Americans may be drinking more wine these days than we used to — especially in Washington, D.C., where, it may not surprise you to learn, more wine is consumed per capita than in any other state or district. But that doesn’t mean we know how to properly store and pour it. At what temperature should it be served? How full should our wine glasses be? And are we really supposed to decant?
Here are a few rules of thumb:
Be Chill (But Not Too Chill) About Storage: Ideally, bottles of wine should be stored (preferably, though not necessarily, on their sides) in a cool, dark place — like a basement or closet, if not in a dedicated wine cooler — at temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees F, with 55 degrees F being the sweet spot. Exposing wine to temperatures above 70 degrees F could speed aging or even flatten out the flavors and aromas, Wine Spectator warns. It’s cool to keep wine in your kitchen fridge short term, but don’t leave it there for months on end, as the low temp could damage the corks and, in turn, the wine. Aim to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations and long-term exposure to bright lighting when storing, but don’t freak out if they happen, especially if you’re planning to drink the wine sooner rather than later.
Serve It at the Proper Temperature: Most of us probably serve our red wine at room temperature and our white right straight from the fridge. While wine temperature is a matter of taste, neither of those methods is considered ideal. Light, dry white wines, rosés and sparkling wines should be served at 40 to 50 degrees F. The recommended serving temp for full-bodied whites and lighter reds is around 50 to 60 degrees F. Full-bodied red wines and ports are best enjoyed at around 60 to 65 degrees F. (For more specifics, here’s a handy chart.) Use a bucket of ice water, the fridge or even the freezer (provided you keep close tabs on it) to cool a bottle in a hurry, or use a bucket of warm (not hot) water to warm it up.
Remove the Cork (or the Cap) and, If Necessary, Decant: The necessity of decanting is a matter of ongoing debate. Those in the pro-decanting camp say it separates out any sediment and lets the wine “breathe,” enhancing its aroma and flavor. Those against decanting say it’s an unnecessary formality that can even flatten the flavor. You can experiment and decide for yourself, based on your own taste.
Choose the Right Glass: There’s no shame in using the same all-purpose wine glasses for both reds and whites, but if you have the cabinet space, it’s nice to have dedicated glasses for red wine (the kind with broader bowls and rims), white wine (somewhat taller and narrower) and sparkling wine (tall, thin flutes) — not to mention small dessert wine glasses, if you’re into that sort of thing. These shapes are not only a matter of aesthetics and tradition; they can actually influence taste and aroma.
Master Proper Pouring: Wine glasses should be about one-third to one-half full, allowing the drinker enough room to swirl (and sniff). If you want to get picky, you could measure out a standard 5-ounce pour, or you could just use your glass as a guide: “Many stemware makers today design glasses in such a way that the correct fill level corresponds with the bowl’s widest circumference,” the Globe and Mail notes. “This maximizes the liquid’s surface area, helping to aerate the wine and amplify the pleasurable aroma.”
Relax and Enjoy: Sure, good wines can cost serious money, but don’t get too caught up in the procedural particulars that you lose your sense of fun — or your equilibrium. You may want to try these perfect pairings. Cheers!