 to 10 mins. Many red wines might recommend being drunk at the “room temperature”. However, it is wise to know that our room temperature is often not the room temperature where the wine is produced or labeled. Hence, a little chilling is often necessary.
|Full Bodied Red Wine – Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz.||15-20°C (59 – 68° F)|
|Light Bodied Red Wine – Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy.||12-15°C (54 – 59° F)|
|Dry Wine Wines – Chardonnay, Burgundy, Sauvignon.||10-12°C (50 – 54° F)|
|Light Sweet Wine – Dessert wines, Champagne and other sparkling wines.||5-10°C (41 – 50° F)|
B. UNCORKING THE WINE
Don’t make the embarrassing mistake of boasting about a great wine that you are opening and use a improper wine screw that leaves half the cork in the bottle! The best brand in the market for cork screws is probably Screwpull but many other imitations have since hit the market. The “waiter’s friend” or “bulter’s friend” are next best alternatives. My personal favorite is the two-prong “bulter’s friend” or “Ah-So” which leaves no marks or hole in the cork. What happens when the cork breaks into two, leaving one half in the bottle? If you have the two-prong “Ah So”, you can try using it to remove the remaining cork. Otherwise, just push the cork into the wine and decant the wine by pouring the wine into a decanter or container. Let the wine settle for a while before serving it. Here is a summary and review of the wine openers available.
C. THE RIGHT GLASSES
I have seen too many hosts doing everything right but use the most ridiculous glasses. Then again, I have enjoyed wine from a plastic cup too! To fully appreciate the wine, especially if you intend to do some major swirling, the wine glasses need to have a bigger bowl and smaller rim. This would allow more space for the wine to be swirled and the flavor would then be funneled to your nose. Glasses for red wine tends to be larger than wines and Champagne should be served in a flute glass whenever possible. One of the most popular wine glass maker is Riedel which offers different glasses for different wine. Their wine glasses can flatter the wine and bring out the best flavor of even the most unexciting wine. Notice that white wine glasses are generally smaller than red wine glasses. This is because smaller quantities of white wine should be served to ensure that it does not become too warm for drinking. When buying stemware, always try to get crystal wine glasses rather than those made with normal glass. Crystal wine wares are generally thinner and allows better appreciation of the wines both visually and orally.
D. DECANTING AND BREATHING
Decanting is often necessary for the older wines or heavier reds to remove the deposits in the bottle. To decant, stand the wine for a day and slowly pour the wine into another bottle or decanter. Ideally, do it in front of a lamp or torch and stop once you see the deposit. The process of decanting also allow the wine to “breathe”, which will help soften the harsh tannin of the wine. I typically let my French Reds breathe as it typically releases more flavor. Don’t bother uncorking the wine and let it stand to breathe. The amount wine which comes in contact with the air is minimal. It would be better to pour it into a wine glass to let it breathe.
E. RED OR WHITE FIRST?
The general rule is “white before red, young before old, dry before sweet”. But don’t argue with your friends over that as some reds are actually lighter than some whites.
F. SERVING WINE IN A RESTAURANT
Like the finer art of serving food, there are actually proper procedures in serving wine in a restaurant. Unfortunately, the steps vary from countries to countries, and from normal to fine dining. However, for a decent restaurant with a decent wine selection, this is what you should expect:
1. You will be handed a seperate wine menu to select your wine. Either the host or the “expert” (picked by the host) will select the wine.
2. After the wine is selected, the waiter will bring the bottle for inspection. Here, see if the label is what you ordered, especially the vintage.
3. If the bottle is ok, the waiter may then bring the bottle for chilling or if it is already chilled, the waiter will normally open the bottle in front of you.
4. Once uncorked, the waiter will normally hand the cork to the host (or wine picker) for inspection. This is the tricky part – don’t bother smelling the cork, it does show your ignorance! Instead, examine the cork to see if it is indeed the wine you intended to purchase (some corks have the vintage and wine name printed) and check if it is rotten or damaged.
5. After the cork is examined, the waiter should (or must) pour some wine into the host’s (or picker’s) glass for tasting. Do as per what you normally do – examine the colour, swirl the glass, smell it and taste the wine. If you find it unacceptable at this point (ie corked and damaged), you can reject it and asked for another bottle. Otherwise, forever hold your peace!
6. With your approval, the waiter should start pouring the wines for everyone, starting from the host (more this time), the ladies (oldest to youngest) and then the gentlemen (oldest to youngest). Some waiters just go in a clockwise direction from the host and that is acceptable as well.
7. The waiter should also serve the appropriate wines at the appropriate course of the meal or at the special request of the host. Once a bottle is finished, the waiter will normally also ask for permission to open another.