For many people, learning the intricacies of pairing and serving wine seems may seem a little intimidating. For those who grew up with wine at meals, serving it may come as second nature, further intimidating those who weren’t afforded the same luxury. Fortunately, with a little study and some practice, just about anyone can learn the basics of buying, serving and enjoying wine.
There are literally hundreds of different types of wines on the market, each of which is made from a different kind of grape. This immense variety is one of the first stumbling blocks for those looking to get into wine. Fortunately, wines tend to fall into several broad categories. For example, sparkling wines like champagne are generally thought of as gathering wines. They are light and effervescent, perfect for serving with appetizers or before a meal.
Dry white wines like chardonnay and many types of red wine are served during the main course of a meal. Whites tend to go with lighter dishes, while reds are for heavier, heartier fare. Some types of food like chicken or shellfish can be paired with either red or white wines. In cases like these, take into account the sauce the food is served in and the surrounding flavors. Heavier, richer sauces usually go with red wine, while lighter, more subtle sauces usually go with white.
The final type of wine you need to know about is dessert wine. These heavy red wines are sweeter and fruitier. They are meant to be served at the end of the meal, to accompany fruit or dessert pastry.
Different types of wine are traditionally served in different glasses. In general, the fizzier and bubblier the wine, the narrower the glass it is served in. Champagne flutes are extremely tall and thin, while dessert wine glasses are short with a very rounded bowl. Glasses for serving wine that goes with the main course are in between the two extremes.
Another thing to take into account when serving wine is the temperature. Wine is generally stored slightly below room temperature, but few wines are best when served directly from storage. Sparkling wine should be served chilled to 40 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool it on ice before pouring it. White and rose wines should be served at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Only red wine should be served close to the temperature at which it was stored: around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wine is one of life’s simple pleasures. Learn to enjoy it like a pro and get more out of your meals and social gatherings.