You’ve opened the bottle. Now, how do you get the most pleasure from the fruit of a winemaker’s labor? Did you bring the bottle to its proper temperature prior to opening? This, among other tips, will help you to enjoy your next glass of wine to its full potential.
“When it comes to serving temperature, we have the 30-minute rule,” says Aaron Zwicker of The Wine & Cheese Place. “Leave white wines in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving, and then, put your reds in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes before serving.”
Phil Peimann of The Wine Merchant agrees, “When white wine is too cold, the flavors are dulled, and with red wine when it’s too warm, you mostly pick up the tannins and alcohol. You don’t get the full effect of the fruit and the aromatic profiles.”
So after achieving the perfect serving temperature of about 60 degrees and pouring a glass that is roughly half-full, Steve McIntyre of Balaban’s Wine Cellar & Tapas Bar says that’s when the swirling and sniffing begins. “There is a physiology of tasting wine with the smells you get—they’re very important,” he notes. “It’s almost like when you go to the movies and you smell the popcorn, you’re even more excited about seeing the movie. It’s the same thing with wine.” McIntyre explains that swirling releases a lot of the aromas. “You don’t want to act like a goofball when you’re at dinner, swirling and actually inhaling the wine while it’s in the mouth, but it is important when you want to open up a lot of the aromas and flavors in the wine.”
Zwicker also believes that swirling and sniffing are an important part of enjoying wine. “Swirling exposes the wine to oxygen, which is what helps to release all the aromatics, and by smelling it beforehand, you get the initial profile of what you should expect from the wine once it enters your palate,” he says. “When then you actually take a sip, it’s kind of the full spectrum: It’s the four sensations on your tongue with the relative weight of the wine and all those aromatics integrated with everything else.”
Above and beyond swirling, decanting prior to serving opens up the wine, according to Peimann. “It’s something you do with very young wines or very old wines,” Peimann explains. “The decanter provides a lot more surface area for young wines to come into contact with the oxygen, opening up flavors and fragrances. With an old wine, it’s more so to just remove the sediment from the bottle.” He also notes that decanting is not absolutely vital, but recommended for bigger or more complex wines.
Another important element when enjoying wine is the glass it’s served in, McIntyre notes. “The first time I tasted the same wine in two different glasses, I was out at Opus One in Napa Valley. They had Reidel crystal glasses, as well as standard wine glasses. They poured the exact same wine into the two different glasses, and the difference was amazing! So if you’re going to spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine, then it really makes a lot of sense to have the right glassware.”