A very important part of enjoying your wine fully and understanding the etiquette, is how to serve it well.
The first step is to make sure your bottle is at the right temperature. Too cold or too warm and you could miss a whole spectrum of aromas and flavours. Deciding the ideal temperature for your wine can be summarised by one rule: the lighter the wine the cooler, the heavier the less chilled.
One of the lightest wines is sparkling and they will be served around 8 degrees celsius. Some might like it even cooler, especially for very dry ones like “Extra Brut” (0 gram sugar supposedly) as the more chilled the more you feel the fresh acidity. Then around 10 degrees for vintage sparkling, “Blanc de Noirs”, as well as for light aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc. For full-bodied white wines (Chardonnay, blends from Portugal or the South of France) and light reds (Gamay, Nebbiolo or New World Merlot) serve at around 12-13 degrees. Going up to full-bodied reds (Bordeaux blend style, Touriga Nacional, Northern Rhône Syrah), these can be served from 15 degrees up to “chambré” (room temperature) which is about 18 degrees. Too cool will see a decrease in the fruitiness, and emphasise the tannins’ astringency.
Now that your wine is at the right temperature you are ready to open it. For sparkling just make sure that after freeing the cage your thumb is on the cork at all times. A cork will pop from the bottle at a speed of around 40km/h and accidents are still too frequent.
For still wines first choose your “weapon” for opening it as corkscrews come in many different styles. I will apply what is often true in life, “the simpler, the better” and will recommend the “Sommelier” type: not cumbersome and very efficient.
First cut the metal cap under the edging – far enough from the top so the metal and any impurities are not in contact with the wine. Use a serviette to brush off the neck in case of mould or uncleanness (side note: excessive mould does not mean that the wine is bad). Place the screw tip in the middle of the cork and turn straight and firmly almost until the end of the stem. Pull the cork gently and upright using the lever for about two thirds. Finish screwing down and lever again until the cork is out. Brush off the neck again in case of residue.
In a restaurant it is customary to place the cork in front of you to check its condition and make sure it is not corrupted. I personally like to smell the part that was in contact with the wine, even if it reveals little about its quality.
Serve a little to your glass first to make sure the wine has no faults. Then serve your friends/guests (ladies first) and after pouring when you lift up the bottle, do a twisting movement with the wrist so no drops end up on your friend’s favourite white shirt. By David Rouault
Blend of white grapes with the Malvasia Fina being aged in oak for six months. This is a full-bodied white that should be served at around 13 degrees. Rich nose of exotic fruits with a fugitive brioche scent. Vivid acidity with ripe lemon, chalk and yellow grapefruit, and a long finish of crushed seashells.
Blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roritz and Tinta Cão this is a full-bodied red with a serving temperature of about 17 degrees. Very rich nose of cherry jam, cocoa bean, Italian leather, black fruits and dark wood. Lively palate with youthful tannins, spices and red fruits. Better after decanting for one hour.
Decanting? That will be the topic of our next chapter…
Wines available in some restaurants and at www.vinomacwines.com
David Rouault is a professional classical musician, part time wine consultant and full time wine lover, holding WSET Level 3,
Certified Specialist of Wine and Introductory Sommelier diplomas. www.dionysos.com.mo