Best Served

Written by
Vintage Cellars
February 16, 2017
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We look at how to best serve your drinks to accentuate the flavours & aromas & ultimately, how get the most enjoyment out of the glass.

Serving drinks takes more than simply selecting the best glassware. It involves identifying the ideal temperatures, occasions and even foods to pair the drink with. The order in which you serve various tipples is also important for optimal consumption.

The right order

By order we aren’t referring to sayings you may have heard, like “beer before wine is fine"; it refers more to setting out your event and the order of the drinks, typically based on their weight. Traditionally, you would start with lighter wines and progress to heavier wines as time progressed. For instance an occasion may begin with sparkling wine or pair Riesling with an entree, it could continue with Chardonnay and be followed by Pinot Noir, and later finish with a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. After the richer and heavier red wines you may choose to move into matching the wine with cheese, something sweet but not overpowering like Sauternes or even a fortified wine matched with a chocolate mousse. If the evening continues, you may find the room for a little snifter of Cognac to finish. Of course, not every occasion would be based around so many courses, but the idea and progression remains. Start gently and increase the power of the wines throughout the evening.

Getting in the mood

How we taste and enjoy wine is directly influenced by our mood and our surroundings. The greatest marketing coup by any wine region is Champagne, and the saturated belief that sparkling wine is the ultimate wine for any celebration, from new additions to the family to anniversaries, graduations to new jobs and other successes. When the time comes, ignore the rules of taking the cork out slowly; pop it loud and proud so everyone in the vicinity knows everything in your world is grand.

If on the other hand you are curled up by the heater or a fireplace relaxing at home, you may instead choose to drink a Shiraz or something a little more exotic yet effortlessly approachable like a Malbec.

For work functions an order of dry Riesling or Chablis will serve you well. Both are low in alcohol, so you'll be sensible and clear headed for the rest of the day. If you are having red instead Chianti or Pinot Noir will be your best bet, as both options work well with a variety of dishes.

Choose your vessel

Champagne and sparkling wine are going through some upheaval in the glass department. Despite an overwhelming urge at times to put sparkling wine into long thin straight-sided flutes, the sparkling wine cognoscenti are encouraging the use of a bigger glass – and they may just be right. Great sparkling wines should in theory taste great with or without the bubbles, so if the purpose of the glass (the long thin straight-sided variety) is merely to preserve the bubbles, then you may be missing the point. Select a glass that makes the wine taste the best, something that allows you to stick your nose in and really smell all that your chosen drop has to offer. A lovely tulip shaped white wine glass will do the trick.

Is it hot in here?

The term room temperature comes up a lot in the wine game. Drink your reds at room temperature, they say. Well, that is fine as long as your room temperature is not above 20 degrees! In a perfect world wine should be enjoyed at a top of 18 degrees, but it can be difficult to be so precise. As a rule of thumb, the higher the acidity, the cooler the serving temperature, as wines containing high levels of acid like Riesling and sparkling can feel soapy and coarse on the palate if served too warm. Sparkling wines that are popped open when too warm may also come with consequences, often exploding out of the bottle if not served around the six degree mark. Bigger white wines, like Chardonnay, the Rhone whites; Marsanne Roussanne and Viognier can be served above 10-12 degrees with ease, and lighter bodied reds are lovely in this zone too. As you get into big Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon territory a 15-18 degree range will maintain the wine’s perfume and texture, and you’ll find them to be both enjoyable and refreshing, as wine should be.

While the list of recommendations, rules and guidelines around how to drink wine may seem lengthy, it is based on trial, error and learnings over time. Following some of this advice when serving your wine will allow you to get more out of the bottle, try it at home for yourself.