Before tasting your wine, there are a few things to prepare:

TEMPERATURE

The bottle will sometimes show a recommended serving temperature. If not, a fairly safe rule is to serve red wine at 12-18 C and white/rose wine at 8-12 C. This can be tweaked. For example, a white wine with body, longevity and lees or oak ageing may enjoy a slightly higher serving temperature, or a youthful, light red may enjoy the cooler end of their recommended serve temperature. Don’t worry about getting this right every time. Often the first taste helps you to understand if a wine needs to be given time to warm and breathe, or needs to be returned to the fridge for a time before re-sampling.

OPENING

A screw cap is simple enough, but corks can be a battle at times. Of course, a difficult cork, especially one that breaks, may be a sign of incorrect storage but not always. To help ensure smooth removal, a waiter’s friend is the best option. Others may seem less complicated, but can leave cork debris in the wine making the first pour undrinkable. A waiter’s friend provides greater leverage with separate points for the initial and secondary pull. Always ensure you remove any packaging from around the cork area before attempting to open.

DECANTING

Few wines have sediment, but those that do are often fine red wines where long ageing and minimal filtration allows sediment to build and settle. This sediment will remain in the bottom of the bottle unless shaken, so quite often the wine can be poured easily. Another option is to decant the wine which not only allows it to breathe and open up, but means sediment can be avoided completely.

GLASS

There’s no need to purchase expensive wine glasses at all, but there is an important reason for the differing shapes. Red wines benefit from wider glasses to allow more room for aromas to open up with oxygenation. White wines also need space but with a narrower lip so as not to lose their cooler temperature quickly. Sparkling wines enjoy narrow flute-style glasses to help retain bubbles that release aromas. Once glasses are chosen, make sure they are polished clean to remove any dust or residue. Just 30 seconds with a clean tea towel is all it takes.