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Proper Wine Serving Basics

Proper wine serving starts at the bottle. The first question we must question is: Does the wine need to be decanted? That is, does it need to be poured from the bottle into a decanter? A decanter is basically a carafe or other container large enough to hold the bottle’s contents? There are two basics reasons why you would answer yes.

The first reason is to let the wine breathe. Often young, tannic red wines (and some full bodied dry whites) benefit from the aeration that decanting provides. The air combines with the wine to release the wine’s flavors and aromas and soften the tannins. Generally speaking, an hour is long enough

The second reason to decant is to remove sediment from vintage Ports and older reds. The bottle should be left upright for a day or two, then opened gently and poured in one continuous motion into the decanter. Watch closely and stop pouring when you see cloudy wine approaching the neck. Older reds should be consumed soon after decanting since they can start to fade quickly.

There are special glasses for every type of wine, but most wine experts agree that a glass each for white, red, and sparkling wines is enough for those of us with insufficient funds and cabinet space. A minimum glass size is 12 oz. (360 ml) for reds; 10-12 oz. (300-360 ml) for whites; and 8-12 oz. (240-360 ml) for sparkling wines. For serious wine drinking, red wine glasses should be filled to 1/3 capacity; white wine glasses to ½ full; and sparkling wine glasses to ¾ full.

Your wine drinking experience can be greatly enhanced by serving at the right temperature. Each type of wine has characteristic flavors and aromas that unfold at certain temperatures. Sparkling wines are served the coldest at about 45F (7C). Then come the white wines, with the simpler, table wines served between 50 and 55F (10 and 12.8C) and finer whites served between 58 and 62F (14 and 16.5C). Rosés and blushes as well as inexpensive sweet wines can be served like the simpler whites, while better white dessert wines can be served as are the finer whites. Most red wines are best served between 62 and 65F (16 to 18C). Served too cold and they can too acidic and tannic. But, some fruity reds served at 58 to 60F (14 to 15.5C) can be tasty and refreshing on a warm summer day.

To become a right wine snob, one must learn The Ritual, which goes like this. The person orders the wine. The wait staff returns with the bottle and shows the mark for positive identification. The person nods. The wait staff the cuts the capsule (the foil or plastic that seals the bottle) and removes the cork. The wait staff then places the cork in front of the person. The person sniffs it and usually nods. This part of The Ritual allows the person to verify by smell that the wine was indeed bottled and not just recently filled and sealed with a new cork. The wait staff then pours a small amount for the person to smell and taste. If approved by the person, the wait staff will then fill the person’s glass, then the glasses of other guests. While it may seem rude for the host to drink first, this part of The Ritual assures that if any cork gets in the wine, the host will get it, and not the guests. Most polite.

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