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How To Serve Wine

From the traditional to the practical, here is our advice on some of the key considerations in serving fine wine.

Temperature

Personal preference will, in the end, dictate the temperature you like to enjoy a particular wine at, but it is worth looking at the recommended temperatures. As a general rule, err toward serving wine at the cooler side of the spectrum, as it will heat up in the glass under the warmth of your hands.

For red wines, it is the tannin level of the wine that should inform the temperature: the more tannic it is, the warmer it should be. A light red should be served between 12-16 degrees Celsius, a medium-bodied wine between 14-17 degrees, and a full-bodied red between 15-18 degrees. If a red is served at too high a temperature, the alcohol will dominate the palate and bouquet excessively; again, cooler is better than warmer.

For white wines, it is important to remember that chilling a wine can mask its flavour. The finer the wine, therefore, the less it should be chilled. Champagne and light, sweet white wines should be chilled for around 4 hours, and served between 5 and 10 degrees. Dry and light/medium-bodied white wines, as well as full-bodied sweet white wines, should be chilled for around 2 hours and served between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius. A full-bodied dry white wine should be chilled for only an hour and served between 12-16 degrees.

Glass

The shape of a glass will, inherently, affect the way you enjoy your wine, as it assists the release of aromas. Experts will, of course, recommend that each wine is served in the style of glass meant for that varietal. However most wine drinkers don’t have the full spectrum of glasses at their disposal; in this case, it’s worth leaning toward a tulip-shaped glass that allows you to swirl and tilt the glass effectively. For this reason, regardless of the type of glass, you should only fill your glass a third of the way.

Order of Wines

Overall, you want to let your taste buds appreciate the complexity and nuances of a wine, and this won’t happen if you start with bold wines and finish with fine, soft wines. Remember these rules: dry before sweet, white before red, light before heavy, lesser before finer, young before old.

Decanting Wines

Read our more in-depth look at why and how some wines should be decanted here, but remember that as a general rule, older wines can benefit from decanting to reduce the sediment in the bottle, and younger wines can benefit from the aerating benefits of decanting, as it softens up a younger wine.