Serving Wine 101 | Signature Cellars
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Advice on enjoying your bottles at their best

serving wine 101

25 Sep Advice on enjoying your bottles at their best

It seems that serving wine should be a simple enough task, just open and pour! However, anyone who has ever listened to a debate over whether the Cabernet they are drinking should be allowed to ‘breathe’ more knows that sometimes serving wine is not quite so simple.

Many of us have sampled a glass of wine that came highly recommended but in reality was totally underwhelming or left you disappointed by a wine you had previously loved. So what is the problem? Maybe the wine wasn’t served in a way that allowed it to shine. Temperature and glassware can have considerable impact, affecting the wine’s aromas and flavours, as can the practice of decanting. Understanding the how and why will offer you the opportunity to be informed when you next decide what’s best for your particular wine and occasion, even if that is simply a quiet drink at home.

Be Prepared

If your wines have been sitting out at room temperature, it can take an hour or two in a fridge to chill a white or bubbly down to the right temperature. There’s no harm in lightly chilling a too-warm red in there too. However if you have pulled your red from a cellar, fridge or cooler may require up to a half hour sitting out at room temperature. If it’s within your budget, it’s very handy to have a small wine cooler with temperature settings (up to 65° F) as you can use that to hold bottles you are ready to open for a dinner or party.

So how exactly do you know if the wine has reached the perfect serving temperature? Instant digital thermometers can take a wine’s temperature through the bottle and other implements that you can use to stick into the mouth of an open bottle. However it’s also easy enough to touch the bottle and make a fair guess, it should at least be cool to the touch. For most people after enough trial and errors from opening and tasting, you’ll learn what feels ‘right’.

Unfortunately too often, white wines are served straight out of the fridge while reds are opened when they are at warm room temperature, neither of which is ideal. When it comes to serving temperature, a wine should be just right. Too hot and the wine’s alcohol will be emphasized, leaving it flat and flabby. Too cold and the aromas and flavours will be muted and, for reds, the tannins may seem harsh and astringent. What’s ‘just right’ for you is a matter of individual taste, but here are some general guidelines:

Light dry white wines, rosés, sparkling wines

Serve at 40° to 50° F to preserve their fruity freshness such as crisp Pinot Grigio and Champagne. For sparkling, appropriate chilling keeps bubbles fine rather than frothy. This range is also good for white dessert wines; the sweetness is emphasized at warmer temperatures so chilling them preserves their balance without detracting from their vibrant aromas.

Full-bodied white wines and light, fruity reds

Serve at 50° to 60° F to accentuate the complexity and aromatics of a rich Chardonnay or to make a fruity Beaujolais more refreshing.

Full-bodied red wines and Ports

Serve at 60° to 65° F – this is cooler than most room temperatures and warmer than ideal cellaring temperatures which make the tannins in powerful Cabernet or Syrah feel more supple and mitigates the bitter components.

Warm Up or Cool Down

If you’re looking for a quick fix for when the wine is too warm, immerse it in a mix of ice and water to chill the bottle more quickly than ice alone as more of the glass is in contact with the cold source. It usually takes approximately 10 minutes for a red or 30 minutes for a Champagne. You can even stick a bottle in the freezer for 15 minutes.

However if the wine is too cold, decant it into a container, rinsed in hot water or immerse it briefly in a bucket of warm water – Don’t try anything with high heat. If the wine is only a little cold, just pour it into glasses and cup your hands around the bowl to warm it up.

Bear in mind that a wine served cool will warm up in the glass, while a wine served warm will only get warmer. It’s always better to start out a little lower than the target temperature.

For information about custom wine cellar design and installation, you can call Signature Cellars on 02 9340 7515 or use this contact form to get in touch with us. We’ll be pleased to assist you and provide custom solutions that match your requirements.

Thanks for reading,
Neil Smallman
Signature Cellars
02 9340 7515

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