The Storage and Service of Wine.

Posted by Guy Heywood on

In order to get the best out of any wine it is important that wines are stored correctly and served at the correct temperature.

If a wine is incorrectly stored it can affect the flavour and, in severe cases, the wine will become faulty. Below are some simple points which need to be taken into consideration when storing wine:

Long-term storage of wines should be cool and constant, between 10-15 degrees celsius. Rapid changes and extremes in temperature can cause damage. One of the worse places for storage is a kitchen due to this constant varying temperature. Extend periods of refrigeration can cause corks to harden and lose their elasticity, resulting in the seal failing and air can attack the wine causing it to become stale. Sparkling wines lose their fizz.

Store wine that is sealed with a cork on its side to ensure the cork doesn’t dry out. If it dries out it can let in air which will oxidise the wine. Wines that are sealed with a screw cap can be stored standing up without any risk.

Keep wines away from strong light. Natural sunshine or artificial light will heat the wine and it will become stale and old before it’s time. Artificial light can cause unpleasant flavours to develop in some wines.

Wine should also be kept away from vibrations , in order for it to lie undisturbed.

Service of Wine

Service Temperature - Room temperature is often the recommended temperature for full-bodied red wine. However, with the widespread use of air conditioning and central heating rooms can often be either too hot or too cold. If reds are too cold they will taste harsh and thin. The most gentle way to heat up the wine is to allow the bottle to warm up slowly or by holding the bowl of the glass in your hands. Do not warm red wine up suddenly, on the radiator for example, as extreme heat can irretrievably damage the wine. Red wines which gradually reach temperatures in excess of 18 degrees celsius will appear to lose their freshness and the flavours will become muddled. Once cooled down they regain their balance.  

Ice buckets or wine coolers are often used to keep white, rose and sparkling wines cold. An ice bucket should be filled three-quarters full with equal quantities of ice and water so the bottle is fully surrounded by iced water.

Glassware - The use of the correct glass will enhance the drinking experience. An enormous range is available each designed to emphasise a particular wine’s characteristics. As important, if not more so, is the cleanness of the glass. It’s best to polish each glass before use with a linen cloth to ensure this.

Red wines: best served in a larger-sized glass. This will allow air to come into contact with a large wine surface and develop the aromas and flavours.

White and Rose wines require medium-sized glasses so that the fresh , fruit characteristics are gathered and directed towards the top of the glass.

Sparkling wines  are best served in flute glasses. This shape emphasises and enhances the effect of the bubbles, and thus the wines aromas, allowing them to travel through a larger volume of wine before bursting at the top of the glass. For this reason the old style, saucer-shaped glasses are completely inappropriate, as the bubbles are lost very quickly.

Fortified wines  should be served in small glasses to emphasise the fruit characteristics rather than the alcohol. The glass should be larger enough to allow swirling and nosing.


Opening a bottle of Sparkling wine

There is considerable pressure in a bottle of sparkling wine. Chilling to the correct temperature helps to reduce this. Even when chilled it’s possible for the cork to spring violently from the bottle.

  • Remove the foil and loosen the wire cage
  • Hold the cork securely in place
  • Tilt the bottle at an angle of about 30º, gripping the cork, and use the other hand to grip the base of the bottle.
  • Turn the bottle, not the cork.
  • Hold the cork steady, resisting its tendency to fly out, and ease it slowly out of the bottle.
  • The gas pressure should be released with a quiet ‘phut’, not an explosion and a flying cork.

Decanting wine

Wines with a heavy deposit need to be decanted. This deposit is quiet natural and is formed during the ageing process of many good red wines. Some young wines benefit from the aeration that occurs by being decanted, although this can also be done by swirling the wine in a glass.

‘Airing’ a wine by opening a bottle some time before service does absolutely no good at all. Too little wine is in contact with the air for it to have any effect.

  • First remove the bottle horizontally from its rack and place in a decanting basket if available. Alternatively hold carefully, making sure the deposit is not agitated.
  • Very gently remove the top of the capsule and clean the shoulder and neck of the bottle. Very gently remove the cork.
  • Remove the bottle from the basket, being careful not to disturb the deposit. Holding the bottle in front of a light, pour wine carefully into the decanter until the deposit can be seen near the neck. At this point stop pouring.

Ordering wine

It is useful to know how many measures you can get from a standard 75 cl bottle. This will help you work out how many bottles you would need for an order.

6 x 125ml glasses

4 x 175ml glasses

3 x 250ml glasses

Methods used to preserve wine

If a wine is not consumed as soon as it is opened it will lose its aromatic intensity in a matter of days and after that it will oxidise and develop vinegar aromas. The simplest way to extend a wines life is to replace the closure and store the wine in a fridge. This will extend the life by a few days at the most.

Some other methods include a Vacuum system, where the oxygen is removed from the bottle and the bottle is sealed. This is not suitable for sparkling wines.

Another is the Blanket system which works on the principle of blanketing the wine with a gas heavier than oxygen to form a protective layer between the wine and air.

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