How to Serve Wine | The Ultimate Guide

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Wine

It may sound pretentious, but in reality, how you serve wine truly affects the wine’s taste and flavor. It begins with the wine’s temperature; too cold or too warm mutes or dulls the flavor or imparts a bitterness the vintner never intended.

Decanting the wine is really only necessary for older wines, which acquire a natural sediment that may feel gritty in your mouth. Some wine drinkers also like to decant younger wines, to allow the wine to breathe or aerate, which alters the taste. The type of glass also affects a wine’s flavor and aroma, as does how you pour the wine. Finally, how you drink wine affects its taste.

The Right Temperature

The taste of every wine depends greatly on serving it at the correct temperature.

Wine Type Correct Temperature Storage
Sparkling Wine Ice Cold Chill in the freezer for up to an hour before serving; keep bottle on ice after opening
White and Rosé Wines 50 to 60 Degrees Refrigerate immediately after purchase; allow the bottle to sit after pouring; re-refrigerate leftovers for up to one week
Red Wines 60 to 70 Degrees Store horizontally at room temperature, refrigerating the bottle one hour prior to pouring; allow to sit after pouring; refrigerate leftovers up to four days and remove from refrigerator 30-60 minutes before re-opening


Opening the Bottle

A corked wine bottle is capped with a casing called a capsule, typically made of metal or plastic, which covers the cork (or cork alternative; we’ll stick to the term cork for ease of reading). The capsule extends over the opening and down the neck of the bottle. Cut through it with either a sharp knife or foil-cutting tool, about a quarter-inch below the bottle’s lip. Remove any residue by wiping the bottle rim and the top of the cork with a damp towel.

You need either a corkscrew or a cork puller to remove the cork. Position the corkscrew slightly off center and slowly spiral the screw as far into the cork as it will go. Then, ease it out of the bottle. Again, wipe the lip to remove residue.

If the cork breaks, reinsert the corkscrew at an angle or use the prongs of a cork puller around the remnant. If you push the cork into the bottle, decant the wine through a fine-mesh sieve.

If the wine has a screw cap, opening it requires no special instructions. One of the benefits of a screw cap: just open it and enjoy!

Decanting Wine

Decanting is typically for red wine, especially older vintages. Wines over five years old develop sediment that does not harm the wine but may affect your enjoyment of it. Part of tasting wine is how it feels in your mouth. Sediment creates a gritty feeling instead of the smooth, supple feel of most red wines.

Decanting also allows the wine to breathe, or aerate, which often has a dramatic impact on a wine’s taste. Recommended breathe times vary, from a short 20 minutes up to an hour. You may also use an aerator when pouring the wine.

If the wine has sediment, decant it carefully. Move it gently from its horizontal position to keep the sediment from distributing throughout the bottle. You may also place the bottle in an upright position for about an hour, which allows the sediment to settle to the bottom of the bottle.

Slowly pour the wine into the decanter, placing a light behind or below the bottleneck. This highlights the wine, allowing you to see the first signs of sediment. Stop decanting when this happens.

Wine Glasses

The variety of available wine glasses may surprise you. Even within the main wine glass categories (red, white, dessert, and sparkling), variations exist.

To begin, glassware works well, unless you welcome the extra care that crystal requires. Clear glass allows the drinker to appreciate the wine’s color and clarity. Generally, you want the bowl of the glass to curve slightly inward at the rim. This allows proper swirling of the wine and helps capture its aroma, a big part of tasting the wine.

The two basic categories are red wine and white wine glasses. Red wine glasses are larger to allow more room for the wine’s aroma. For sparkling wine, flutes work best to preserve the bubbles. If you are new to the wine world, a set of red wine glasses and a set of white wine glasses can handle your basic needs.

Pouring the Wine

You should fill high-quality wine glasses to only one-third to one-half full for a reason: the wine tastes better this way. When pouring, tilt the glass and pour slowly, allowing the wine to run down the inside of the glass. As you finish pouring, twist the bottle to reduce dripping.

Wine Tasting

Most wine connoisseurs believe that the most important sense in tasting wine is your sense of smell. Sniffing the wine helps isolate the wine’s complex flavors and scents, increasing their effect on your palate. To see what we mean, sample the wine while holding your nose, then again after taking in its full aroma. You should notice a substantial difference in how the wine tastes.

Of course, analyzing your wine isn’t necessary to enjoy its taste. Sometimes, you want nothing more than to sip a nice glass of wine. Learning to appreciate it fully, though, helps expand your wine IQ.


Experiment with different wines and wineries to find your favorites. In the end, the most important factor in tasting wine is your own preference. Enjoy the journey of discovering your favorite wine.

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