One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it,
tastes it, sips it, and – one talks about it.
– King Edward VII –
Wine is one of the most appreciated and sophisticated drinks – it nourishes the soul and delights the palate. Therefore, it needs to be served following a few golden rules.
Serving wine is an art in itself. This simple gesture conceals common difficulties and standard procedures, which are accurately regulated in books and vary according to wine type and characteristics, the food wine is served with, the event, etc.
Learning how to serve wine is pivotal not to compromise the quality of service and wine itself.
WHEN TO OPEN A BOTTLE OF WINE
Wine is to be poured directly from its bottle, which must be opened in front of the guests right before serving the wine.
The only exception to the rule concerns mature red wines: the older the wine, the longer it needs to be let breathe before being served. It may be even necessary to open the bottle the day before – in this case, wine is let decant in a decanter, so that wine is aerated, its organoleptic properties enhanced and the sediment left behind.
The bottle is to be uncorked with a corkscrew taking care not to break the cork, otherwise fragments may fall into the wine.
HOW TO HOLD A BOTTLE OF WINE
The proper way to hold a wine bottle varies according to the bottle type. However, as a general rule, a full bottle is to be held by wrapping the hand around it – anywhere from about halfway down – to reduce the effort and better to pour wine. As wine is poured and the bottle empties, barycentre will change accordingly.
Rule: hold the bottle in the palm of the hand – label facing the guest (never serve a bottle of wine without any label!) – and avoid turning it outwards while pouring the wine.
HOW TO POUR WINE AND HOW MUCH
Drinking wine is a pleasure. Wine needs to be tasted for its bouquet, aroma and flavour to be enjoyed. Therefore, the glass must be filled not to the brim but one third full only. In this way, it can be held more easily in the hand and there is enough air in the bowl for the wine to be aerated and release its bouquet.
Rule: never touch the rim of the glass with the bottle while serving. Pour slowly and turn the bottle after each pour to prevent drips (alternatively, a drop-stop wine pourer may be used; in any case, it is advisable always to have a napkin in the hand).
Note: when serving sparkling wines, pour a small amount into a glass, let the froth settle for a while, then fill the glass further.
Wine is to be poured when all guests sit at the table and the first course has already been served. The wine waiter has to stand over the right shoulder of each guest as he pours. Young as well as low-alcohol and low-temperature wines are usually served first. Afterwards, older wines are poured to the guests, with the exception of sweet wines which are served at the end of the meal.
After wine has been served, the bottle is not to be placed on the table but next to it, or into a wine bucket. The bottle should be visible to guests even when empty. When it comes to fine wines, the cork is usually presented on a silver plate.
Rule: never leave a guest with an empty glass! Always fill the empty glass – obviously, with the guest’s permission.
Different wine types require specific glass shapes and sizes: the correct glass enhances wine colour, aroma and flavour.
Glassware is to be made of thin crystal or clear glass – coloured glass is to be avoided because it alters the colour of wine. It is advisable to use stemware so as to avoid touching the rounded bowl with hands; in this way, fingerprints are not left on the glass and the temperature of wine is not affected by hand heat.
Rule: never use the same glass to taste different types of wine or place more than four glasses on the table.
WINE AND GLASS MATCHING RECOMMENDATIONS
- Mature red wines: large tulip or balloon stemglass, i.e. stemware with a wide bowl which allows the wine to be aerated and its bouquet to be released.
- Mature white wines, rosé wines or young red wines: slender tulip stemglass, i.e. stemware with a wide bowl tapering to a narrower opening – the shape allows aromas to be concentrated at the rim.
- Young white wines or fine sparkling wines: narrow tulip stemglass.
- Dry sparkling wines or Champagnes: flute glass – the shape facilitates the release of the wine bouquet and visually highlights the rising bubbles.
- Sweet sparkling wines: coupe glass – the shape allows the wine bouquet to be released quickly.
Wine glasses may be put in the dishwasher. Grease, lipstick or any other stubborn stains may be removed by prewashing glassware by hand. However, it is recommended to use glasswashers with reverse osmosis systems which will remove water impurities.
Wines are to be served at specific temperatures. Here are our recommendations on serving temperatures.
- Sparkling wines: 8°
- White wines: 10° to 14° according to wine maturity
- Sweet white wines: 12°
- Rosé wines: 11°
- Young red wines: 16°
- Mature red wines: 18° to 20°
NOTE: glassware should be stored in a chilled place, otherwise wine might be warmed up by a few degrees.
Standard refrigerators are not ideal for storing wine, because they might alter the aroma. It is advisable to use buckets filled with ice, water and rock salt, which also helps to retain carbonation of sparkling wines.