When you want to enjoy your favourite wines, how they are served can have an influence on your perception of enjoyment. Depending on the situation, location, event and other aspects, there are many ways you can influence or enhance your wine enjoyment through how wine is served.
The simple, casual glass of wine
Of course for most of us, wine enjoyment is such a part of everyday life that the ceremony of serving wine is as simple as opening a bottle a pouring a glass. (And we’re perfectly happy with that approach!) If you’ve got a favourite bottle in the fridge, chilled and ready to enjoy, or in your wine rack at the perfect serving temperature, chances are you’ll think nothing of picking up a glass (it may not even be a traditional wine glass), twisting the cap – or a rarer ritual of pulling a cork – and pouring.
The ease of the moment and the anticipation of tasting the wine all combine to create part of the wine enjoyment experience.
Let’s take a look at how the ceremony of serving wine can be taken to another level.
Opening wines with a corkscrew
These days, most wines are sealed with a screw cap. Originally tested on Australian Rieslings in the 1970s, it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that the screw cap took hold across Australia, winning praise for its ease of use and almost entirely eliminating the risk of cork taint. Because screw caps create an air-tight seal, there was less effect of oxygen on wines. (Cork-sealed wines will let small amounts of oxygen into the wine over time – this creates a different, often quicker maturation process than screw cap-sealed wines.)
When removing a cork, take care to cut the top rim of the capsule away from the bottle – this is the covering – which can be metal, plastic or wax – that seals the top of the bottle.
Once the top of the capsule is removed, twist the corkscrew into the cork starting a point in the centre. Wind the cork screw down so you still have enough room for the arm of the cork screw to sit on the rim of the bottle and act as a lever. This will make is easy to gently lever the cork out of the bottle. You may need to take a firm hold of the corkscrew from above and pull to extract corks that are tightly sealed. If the cork breaks while you’re trying to remove it, just repeat – wind the corkscrew into the remaining cork and pull the rest out. (If the cork crumbles, pour the wine through a tea strainer to remove small particles).
You may see some people sniff the cork once it’s removed. Some people say this is to check for the musty smell of cork taint, but that will be easier to detect by tasting the wine than sniffing the cork.
Depending on the wines you’re serving, the shape of the glass may help show off the aromas and flavours at their best. Many wine glasses are made not just for white wine or red wine, but for specific varietals. Take a look at the range on offer and you’ll see glasses specially designed for Shiraz, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and fortified wines.
The slightly different shape of the bowl and size of the rim of these glasses are designed to enhance the aromas and flavours of each wine. The way the wine swirls in the glass will have an effect on its aromas. The way the wine hits your tongue and fills your mouth will have an effect on its flavours. And the way the wine looks in the glass will help your senses prepare for the flavours ahead.
The perfect temperature
One of the major influences on wine enjoyment is the temperature at which it is served. As a general rule, white wines should be served chilled, reds at room temperature. However, if you were to serve reds at room temperature at the height of an Australian summer, you’d be better to pop the bottle in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before serving! Likewise, if a white wine has been in a fridge for more than a couple of hours, it could benefit from resting at room temperature for 10–15 minutes before serving. Too cold and all you’ll get is the acidity without the full fruit impact. Also, we recommend against leaving white wines in an ice bucket. By all means pop the bottle in for a short period if the wine starts warming up, but don’t leave it there – it will make the wine far too cold to enjoy. (So many restaurants get this so wrong!)
Of course how to serve wine is as subjective and fluid as wine itself. There’s no right or wrong way – just whatever suits your tastes and the moment. As long as you enjoy what’s in your glass, it doesn’t matter how you serve wine.
To Decant or Not to Decant
Sometimes wines will be served from a decanter rather than the original bottle. While there this maybe done for show, it could also be done to give the wine a chance to ‘breathe’ – that is, to let as much of the wine come in contact with oxygen as possible to help release some of the aromas and let the bouquet open up. Serving wine from a decanter does look impressive – especially if the decanter is an eye-catching shape or design – but it also has the benefit of helping bring the wine’s aromas, and seemingly, flavours to the fore.
Try it next time you open a bottle (this mainly applies to red wine, but you can try it with white wine as well). Pour the entire bottle into a decanter, carafe or even a water jug, and serve the wine from the decanter. It’s a great way to give you favourite wines more visual impact. And the contact with air may help the wine seem more open and broader in flavour and aroma.
- Red Wine
- Wine Serving