Serving Wine

A discussion with Bill Williamson.

Wine is a completely unique thing - it changes over the time you have stored it and will change when serving based on temperature and the glass you choose.

Serving Temperature

The temperature at which a wine is served ranges in importance from vital to critical.

Serving red wines at "room temperature" refers to rooms in chateau and castles from past centuries. Modern, centrally heated, insulated houses have room temperatures around 72°F while no wine should ever be served above 65°F.

If a guest wants to drink your Merlot warm they can cradle the glass in their hands for a few minutes and the wine will warm up, and the decanter will be coming up to "room temperature" right there on the table.

These are our recommendations for serving temperatures using our wines as a guide.

60°F- 65°F

  • Red Bordeaux (Amour, Sultry, Tango, Allure, Entice, Ravish, Clarissa, Caress, Seduce, Inspire, Stagecoach, Sovereign)
  • Red Rhône (Heritage, Elate, Enchant)
  • Red Burgundy (Passion, Rapture)

55°F- 60°F

  • Chardonnay (Amourette)
  • This is the ideal temperature to store all wines.

50°F- 55°F

  • Viognier (Frolic, Chantilly)
  • Sauvignon Blanc (Joy)
  • Rosé (Adore & Tickled Pink )

45°F- 50°F

  • Champagne (Fizz)
  • Sparkling Wine (Bubbles)
  • Dessert Wine (Bliss)

35°F- 40°F

  • This is the temperature in your home refrigerator, never serve wine at this temperature.

Presenting, Opening and Testing Wine

You generally want guests to know what they're about to drink so present the bottle, with the label and vintage clearly showing, then quietly remove the cork using a hollow-screw corkscrew with a lever action that provides a straight pull on the cork in the same plane as the bottle neck.

If you have previously decanted and tasted the wine, then return the cork to the bottle upside down taking great care not to touch the wine soaked part of the cork. Only insert the cork partially so guests can see the end that was in contact with the wine. Then show the bottle, label and cork to each.

Always taste the wine yourself to see if you detect any flaws.

Pouring Wine

Sparkling (champagne) wines should be poured against the side of the flute (glass), like a beer, but with much less turbulence. Incline the flute wall to about 45° and progressively fill the flute inevitably recovering the axis to its vertical 90° position, lessening foam generation, so that the bubbles and foam are kept to a minimum.

Why? Because the bubbles are formed during the release of carbon dioxide gas dissolved in the wine which helps transfer the taste, aroma, and mouth-feel of champagne, so you want them to explode their flavor in your mouth, not in the glass.

Still wines should be poured towards the center of the glass. Still wine glasses should be level and horizontal, ideally on the table. Pour the wine vertically from the bottle or decanter into the center of the appropriate glass (stemware) to hit the bottom of the glass which may cause bubbles but they will subside as the amount in the glass increases.

Pour the wine for each guest, serving clockwise around the table, standing over the right shoulder of each person as you pour. Never fill their glass more than half full and we recommend less than one third full. They need room to swirl the wine and release its aromas and, if someone does not want to drink this wine, they have wasted less. Never touch the rim of the glass with the bottle or decanter while serving.

Pour slowly so the wine does not splash up, into the glass, on the table or on your guest. Turn the bottle after each pour to prevent drips. Have a burgundy-colored napkin in your hand to wipe any wine running down the outside of the bottle between pours. Do not attempt to swirl the wine for your guests which may release aromas too early for them and they may miss the best of the bouquet.

Glassware (Stemware)

Stemware refers to glass or crystal vessels for beverages and desserts, having rounded bowls mounted on footed stems. For our purposes stemware and glassware simply refer to the correct glass from which to serve and enjoy our wine.

It’s important to make sure the tabletop is symmetrical to create an aesthetically pleasing backdrop for your dinner guests to enjoy. Glasses should be arranged in a diagonal or square pattern to the right of the dinner plate, and are comprised of glasses for water, white wine, red wine, and a champagne flute for occasions that require a toast.

Noted wine critic Robert Parker wrote "The finest glasses are those made by Riedel" Claus Riedel was the first person to design individual wineglass shapes according to the variety of the wines being tasted. Made of thin, clear, lead-crystal glass with a wide bowl tapering to a narrower opening, the shape allows the wine to be swirled in the glass while concentrating the aromas at the rim.

We have categorized each of the Riedel stemware we recommend for each of our wines in three quality levels, namely:

  • Elite = Best for wine aroma and taste but least robust.
  • Premium = Good for wine aroma and taste and generally robust.
  • Luxury = Most robust and acceptable for wine aroma and taste.

You can view and purchase the recommended Reidel stemware appropriate to each of our wines in the Shop section of this web site.

Cleaning Wine Glasses

Do not use detergent. Wash the glass under hot water then, for extra shine, steam the glass over boiling water. This will remove lipstick and food grease. Hold glass by its base and dry with a linen towel, then polish with two microfiber towels. Using your left hand to cradle the bowl, polish the bowl with your right hand. Use the same technique on the stem and base, always taking care never to hold the base and twist the bowl with the towel.

Discussion with Bill Williamson

Presenting the cork is wine nonsense, a ritual invented by sommeliers. There is infinite ritual in the etiquette of serving wine but most of it at least hints at style or purpose. Placing an unsightly cork on the tablecloth hints at absurdity.

Another absurdity is tasting wine at a restaurant. If you ordered a wine you know then you only need to smell the aroma. All you are checking is that it's not corked. If it's the wine you ordered you should not be tasting.

More Discussions with Bill Williamson . . .