Wine Serving Tips
The most important aspect when choosing how to serve a wine is to have fun and experiment, ensuring it will be enjoyed by all! At Meritage we recommend you not take it too seriously. However, there are optimal temperatures and pairings for wines that are good guidelines to follow to allow the wine to be at its most expressive.
Temperature of the Wine
White: It is best to serve most white wines chilled below room temperature, but be careful not to over-chill your wine. If it is too cold, you will miss all the complexities in its flavor. The ideal temperature for most white wines is at 50 degrees.
Red:It is best to serve most red wines slightly BELOW room temperature, this means you might want to sit a bottle ON TOP of an ice bucket, or pull out of your refrigerator right before you drink it. If a red wine is served at room temperature, many of the nuances of the wine will take a back seat to the prevalence of alcohol. The ideal temperature for most red wines is about 62 degrees.
Bubbles: Sparkling wines need to be very chilled to enjoy their freshness at its best. The ideal temperature for most sparkling wines is about 45 degrees. This is just about 5 degrees warmer than your refrigerator, so if you can pull right from there you are in great shape!
Typical refrigerator temperature ranges between 34 and 40 degrees.
Setting of the Wine Experience
Tastings: The wine that is the most opulent, richest, with the most fruit and often the most residual sugar tends to be the showstopper at blind tastings. It is really the simple fact that it stands out with the most obvious component and people then gravitate to it. If you bring a light, fresh wine and pour it blind next to a rich, decadent wine the rich and decadent wine will seem to have more depth and flavor and will overpower your memory of the fresher wine. Often, if you pour a richer wine with more alcohol and glycerol before a higher acid, fresher wine the higher acid wine has a harder time registering on your palate, as it is still coated with the alcohol and glycerol of the previous wine. This is why we always recommend tasting wine lightest to heaviest or simplest to more complex.
Dinners: When choosing a wine for a dinner, once you have selected a few options that will pair well with your dishes, it is best to make sure you select a wine that is a little higher in acidity. In other words not quite as rich, fat and high in alcohol as you might drink on its own. The acidity is necessary to cut through the fat in the dishes and ensure you get to enjoy the layers of flavors from both the wine and the food.
Party Beverage: If you are looking for a wine to be served at a party as a cocktail, then you will want something that is versatile enough to go with the variety of food you are serving, as well as a wine that is pleasant, but not too heavy on its own. For many people a rich, heavier wine tastes great as the first glass, but then becomes too much. Most people want to enjoy multiple glasses at a party, thus a lighter wine tends to go better. Play around a little! At Meritage we always recommend offering multiple types of wines for your guests, as everyone has different likes and dislikes and you want them to enjoy themselves!
Too Decant or Not to Decant, that is the question!
We are often asked about decanting, the act of pouring a wine into a larger container to allow it to breathe or open up. A good rule of thumb is almost all current vintage wines, both white and red, will benefit from time in a decanter. It allows the lighter alcohol to evaporate and more of the character of the wine to show. It also fleshes out the wine, meaning the palate is fuller and more expressive.
Generally, the simpler the wine the less you need to decant it; the more complex the wine the longer it takes to open up. Thirty minutes to an hour will do wonders for most, but some large, rich and complex wines can be decanted for days. It is a bit trickier when you get to decanting older vintages. Increasing the amount of oxygen the wine is exposed to in the decanter quickens the deterioration of the wine’s polymers. As a result, old wines that are more delicate are better to be poured directly in a glass and allowed to open up more slowly. Some older wines that still have great freshness to them seem to benefit from about thirty minutes and they then open up from their often decades-long slumber. Play with it, but decanting definitely makes a big difference in the tasting experience.