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How to Serve Wine

Temperature, Opening, Pouring and Pairing

Here are a few things I've learned in France about how to serve wine. Relax, I am not a wine connoisseur and if you are, you certainly do not need to know the few little things I do. For the rest of you, here are a few tips to help you enjoy your wine - as if you needed assistance!

Wine Serving Temperature

In order to be fully appreciated, different wines need to be served at different temperatures. Equip yourself with a wine thermometer and you will always be sure you are enjoying your wine at the best temperature. There are several models available including collars, probes and laser thermometers.

  • Very cold, 43 °F (6° C) - Champagnes, sparkling wines, and sweet white wines
  • Cold, 47 °F (8° C) - Dry white wines and rosés
  • Cool 52-54 °F (11-12°C) - Young and/or fruity red wines
  • Cellar Temperature 57-64 °F (14 °C to 18 °C) - Most red wines.
When considering how to serve wine, notice that the red wine is not best enjoyed at room temperature, unless you're eating in the cellar! In fact it should be slightly cooler than room temperature. If you put it in the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving time, it will be about right.

If you are always forgetting to chill the wine and wishing you had a quick way to cool it, you might be interested in investing in a wine bottle chiller.

Opening the Wine

corkscrew
  • Open champagne just before serving. You knew that already, didn't you?
  • White wine, rosés and light red wines can be kept refrigerated until serving.
  • A bottle of good red wine, should be uncorked several hours before serving. Exposing the wine to air allows it to oxygenate which will increase its flavor. Also, you'll enjoy the wine more because you'll have been looking forward to it for several hours.
  • As for which tool to use, find your favorite method amongst the many different wine bottle openers available.

Food and Wine Pairing

No page on how to serve wine would be complete without something on food and wine pairing. You should enjoy experimenting and see what you like. There are a couple of golden rules however, that are supposed to always apply. (I can already see you rebels getting ready to do the exact opposite.)
  • No, no never, a sweet white wine with a red meat.
  • No, no never, a heavy red wine with seafood. (Boy, I think I'm ready to break that one myself).
  • You will serve the dry white wines before the red wines.
  • You will serve the young, light and fruity red wines before the more mature reds.
  • You will serve the colder wines before the warmer ones.
  • Learn more about French wine and food pairings.

Pouring Wine

pouring wine
  • Champagne should be served in three pourings. Imagine you have several glasses in front of you: fill the bottom of each, then fill each one to half-way, then top each one off. That takes care of the foam problem.
  • Fill wine glasses only half way full. If you can, master that cute little rotation of the bottle at the end of pouring, to avoid dripping. Looks nice too!
  • If you don't have servants (hey, you don't have servants, do you?), it's the host who should serve the wine at the table, ladies first, after having poured a very small amount in his own glass (that's so he gets any bits of cork that might be floating about). It's also the host's job to see that everyone has wine in their glass during the meal. OK, maybe that's not too modern, but I hope my husband reads this anyway!

The Best Wine I Was Ever Served

vineyard

The best wine I ever had was served from a roadside shack in the middle of the vineyards in Bordeaux. We were out tasting wines and had been to some fairly fancy outfits. This was different though. It was a generous glass, not just a taste, served by a smiling old lady, who was far more interested in our three little boys than in the wine she had to offer.

That taste of wine is mythic in my mind - I connect it with the earth and vineyards of Bordeaux, the heat of a summer afternoon, and all the glorious laughing goodness of young children seen through the eyes of a wise old woman.

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