Serving Wine
Le Pressoir

Finding just the right beverage to pair with a meal can be an exciting exploration. If you're an enthusiast, keep notes about the different wines you try and what foods you served them with. If that isn't enough for you, perhaps a wine tasting tour: Niagara, California, Italy, France, Germany, Australia . . . the world is your--oak barrel!

Certain wines belong with certain foods.†Chinese takeout benefits from being served with a reisling or gewurtztraminer, as do salmon or yams.

Pizza comes to life when served with red wine.† The ordinary becomes extraordinary when paired with the perfect complement.
When you purchase a bottle of wine from a retailer you tend to assume that itís ready to drink, but quite often the wine is too young and would benefit from a few months of aging.† Having a wine cellar or a cool dark spot, free from vibrations, in your home will enhance your investment.
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Another important consideration is how long to allow the wine to breathe before serving.† Typically, a red wine benefits from longer exposure to the air than white, but any young wine should improve if allowed to breathe.† If you purchase large bottles of wine that arenít consumed in one day, you may find that the wine improves noticeably after a few days.

Vacuum stoppers are available that will help to prevent an opened bottle from oxidizing.† This is useful if you have a very mature bottle of wine; very little commercial wine is in this state when purchased, however.† But you can use the rubber stopper and omit the vacuuming process for a young wine, and it will continue to breathe and improve for a few days in the refrigerator.

White wine served with breadsticks and cheese dip
White Grapes One good practice, especially when you have guests or a special meal prepared, is to sample the wine in advance of serving it at the table. Sometimes unwanted yeasts develop in the wine cork that will give the wine an off taste; if the wine is "corked," it means that the cork wasn't properly sanitized before use. If the wine is "oxidized," it will have a very unpleasant burnt taste--sulphurous--that means it was exposed to the air at some point, probably during bottling. This can also happen if the cork is allowed to dry out, so wine should be stored on its side to keep the cork moistened; this protects the wine from oxygen. A proper wine rack will tilt the bottle so that the neck is lower than the bottom of the bottle.

The best tool for removing the cork is the "sommelier" or wine butler's tool. With a little practice, you can remove the cork efficiently and impress your guests with your skill! The only trick to using it is that the point of the corkscrew must enter the cork at the center. Other tools tend to be bulky and take up too much room in the drawer. Once you've mastered the sommelier, you'll never want to bother with those clumsy tools for amateurs! And guests really will be impressed. . . .

A decanter is necessary if your wine has sediment in the bottom of the bottle--typically a problem only with very mature red wines. If you have a crystal wine decanter it will grace your table well, but left too long in lead crystal, the wine can be contaminated with toxins. Decant the amount that you will drink, and avoid storing wine for days in crystal.

Red Wine

Serving champagne can be daunting if you're not confident in removing the cork. You can overcome your hesitation with a little planning and practice, however. There's no need to waste any champagne if you remove the cork carefully. A large bowl or plate nearby as a precaution will allow you to catch any overflow. Have your chilled bottle and either champagne flutes or tulip glasses ready for serving.

Be careful not to aim the bottle at any breakable object, just in case the cork gets away from you; the safest method is to drape a hand towel (it helps if the towel is slightly damp) over the bottle after removing the cage from the cork. Grasp the body of the bottle with your weaker hand through the ends of the towel and hold the cork firmly through the centre of the towel with your stronger hand. Attempt to rotate the cork, pressing it firmly into the bottle neck, because as soon as the cork begins to move it will be forced out by the pressure of gasses in the bottle. You should hear a muffled phuut rather than a loud pop if the situation is under control. Some corks will be lubricated slightly and will be surprisingly easy to remove.

Champagne as a dessert wine with cranberry cocktail A sweet champagne like Asti Spumanté makes a great dessert wine, but may be overwhelmingly sweet for anyone with a controlled sweet tooth! This problem can be overcome by serving the wine with tart fruit juice. A festive combination of cranberry juice and lime makes a pretty presentation at the Christmas table. You can enjoy the flavorful dessert wine and the sweetness will be balanced by the tart cranberry and lime cocktail.
Make serving wine a life-long research project that will impress your guests and greatly add to your enjoyment of fine food and drink. . . .

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