It’s all well and good investing in a fancy bottle of wine to impress your nearest and dearest, but the pièce de résistance is how you present it.
According to a top sommelier, the way you pour your wine can actually enrich the taste of it, as well as add a touch of class to the overall experience.
Additionally, the style of the glass you serve your white or red in can also impact on your appreciation of it, as certain varieties are better suited to particular shapes.
The festive season is the perfect time to master the skill of pouring wine – and drinking it (in moderation) might help you get through it!
Here Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, head of fine wine at Cult Wines, shares his top tips for serving your best bottle of vino.
According to a top sommelier, the way you pour your wine can actually enrich the taste of it, as well as add a touch of class to the overall experience. Stock image
START BY DECANTING
Decanting should, ideally, take place before you even think about pouring a glass.
The act of decanting serves two functions. Firstly, to stop naturally occurring sediment from reaching your glass, and secondly, to help the wine aerate and ‘open up’ before it’s drunk.
Naturally the process serves an aesthetic purpose too, as an elegant crystal decanter makes for an excellent table centrepiece.
There are many different shapes and styles of decanters available, but sometimes we need to remember the main reason that you would decant a bottle of wine.
Wine needs to breathe, some more so than others, but ideally we would want to give as much surface area to let the decanter do its job.
Wider decanters like the Riedel Decanter Ultra, left, are good for red wines and full bodied oaked whites, while a narrower one like the Zalto Carafe 75ml, right, best suits white wines that don’t require as much space to wake up the characteristics
The wider the base of the decanter, the better – especially for red wines and fuller bodied oaked whites. The increased surface area that you give will improve aeration and bring out the best in your wine, its flavours and aromas will develop further during decanting.
Younger, more tannic wines generally require longer to open up – some can benefit from decanting several hours before drinking. Older, more mature wines typically take a shorter time to reach their full potential.
A narrower decanter is better suited to white wines that don’t need as much space to wake up the characteristics when transferred from the bottle.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT GLASS
It’s your home and your rules, so really you can serve your wine however you wish. However, wine experts largely agree that the proper style of wine glass, paired with the right wine, will make all the difference to your tasting experience.
There are dozens of glass styles to choose from, and for the seasoned wine drinker that can add up to a requirement for a lot of cupboard space.
Fortunately, there are many attractive ‘universal’ glass options on the market, as well as those designed for specific varieties.
Bordeaux / Merlot / Cabernet
Red wines such as a Merlot, Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon benefit from a tall wine glass with a large bowl which tapers slightly towards its opening
Glasses for these wines are usually the tallest you’ll find, with a large bowl that tapers ever so slightly towards the opening.
This allows you to really get your nose in the glass for a good sniff, and for the ethanol to evaporate easily, helping the wine taste smoother and bringing out fruit flavours.
Syrah / Shiraz / Malbec / Sangiovese
Reds including Syrah, Shiraz, Malbec and Sangiovese are best served in a smaller glass with a smaller opening to help soften the wine
These wines often have more tannic, spicier flavours, so their corresponding glass has a slightly smaller bowl with a smaller opening.
This helps to soften the wine as it reaches your palette more slowly. A greater degree of tapering, meanwhile, helps to trap the aromas so you can enjoy the wine’s flavours to their fullest.
Burgundy / Pinot Noir
A juicy Burgundy or Pinot Noir red wine is most suited to a glass with a wide bowl to allow more oxygen to contact the wine
Glasses for these wines are usually the widest and shortest styles.
A wide bowl allows a larger amount of oxygen to contact the wine, while the smaller opening and high degree of tapering helps to collect the wine’s bold aromas and direct its intense flavours to the right part of your tongue.
Sauvignon Blanc / Riesling
Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling can be served in the same style and shape of glass – typically with a mid-to-long stem and narrow bowl with slight tapering
White wine glasses are typically smaller in height and bowl size than red wine glasses. As its aromas are much lighter, this allows the wine to come into closer proximity to your nose.
Despite their different characteristics, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling can be served in the same style and shape of glass – typically with a mid-to-long stem and narrow bowl with slight tapering.
For Sauvignon Blanc, this helps to minimise the levels of oxygen in the glass, making it easier to detect the wine’s aromas.
For Riesling, meanwhile, this helps to concentrate the aromas in the top half of the bowl.
Glasses with a large bowl which allows for a big surface area are ideal for full-bodied, oak-aged whites like Chardonnay
Glasses designed for Chardonnay are almost the complete opposite of those designed for Sauvignon Blanc.
These glasses have a large bowl, much like that found in a glass for Burgundy or Pinot Noir, although they are still smaller overall.
The large bowl allows for a big surface area, ideal for full-bodied, oak-aged whites.
LEARN THE ETIQUETTE
Generally, it doesn’t really matter who gets served first or how, but if you want to do things ‘by the book’, etiquette dictates that women are served first, and glasses should always be filled from the guest’s right-hand side.
Winemakers are also fiercely proud of their creations, and a bottle’s label is a representation of that pride.
Avoid whipping off the entire foil capsule from the top of the bottle – instead, cut it neatly right below the lip of the bottle, so the wine doesn’t pass over the foil and onto the label.
POUR THE RIGHT AMOUNT
Now it’s time to pour the wine! Open the bottle cleanly and quietly (if not decanting) and, leaving the glass on the table, hold the bottle towards its bottom (never by the neck) and gently pour the wine into the glass.
Whereabouts exactly within the glass doesn’t matter too much, as long as you avoid splashing.
Champagne poured with the glass tilted, like beer, retains more gas—meaning fewer bubbles foaming up at the top of the glass. Stock image
Take particular care if it’s a sparkling wine – pour a small amount into the flute, let the bubbles settle and then finish pouring until the glass is three-quarters full.
FIZZ – TO TILT OR NOT TO TILT?
Champagne poured with the glass tilted, like beer, retains more gas—meaning fewer bubbles foaming up at the top of the glass.
There is some controversy around this school of thought, as some fizz fans claim Champagne is actually better served in a saucer or even a white wine glass – it’s a matter of preference.
For red and white wines, the usual measure is about 125ml for a smaller serving or 175ml for an average-sized serving.
This is pretty tricky to do by sight, so usually your best bet is to fill to the widest part of the glass, or at least a couple of inches from the rim.
This gives the wine the best opportunity to breathe.
AVOID THE DREADED DRIBBLE
No-one likes a sloppy pourer, and even if you observe the above advice to the letter your efforts could easily be undone by an errant dribble at the end.
Once you’ve finished pouring, just before pulling the bottle away, give it a quick quarter-turn with your wrist and then tilt it upright.
You might also keep a crisp white cloth nearby to wipe the mouth of the bottle afterwards, just in case.
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