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Serving wine at the correct temperature

For years, I served my wines at the wrong temperature: mainly because nobody told me what I should be doing. Follow these guidelines, and your wine will taste much better.

Serving Temperatures

Forgot to put wine in the fridge? Well if you use an ice-bucket, fill it with water and ice, then add some rock salt. I have it on scientific authority that this causes the temperature to drop quickly. Click here for an online explanation.


Getting oxygen into your wine
Letting your wine "breathe" in the bottle does very little.

Most wines benefit from a bit of oxygen (in order to let all the components integrate), but they need to be decanted; otherwise 99% of the wine sees no oxygen.

There is much debate about when you should decant wine, but I follow the view that all red wines should be decanted (and even some whites). The only question that I think needs to be asked is "how long should a wine be left to breathe in the decanter before it is drunk?"
This depends on what the wine is: if it is a new wine then it can benefit from a few hours; if it is a 30-year old Bordeaux then I wouldn't leave it too long in case all the aromas disappear.

Sediment
Some wines form a sediment in the bottle, which should be held back during decanting.

It is becoming quite fashionable for winemakers to leave wine unfiltered. This means that you get more of the great, natural flavours of the grape; but it also means you are more likely to get sediment.

Decanter styles
You don't need a fancy decanter: anything that can hold wine will do.

In fact, you can use an old bottle (rinsed out with water): just pour the wine from one bottle to the other. If you want to use the original bottle, just rinse it out and pour the wine back in again. You might find a funnel useful.


Glasses

We used to use the biggest glass possible (I even remember buying someone a glass that could take a whole bottle!).

But, different glasses have different purposes.

The most obvious is the champagne 'flute'. This slender glass is designed to retain the bubbles whilst at the same time directing the aromas up to your nose. A wide rimmed champagne glass (think 1920s) just let's your bubbly go flat.

Apart from champagne flutes, I have 3 types of glass that we use for wines:

  1. 370ml glasses: general purpose glasses - big enough, but not too big.
  2. ISO tasting glasses: 215ml glasses designed specifically for analysing & evaluating wine.
  3. Port/sherry glasses: 90ml glasses (although I have drunk port from the 370ml glasses - take it from me, it isn't a good idea!)


Try not to fill the glass too full: you need to leave room to swirl the wine around your glass, so that you get a good amount of that vital oxygen in it. Fill it to where the bowl of the glass is at its widest (just as the glass starts to taper back in).

Glasses should always be clear. Coloured glass just obscures the wine and removes the first stage of evaluating a wine: appearance. See our How to Taste section for more info.