Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wine Service Basics

With New Years Eve dinner parties just a few days away, and menus and wine selections being finalized for the celebrations, this seems like the right time to discuss the issue of wine service--particularly, what kind of glass to pour your wine into and whether or not to decant the bottles you’ll be serving.

Regarding the first issue, I strongly recommend reading the article linked up right here, posted just last week, by Jancis Robinson on the web site of the Financial Times. She recommends a number of specific glasses, though her most salient point seems to be that, contrary to popular belief, wine professionals don’t generally obsess over what kind of glass to serve wine in. As long as the glass provides ample room for swirling and breathing, is narrower at the rim than at the widest point of the bowl, is fairly thin, and provides enough room for an appropriately sized pour, it’ll do just fine. Issues of aesthetics and feel are personal, and should certainly be considered, but they won’t necessarily have a major impact on the experience of drinking the wine.

Then there’s the issue of decanting, which The Guardian’s Fiona Beckett addresses in a recently posted commentary. Her advice can be summed up like this: “The most obvious reason to decant is that the wine has thrown a deposit, and that's really only likely with vintage or crusted ports and aged unfiltered reds...You may also want to get some air into a wine that smells slightly stinky - there are more of these around given the growing popularity of natural wines made with no or very little sulphur - or full-bodied young reds that need a bit of aeration to mellow over-aggressive tannins. You might even want to decant a full-bodied white if you feel it's tasting a bit funky or not showing at its best.”

The important point to remember is that all of this pre-sipping routine--choosing the stemware, decanting (or not)--is done in the service of maximizing the enjoyment you get from your wine. Everything else is secondary.


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