Although I was a foodie, first and foremost, that soon led me to a love of wine. I’ve been writing, talking and teaching about wine for years and am the current Chair of the Sydney Royal Wine Show. One of my favourite things is doing wine appreciation (and cooking) at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. You could say I have wine running through my veins. Over the years I’ve been asked many weird and wonderful questions about wine. The three below don’t fall into this category – they are probably the most asked of all questions.
Room temperature, cold or really cold?
While serving white wines chilled and red wines at room temperature might work in Europe, here in Australia we need a re-think. In summer especially we tend to like our drinks icy cold but over-chilling can depress the fruit flavours in wine. So while we might like our sparkling wine really cold, perhaps around 7?C, white wines should be drunk a little warmer, around 10?C. Dessert wines can go up to 12?C. Reds are interesting. Too warm and they become volatile, smelling very alcoholic and unpleasant to drink. In summer you may need to pop them in the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes. Younger, fruity reds are best around 12?C, moving up to 16?C for medium-bodied reds and not much higher than 17?C for aged, full-bodied styles.
Glass half full?
We have all suffered from too much or too little wine in a glass, but what is the right amount? Ideally the wine should be filled only to the widest part of the glass. Whatever the shape this is usually no more than one third to half-way. This gives the exposed wine the greatest surface area possible, so releasing all the wonderful aromas which can be captured in the top part of the glass for you to put your nose in and enjoy. Remember, most of taste is actually smell! The exception is champagne, as to fill it closer to the top, perhaps two-thirds up, allows you to enjoy the bubbles as well.
Every breath you take
Breathing means allowing some air contact with the wine before serving. All wine will benefit from a degree of air contact except some very very old wines, which may actually break down with air contact – or strangely enough also young very aromatic and fragile pinot noir. Either pour the wine into glasses 10 minutes before consumption or decant into something else. You can even pour it out of the bottle into a jug, and then back in the bottle. Opening the bottle and leaving it open for a time is of little benefit as the exposed surface area of wine is so small. Breathing enhances the fruit flavours and allows complexity to develop. Let it settle and catch its breath. Quite simply, it tastes better.