Three Serving Mysteries (sort of) Cleared Up

There are three persistent questions we hear when it comes to serving wine:

  1. What's the proper serving temperature?
  2. Should I use an aerator?
  3. When should I decant wine?

Before providing an answer to each question, please keep in mind there is only one hard and fast rule when it comes to enjoying wine:

If you like it, it's good.

That's it. Everything else is a suggestion or comes down to personal preference. So, please keep in mind that our answers reflect our palate, but it's always a good idea to experiment on your own to discover what you like best.

1. What's the proper serving temperature?
Most people know the basics -- white wine chilled, red wine room temperature. Right? Well, maybe. First, it's good to know what temperature does to wine. The colder the wine, the less acidity and alcohol you'll taste, but you'll also taste less of everything else. That means a cheap Chardonnay with poor balance will undoubtedly taste better chilled on a hot summer day than if you serve it warm. However, a well-made Chardonnay that's nicely balanced will reveal more of it's character if you serve it a bit warmer.

OK, so you want a relatively foolproof way to serve?  

  • White wine: Chill for at least 60 minutes and pull it out 10 minutes before serving. 
  • Red wine: Room temperature. Some people like their reds slightly chilled, but we don't.

2. Should I use an aerator?
No.

You've probably seen these devices that attach to a wine bottle and froth up the wine as you pour it. Adding in oxygen opens up the wine's flavors while subduing some of the alcohol, but aerators tend to take it to the extreme. Look carefully, and you'll generally see aerators only used in wineries with cute names like "Hot Mama Vineyards" that feature racks of bedazzled "Got Wine?" t-shirts for sale in their tasting room. Those wineries can be a lot of fun, but they typically need an aerator to cover up the poor quality of what they're serving. Almost any decent wine will taste better without it.

3. When should I decant wine?
Decanting wine serves two main purposes. Older wines tend to have a lot of sediment build up in the bottle, so pouring the wine into a decanter is an easy way to separate the wine from most of the sediment. Very young wines tend to need a little help expressing their full flavors, so if a wine tastes too tart or there seems to be too much alcohol, you can soften it up by pouring it into a decanter and letting it sit for 15 minutes or more.

That's it! Feel free to agree or disagree, but always keep in mind these suggestions come down to personal taste. After all, there's only one rule when it comes to drinking wine!

Posted on June 16, 2012 and filed under Tasting Experiences.