Posts Tagged ‘how to serve red wine’
Serving red wine is not a particular challenge, but there are several myths and misconceptions concerning how it should properly be done. The most prevalent fallacies fall into the following two categories:
1. The proper serving temperature.
2. Whether it is necessary to decant your wine, and if so, the appropriate way to carry out the decanting.
Let’s take a look at the first category, the right temperature red wine should be served at, first. “Room temperature” is not the correct description of the temperature at which any wine should be served. As a standard rule of thumb, top-drawer, full-bodied reds are served at warmer temps than other wines, but even top-flight Bordeaux–and other of the best reds–should be drunk in a temperature range between approximately 62 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is a lot cooler than the 72 degrees commonly thought to be optimal room temperature. Burgundy, and other high-quality Pinot Noirs, should be poured at between 61 to 64 degrees, while lighter or more common reds like Chianti, Zinfandel or Cotes du Rhone, ought to be served at approximately 57 to 61 degrees. Red table wine is very best served from approximately 54 to 56 degrees, whilst Beaujolais is one red that should be enjoyed chilled, from about 51 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
O.K., time to look into the second category of common confusion. Decanting, or the act of transferring your wine from the bottle to a decanter, serves two functions: to remove any sediment (solid bits of color pigment and tannins that have bonded together in the course of aging) that may be present in the bottle; and to aerate, or oxygenate the wine. Sediment may be present in some bottles of red wine, particularly in more mature wines. It’s best to keep a bottle of wine you’re planning to have still, preferably in an upright position, for a few hours prior to uncorking it, to let any sediment settle to the bottom. When you do open it, you can either cautiously pour the wine into a decanter, making sure not to allow any sediment to follow the wine into its new container, or simply pour the wine directly into glasses–again, taking care that the sediment stays in the bottle, and only the wine ends up in your glass.
As far as aeration is concerned, the common wisdom is that you must open a bottle of red wine an hour or so ahead of serving it, to “let it breathe.” The trouble with this idea is that, because wine bottles possess narrow necks, merely uncorking a bottle exposes only a tiny surface region of wine to the air, and so doesn’t in reality permit the wine to breathe, or in far more technical terms, doesn’t promote adequate oxidation of the wine. Which is why most decanters are wide at the bottom; that design exposes a large surface area of wine to the air.
The greater question though, is whether it’s a good idea to decant a particular wine at all. In other words, do all red wines benefit from oxidation? The short answer to that question is, “no.” The function of aeration is to soften very tannic reds–for example a top-rated Barolo or Syrah–to soften the tannins and let the wine’s flavors and complexity “open up,” in particular in the case of somewhat young wines. A mature wine, on the other hand, can be quite delicate, and by decanting it, you may simply be permitting its bouquet and flavors to dissipate. One kind of red wine that is generally not decanted is Pinot Noir. Top rate Pinot Noir, particularly Burgundy, is a very aromatic, delicate red. Except if it is quite young, it best poured from the bottle directly into a Burgundy glass.
That brings us to the issue of what kind of glasses are best for serving red wine. As you may have already gathered, there are distinct glasses designed with Burgundy specifically in mind. These are big volume, balloon-shaped glasses which allow the drinker to better enjoy Burgundy’s great bouquet. These glasses should only be used for top-rated Burgundy, or another top-notch Pinot Noirs, because, if used for a regular Pinot, they will just serve to make the wines ordinariness that much more apparent. Another red wine that has its own unique glass is Bordeaux. These are also high volume glasses but, instead of being balloon-shaped, like Burgundy glasses, they they are straight-sided –the so as to encourage oxidation. These are the best glasses for enjoying high-quality Bordeaux and other top-flight, full-bodied, tannic reds. Lesser wines should be served in standard-sized glasses that will not tend to emphasize the wine’s deficiencies.
In summary, how red wine is served largely is dependent on what sort of red wine it is, but, aside from which glasses to use, there are really only three points to take into account: you should serve a certain wine at its suggested serving temperature; sediment can be an issue with red wine, so if there is sediment present, let it settle to the bottom of the bottle prior to serving; young, full-bodied, tannic reds will usually benefit from substantial aeration, so it’s better to decant them. Mature reds, on the other hand, have already mellowed by way of aging, and may be too delicate for such treatment, while Pinot Noir is one red varietal that is generally not decanted.
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