Simple rules for serving wine

Wines vary in style and the lightness or fullness should match the occasion and food:

  • Warm weather and light foods match light flavoured wines.
  • Cold weather and full flavoured foods match full flavoured wines.
  • Fruity and sweet wines match desserts and maybe cheese.

Keep in mind a serving temperature that achieves a pleasant taste. Whites should be cold but not icy cold. Reds should be cool – in summer they need to go into the fridge or air conditioning for a while. The adage that red is served at room temperature originates in northern Europe where the ambient temperature is around 22 degrees. If red is served too warm it tastes tepid and unpleasant.

Serve whites at around 10 – 12 degrees, reds at about 15 degrees, sparkling at about 10 degrees and fortified wines at about 15 – 18. Put reds and fortified wines in the fridge for a while to achieve the desired serving temperature in hot weather.

If a wine is sealed with a cork, be aware that a percentage (around 2% – 3% approximately) contain an invisible mould which may affect the wine and make it smell and taste musty and bitter, or taste flat and lifeless – that is why a waiter in a restaurant traditionally offered a small taste to you before pouring the bottle. Screw caps are fairly foolproof although the bottle or carton may have been dropped at some point and the seal on the screw cap may have broken – in which case the wine will oxidize and taste flat and stale. Hence it is wise to still check a screw capped bottle. If wines are served by the glass in a restaurant, check the wine initially to make sure that the bottle from which it was served, was fresh.

Use good glasses – clear glass, with a stem and a tulip shaped bowel that holds aroma. Only pour in wine to a third/half full in order to leave an aroma space. Use of good glasses is like listening to music on expensive high quality speakers.