In addition to all of the nuances of the wine itself, there is an entire mystique surrounding the accessories used in opening, decanting and serving wine.
Corkscrews! The art of uncorking a bottle of wine can fill more than an entire article, but here are a couple of thoughts in that regard. The most common type of corkscrew found in most kitchen drawers (silver metal, wing type) is almost guaranteed to mangle a cork and leave parts of it in your wine. There are, however, several types of corkscrews that work better and don’t cost a fortune. The classic waiter’s corkscrew looks like a pocket knife. This type takes some practice, but once mastered, is very effective, and is especially useful if the cork breaks off. The As-So brand corkscrew is made of two thin metal prongs and is the most effective on older, fragile corks. The Rabbit brand is somewhat more expensive and larger, but easy to use. Those who use it, swear by it.
Decanters! To “decant” a wine means to pour it out slowly into another container. In general only red wines and a very few full bodied white Burgundy wines need to be decanted. Wines need to be decanted for two reasons: 1. to expose young, tannic wines to air to bring out their aromas and flavors and; 2. to pour older red wine off of the sediment that is created as the tannins turn to solids.
Young, strong red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, wines from the Northern Rhone Valley and many Italians, such as Barolos and Barbarescos, benefit from the aeration in a decanter for an hour, some Italians may need longer. Lighter red wines such as Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhone and Italian wines such as Chianti, as well as inexpensive red wines, generally will not benefit from decanting.
When decanting an older red wine, it is best to stand the wine upright for at least a day to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom of the bottle. If that isn’t possible, it can be poured gently off of the sediment, taking care to disturb the sediment as little as possible. It is extremely important when decanting an older wine to put a candle or a light on the opposite side of the neck and shoulder of the bottle, so that you can see the sediment as it approaches the neck and STOP POURING before it gets into the decanter. Older wines do not need much time in the decanter. The delicate flavors in older wines can fade rapidly with aeration.
Glasses! It is amazing but true; glasses do make a difference!!! The shape of the glass affects how the aromas of the wine are perceived, and to which area of the mouth the wine is directed. While some glass makers manufacture a different shape glass for every type of wine, it is generally not necessary to have more than a few types of glasses. IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE STEMWARE, not flat bottomed glasses, as the heat from your hand will alter the temperature of the wine in flat glasses. Basically, you need a straight sided glass that holds approximately 10 oz. for most white wines and a larger, oval shaped glass for bigger red wines. Many people also enjoy an even larger, apple shaped glass for Burgundy, Pinot Noir, Barolos, and better Chardonnays, but this is not imperative. The other important glass is a tulip, or flute shaped glass for Champagne. This shape glass prevents the lovely bubbles from dissipating too rapidly. If you are serving Port or dessert wines, you will want to serve them in a much smaller glass as the serving size is smaller.
Want to have some fun? Try your next wine out of different glasses and see how it affects the taste!
Written by Pat Daniel. Permission to publish by Columbus & the Valley Magazine.