Though it is common wisdom that red wines are to be served at room temperature and white wines chilled, this will not give you the best wine tasting.
A bottle of wine opens up and releases its richest bouquet of aromas at a particular temperature. This particular temperature differs for each wine:
- Light dry white wines, rosés, sparkling wines: Serve at 40° to 50° F, 5ºC to 10ºC, to preserve their freshness and fruitiness. Think crisp Pinot Grigio and Champagne. For sparklers, chilling keeps bubbles fine rather than frothy. This is also a good range for white dessert wines; sweetness is accentuated at warmer temperatures, so chilling them preserves their balance without quashing their vibrant aromas.
- Full-bodied white wines and light, fruity reds: Serve at 50° to 60° F, 10ºC to 15ºC to pick up more of the complexity and aromatics of a rich Chardonnay or to make a fruity Beaujolais more refreshing.
- Full-bodied red wines and Ports: Serve at 60° to 65° F, 15ºC to 18ºC; cooler than most room temperatures and warmer than ideal cellaring temperatures, to make the tannins in powerful Cabernet or Syrah feel more supple and de-emphasize bitter components.
By reducing the high carbon dioxide level often found in young wines, aeration can soften the tannins in young reds, making them more balanced and smoother. Aeration can immensely increase the pleasure of drinking a young Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or Barolo.
Most wine lovers use a glass decanter and an aerating funnel. A decanter is a glass pitcher with a wide opening. The increased surface area allows faster aeration. The use of an aerating funnel that comes with a filter will eliminate spilling and better aerate the wine in the pouring process.
Pouring wine down the funnel not only aerates the wine but also removes undesired sediments – which is why aerating and decanting are becoming interchanging terms these days.
The Right Wine Glass
The first two steps change the nature of the wine, making it better. The third step enhances the way we conduct wine tasting, thus making it better.
Innovators like Claus Josef Riedel had spent years perfecting the shape and size of the wine glasses so that they can direct the wine to the right sensors on the tongue and funnel the aroma up to the nose.
Many wine lovers go all out with an extensive collection of wine glasses; there is a wine glass designed for every major type of wine (refer to picture on the left). If you don’t want to spend a fortune on wine glasses, try the multi-purpose wine glasses that are designed to serve varietals.
Wine Glass Tips
When pouring wine into red glass, stop at the widest part of the glass. This will ensure the optimal aeration (with maximum surface area). In addition, you can swirl the wine without spilling it. Use bigger wine glasses for red wines; and smaller ones for white. For a complex vintage Champagne (e.g. Cristal, Selosse), try drinking it with a small white wine glass. You can better pick up its complex notes.
Don’t underestimate the power of serving temperature, aeration, and wine glass. They will greatly enhance your wine tasting experience by bringing the best aromas (and taste) out of the wines. Afterall as the experts say — 90% of wine tasting come from smell!
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