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Wine 104: Serving Wine

You know some of the basics of wine if you’ve been following this series, so let’s move on to one of the last basics: how to properly serve wine whether it is red, white, rosé, or sparkling. We’ll be using a few different tools to help with this but you can always swap out anything we have for alternative methods and we’ll also include some tips and tricks on how to do that.

 

Storage

  • Wine bought off a shelf can be stored in a cool, dark place like your pantry. It should always be out of sunlight and away from sources of heat. Another option is basement storage as long as your wine is away from appliances that may cast off heat.
  • The best option for wine is a dual zone wine chiller or fridge. These keep your whites colder than your reds and are warmer than a traditional kitchen fridge.
  • No matter where you store, the key is dark and cool.
  • If your wine is purchased chilled it should be placed in a fridge that is cooler than the bottle as quickly as possible.

 

Getting The Temperature Right

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Gone are the days of believing that white should be served at fridge temperature and red at room temperature. The range of wine serving temperatures runs the gamut but there are some rules of thumb. With reds, the fuller bodied, the warmer it’s served whereas something light, like a pinot noir is served at the colder end of the spectrum. Much of this depends on personal taste, of course – I drink all my reds at 61° – and your ability to chill.

To get your wine at the perfect temperature, store it in a wine fridge set to match the type of wine you’re storing. Can’t afford that kind of wine cooler? Here are some tips.

 

1. Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine is served the coldest, at 45 degrees. Because most wine fridges will not get that cold, but your kitchen fridge is likely about 35-40 degrees, you can keep a bottle in there. Once it’s out it will warm up quickly – in about the time it will take you to open and pour.

 

2. White Wine

You can store all of your white wine in a wine fridge set between 47-52° (I keep my whites at 50). You can also store your white wine in your regular fridge and take it out 15-20 minutes before serving. Serving white a little cooler than suggested is okay – whites open beautifully as they sit in the glass and going on a journey with your wine as it warms, with sips taken at different temperatures, will educate you on the wine’s complexity.

 

3. Rosé

A little warmer than white and cooler than red, most suggest that you serve these pink wines at 54 degrees. Storing with your whites is the best option and then opening and serving immediately will get you to the closest temperature. If you keep your rosé in the fridge, let it sit for 15 minutes and then open and serve.

 

4. Red

Red wine is the only wine that requires preparation before serving, so it should be stored cooler than drunk. Store with whites in a wine fridge around 50° or in your regular fridge – we’ll get into how to allow it to warm properly later on. Reds are served from 57-66° with lighter bodied wines, like pinot noir, at the cooler end of the spectrum and fuller bodied wines, like merlot, served warmer. These can be taken out of a traditional fridge for 30 minutes to 2 hours before serving – much of that time which will be used to decant.

Pro Tip: While it’s not necessary, if you’re really interested in drinking wines at the correct temperature, there are wine thermometers that make this easy. We recommend a simple, capped thermometer that will fit right into the bottle but there are some cool looking electronic ones for gadget lovers.

Opening Wine

You can check out our article on crazy ways to open wine if you want to try something insane (be careful!) or learn the very basics here.

 

1. Sparkling Wine

There is a correct way to open a bottle of sparkling wine and, we’re sorry, it doesn’t include allowing the cork to fly off. Believe it or not, the PSI in a bottle of sparkling is pretty high and the cork can do damage to eyes, walls, ceilings and anything else in its path. To keep things safe, and look like a pro, here’s what you should do to open your next bottle of bubbly.

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After unwrapping the foil from the neck of the bottle, you’ll see the cork, which is covered with a metal cage. The cage has a twisted tab. Twist the tab about six and a half times with one hand while using the other to hold the cork down into the bottle. Otherwise, depending on the pressure in the bottle, you could have the cork fly out unexpectedly.

One the tab is loosened, grasp the cork and keep your thumb over it with one hand and hold the base of the bottle with the other. Hold the bottle at a 45° angle. Rotate the bottom of the bottle, not the cork/cage gently – this will loosen the cork and allow for easy removal.

While less exciting, opening a bottle properly using this simple method will do a few things – keep the most bubbles in the bottle, avoid cork-related injuries, and make you look good.

Do not pour champagne from straight above, instead pretend you’re pouring a beer and keep the glass at a 45° which keeps the bubbles in and avoids any fizzing over.

anatomy of a sparkling wine bottle

 

2. Still Wine

Whether red, white, or rosé you’ll open all still wine the same way. Remove the foil capsule from the bottle first and then use the opener of your choice to extract the cork. While you only need to remove the foil from over the cork of white and rosé wines, you’ll want to remove it totally for red wine.

Decanting Red Wine

Red wine should be decanted for the best drinking experience. Not sure how to decant? It’s easy!

You’ll Need:

  • a bottle of red (not pinot noir – look for a medium- to full-bodied red)
  • a light source like a candle or flashlight
  • a decanter

Decanting

Steps:

  1. Place the lightsource on the table in front of you – it can be a lit candle, a flashlight standing up, or just a cell phone flashlight.
  2. Place the decanter so that if you laid the bottle flat the opening would be over the decanter and the lightsource is shining through the wine in the neck of the bottle.
  3. Open the bottle of wine.
  4. Hold the bottle above the lightsource and allow it to pour into the decanter. Watch the wine in the neck for sediment and when it starts to appear, stop decanting. You’ll have about an inch of wine left in the bottle. You can pour that wine through a strainer or dump it – it’s up to you (we pour ours through a fine metal strainer).
  5. Take an initial taste of the wine and then taste from the decanter after 30 minutes for every 15 minutes until it tastes exactly how you want it. This will also allow the wine to approach its proper serving temperature.

Glassware

At this point, it’s important to keep a few clean glasses on hand – don’t worry about a collection but have flutes for sparkling and a more traditional glass for still. We’ll get into glasses in our 200 series – for now just focus on clean and make sure if you’re going to serve sparkling you have taller, thinner glasses.

Knowing how to serve wine properly will give you confidence in your wine journey!

Nancy Koziol

Nancy Koziol is a wine writer specializing in wine news, culture, politics, and emerging regions. She has traveled throughout various wine regions and constantly strives to deepen her understanding and appreciation of the holistic experience of wine, from seed to glass. Nancy writes for a variety of wine publications spanning everything from how to make amazing Sangria to understanding the ecological impact of winemaking. She lives in Vermont where she is developing an appreciation for hybrid grapes - something she never thought would happen - and obsessing over orange wines.

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