Even those who consider themselves informed wine lovers make mistakes serving wine sometimes. Maybe we use the wrong glass by accident, or maybe we get suckered into a new brand of wine or a recommendation that isn’t very good. Sometimes we forget to serve cold wines cold, or the food and wine just don’t go together.
There’s a reason why you have to go to school and be trained before you can actually call yourself a sommelier (a wine steward, someone who specializes in wine service and pairing wines). I’ve learned a thing or two, mostly by making mistakes, and thought passing them along might save you some embarrassment at your next dinner party.
For example, there are different storage methods for different types of wines. Red wines should be stored on their side. And the more humidity where it is stored, the better – 80% is ideal.
Reds are typically served at room temperature. We usually think of room temperature as being around 68°F, but a more optimal temperature for wine is 65°F. Whites should be served cool and not cold. A better temperature range is between 52-55°F. Your fridge is about ten degrees cooler than that, so leave your wine out for about 15 minutes or so to warm up a little bit to reach the proper temperature.
When opening wine, be sure that you are using an opener that will work with the cork you have (some corkscrews work better with synthetic corks, some aren’t long enough to completely remove larger corks). Heavy red wines, such as ports or an older wine, should be decanted. That means you pour it into a special pitcher-like object to allow the wine to “breathe.” If there’s a lot of sediment in the wine, you may even pour it through a membrane – a cheesecloth will do nicely.
Another tip is to be sure you use the right wine glass. If you don’t use your wine glasses often, first rinse them. Red wines require a glass with a wide base, a larger bowl, and a thin rim. This will allow the wine to aerate properly. Whites should be served in glasses with a more narrow bowl. They sometimes have longer stems, because all wine glasses should be held at the stem so that you don’t accidentally warm the wine with your hands. We prefer glasses that are clear so that we can see and appreciate the wine’s natural color.
Regardless of how much you plan on drinking, fill the glass only a third to half full (with the proper sized wine glass, it should be approximately a quarter of the bottle) so that you have room to swirl the wine or sniff it.
I hope that you learned a thing or two from this post. If you have any questions at all, or have made these (or other) mistakes before, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.