It’s possible to get a college degree in Wine. Absent from most curricula, though is a good course on the right way to serve wine.
Red wines and whites, not to mention sparkling wines, have different optimal storage methods, serving temperatures and opening and pouring procedures — even different ideal drinking glasses.
Reds, it’s often said, should be served room temperature — but that refers to a room a bit cooler than the average Mediterranean villa in summer. Start at 65F (18C) and adjust to taste.
Reds should generally not be stored in a refrigerator. Apart from being too cold, if the bottle is corked food flavors can seep into the bottle. Wherever stored, be sure to keep the bottle on it’s side, in an area with 80 percent humidity if possible.
Whites, as well as some fruitier reds, should usually be served substantially cooler. Cooler, not cold. A range of 52-55F (11-13C) is a good beginning. Colder and you will start to mask the flavors. The average refrigerator is around 40F (4C), so remember not to serve immediately after opening, if stored there.
If you need to achieve the proper temperature in a hurry, or don’t have handy a wine cooling cabinet, a large serving bucket with both water and ice will do. The addition of water helps to keep the ice close to the bottle and also to conduct heat away more effectively. Fifteen to thirty minutes is usually enough.
While the wine is cooling to optimal serving temperature, you can prepare the glasses. The ideal glass for a red wine will have a thin rim, a largish bowl, and a stem with a wide base for holding and stability. Whites are better experienced from a slightly narrower bowled glass. Avoid heavy cut glasses, so that clarity and color can be viewed well.
Of course, glasses should be clean, but also remember to keep fingerprints away from the rim by holding down on the stem. As much as possible, dust should be kept from the interior or any other portion where the lips and tongue will come into contact with it. Both dust and oils alter the perceived taste.
While not the most important aspect of wine serving, using the proper shape and size (one able to hold at least several ounces), helps to convey the wine to the optimal areas of the tongue and palette for the different types.
Now everything is ready.
Using a corkscrew that fits your hand well, try to insert it into the cork at a slight angle to get more pulling leverage. Once the spiral is fully inserted, give the handles or the corkscrew a little jerk — dynamic friction is less than static. Be careful not to splinter the cork into the bottle.
Decant any heavier reds (port or older wines) that show evidence of sediment, by allowing them to settle then pouring carefully or using a cheesecloth if needed. Allow them, and red generally to breathe (i.e. remain open to air) for 15 minutes or so.
Pour no more than one third to half a glass to leave plenty of room for swirling. Sniff gently.
And, the most important step: taste!