The Right Temperature
Many people serve white wines too cold (making the flavors hard to taste) and red wines too warm (making the alcohol too prominent). Chill all everyday table wines as follows.
- White and rosé wines should be drunk at 48° F to 56° F, so always pull them out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
- Reds should be around 58° F to 68° F; pop them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before sipping.
- You can also try decanting young red wines to improve their flavor.
To Decant or Not to Decant
Normally, you just uncork wine and pour, but with that special bottle of red you’ve been saving, you may need to decant. Here’s why (and how).
- With an older bottle (about 10 years old or more), you want to make sure that bits of grape skin and other unfiltered solids that accumulate in the bottle over time stay there, rather than ending up in your glass.
- All young red wines can also benefit from decanting, which helps mellow harsh flavors and brings out the fruit scents faster, making them fuller and more balanced. Any glass pitcher will do. Pour the wine and let it sit at a comfortable room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- If you want to impress guests, use the sommelier’s trick of holding the bottle a few inches above a candle while you pour into the decanter. The light from the candle makes it easy to see when you get to the solids floating at the bottom of the bottle. That’s when you stop pouring.
How to Tell if Wine Has Turned
Older doesn’t always mean better, especially with moderately priced wine. Follow these tips to make sure your wine hasn’t gone bad.
- Check the color. Red wines fade and white wines darken when they oxidize or get too old. Brown tones in either are typically bad news.
- Smell it. White wines should smell like fresh fruits and reds like berries. If either smells like vinegar or raisins, it’s probably past its prime.
- Taste it. If it has an astringent quality, it’s likely spoiled. You are entitled to refuse an unsatisfactory bottle in a restaurant and to be reimbursed for one by a wine store.