An Intro Into Storing and Serving Wine
Last weekend I went to a wine show at Lord’s cricket ground hosted by The Three Wine Men, which is the name a collection of notables in the UK wine world (Oz Clarke, Olly Smith, and Tim Aitkin) go by. It was aimed at wine punters/hobbyists, i.e. me, and had about 30 stalls from various companies either producing or importing the stuff from all the corners of the globe. (As a quick aside, one stall was a fledgling UK gin producer called Warner Edwards, it’s amazing stuff, you’ll see it in the near future!!)
It was £25 to get in, for 4 hours of floating around, but me being me, I hadn’t got my arse in gear and bought tickets, so the only ones available were the £50 ones that included a wine glass master class by this company called Riedel. The slip said that I’d get to keep the glasses we were doing the course with, so sod it, pays for itself right? So the missus and I trotted in and proceeded to be converted into wine glass geeks by the good people at Riedel. I’m not going to bore you with the details, mostly cos I’ll never be able to do it justice, but the difference in making sure you’ve got the right glass for the right drink was incredible. I was one of a room full of perplexed faces.
So it got me thinking about whether we do the wines we buy enough service. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure about writing about this. Like you haven’t got enough to worry about with just working out which wine is which to begin with, you’ve also got to know where to put it and how. I’ll try and keep it breezy enough and introductory. Apologies if I fail miserably, please bear with me.
You can keep storing fairly basic to begin with…
You need a dark, dry place somewhere in the region of 10-15 degrees. If your wine is closed with a cork you need to store the bottle on its side to make sure the cork stays in contact with the wine and doesn’t dry out. If the cork dries out it’s more likely to fail and let air in and mess up the wine inside. So yeah, keep the bottle on its side. (If the bottle is a screw cap or plastic cork or something like that, there’s no need to lay the bottle on the side.)
It’s also a good idea to keep the bottles fairly still so if there is any sediment in the wine then it won’t get shaken around and can settle and separate in time for drinking.
Once you’re serving, temperature matters…
Sweet, sparkling, or light-bodied whites: 6-10 degrees
Medium/full bodied whites, and light bodied reds: 10-13 degrees
Full bodied reds: 15-18 degrees
One tip for this, 15-18 degrees is rarely room temperature in the air conditioned world, so you might need to warm the reds up a bit, one easy way is just to hold the glass in your cupped hands.
When it comes to opening and pouring there’s a few things to watch out for…
Firstly, there’s another myth to be dispelled. Don’t pop sparkling wine corks. Unless you genuinely are at a high school graduation party, or you’ve just won a grand prix, then don’t do it. You mess the wine up before you’ve even poured it. Instead, hold the cork, and twist the bottle. If you do it slowly enough, the cork will come out with a pathetically disappointing sound, but it’s the right way to do it. Leave the dramatics to the 16 year olds and F1 drivers, eh?
Now for a very quick word on decanting…
I think this is the first time I’m going to mention my trip to Bordeaux with the man, the myth, the legend that is JB (20h33, link to your right). It was great fun, and he introduced me to lots of guys and girls from all over Bordeaux who all had plenty of knowledge (and wine) to share.
One of the things that I noticed (amongst many) was the way they decanted the wine. For heavy reds they decanted young wines in special shaped decanters that looked just like a big wine glass (http://www.spirit-boutique.com/totallyterroir/bordeaux-wine-decanter).
The reason here, they told me, is because when you put a wine in a bottle, you’re effectively sending it to bed. When you open it, you wake it up.
Now when it comes to an old wine…
The grumpy old man, he’s likely to not perk up all that much all day, so give him a while to sort himself out, release his sediment (that’s why old wine decanters have big surface areas at the base), and settle into his favourite armchair for the day. If you leave him there too long he’ll probably fall asleep again (in reality, the alcohol will evaporate and the wine could lose it’s structure). All this stuff about decanting old wines for hours on end? Bad idea. Wait for the sediment to settle and go for it.
Now the young wines…
The moody teenagers. The heavy reds, with big tannins (that mouth drying sensation you get round the gums). There’s nothing wrong with them, they’ll mope around for a few hours before they sort their lives out, but will improve by the afternoon. So pour them into the glass shaped decanters (all about getting air to a big surface area), and you can leave them for 2-3 hours there to mellow out. I’d never seen anyone do it before I went to Bordeaux, but now I’ve started, I can’t stop. It really works.
(As a quick aside, something that doesn’t work is to open the bottle and leave the wine in the bottle to “breathe”. Don’t be daft. Air gets to such a negligible amount of the wine that there is genuinely no point to it. Either decant it or just drink it.)
When it comes to pouring, as I said in a previous post, just don’t overfill the glass…
The wine you leave in the decanter isn’t going to run away, you can top up later on. Also when pouring red wines with sediment, as long as the wine has settled down a bit, you’ll see the sediment really clearly in the bottle or decanter. Don’t pour this into anyone’s glass. It can have some funny old side effects (toilet paper on stand by!).
Finally, the glasses….
Novelty glasses are for children’s parties and hen-do’s. Just get yourself some normal shaped glasses to start with. You like it all and get well into it, and then you can check out the likes of the guys at Riedel and spend your money on those kinds of things. They really are worth it when you get to that stage, but to start with, just keep it simple. Goblets are for prop departments, not dinner tables!
Right, I’m off to go make space in the cupboard for my new glasses.