Wines with a heavy deposit of sediment need to be decanted. Some young wines will also benefit from the aeration that occurs during decanting that lets the wine ‘breathe’ and release more aroma and flavour. Others argue that decanting and leaving a wine to breathe does no good as the surface of the wine is too small.
When decanting a wine much care must be taken not to disturb the sediment. If possible stand the bottle upright for a couple of hours before opening. Try to keep it upright as possible when opening, and move the bottle slowly to avoid agitating the sediment. Once the cork has been removed, hold the bottle against a light and pour carefully into the decanter, stop when the deposit can be seen near the neck of the bottle. You can either hold both the bottle and the decanter at similar angles towards each other, or if that sounds too difficult, you can sit the decanter on the table and pour the bottle with one or both hands. The pour should be a slow and steady, as a guide the bottle should take 30 seconds to empty.
Most people don’t have different glassware for specific styles of wine, and a general purpose glass is more than adequate.
Wine glasses aren’t shaped the way they are just for show, they are are vital part of wine technology. The glass tapers in towards the top to focus the aromas towards the nose, and the stem allows drinkers to hold the glass without warming chilled wines. Quality glasses are made from lead crystal that is the most effective at refracting the light through the wine.
A glass should never be filled too high, to get the most from wine it needs space to be swirled and aerated. Don’t think the top half of the glass isn’t full, it is brimming with those all-important aromas. Remember you can always top your wine up!
There are an enormous range of glass shapes and sizes, each designed to emphasise a particular wine’s characteristics.
Red wines are best served in larger glasses as this will allow air to oxidise more of the wine and develop the aromas and flavours.
White and rosé wines require medium-sized glasses so the fresh, fruit characteristics are gathered and directed to the top of the glass.
Sparkling wines are best served in flute glasses. This elongated shape enhances the effect of the carbonation by allowing the bubbles to travel through more of the wine before reaching the top, which in turn releases more flavour and aroma. That is why the old-style coupe or saucer type glasses are not appropriate – sparkling wines drunk from them lose their sparkle much faster.
Fortified wines should be served in small glasses to emphasise the fruit characteristics rather than the alcohol, though they should still be large enough to swirl the wine.
Whichever glass you use it is vital that they are clean, especially when you’re drinking expensive wine. Taints, even small ones, can have a ruinous effect, ranging from reducing the amount of bubbles in sparkling wine to detergent residue creating soapy wine.