If you are worried about entertaining at home with wine, here are a few tips to navigate your way through the ritual of pouring, preserving and serving wine properly featured in a recent issue of Sommelier India, your favourite wine magazine!
START WITH A WINE COOLER
There are gadgets designed to help you open, aerate and do other things to wine but, most important of all, is to serve wine chilled. Chill out in style with a clear acrylic ice bucket or wine cooler. Shop around for a large one. You can use it with ice and water to keep your whites and rosés chilled during your party. Chilling tones down the sweetness of wine. Sparkling wine should be served thoroughly chilled, while dessert wine should be less cold.
BE KIND TO RED
Don’t ruin a good bottle of red wine by serving it at room temperature. Taking a bottle of red wine from a dusty carton under your bar and serving it warm to your guests is akin to a cardinal sin. The ideal temperature for red wine is about 18°C. If you don’t have a wine cabinet for home storage, put the bottles of red you buy from a shop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
BIGGER AND BETTER
When entertaining large numbers, magnum bottles of wine are the answer. These 1.5-litre bottles are not commonly seen and are sometimes viewed with uncertainty as novelties. In reality, lots of good quality, affordable wine is sold in magnums. They have been proven to age slower than smaller formats, and there is simply no better way to handle a large family gathering or other celebratory occasion.
OPEN SPARKLING WINE LIKE A SOMMELIER
The smooth handling of a sparkling wine or Champagne is one of the hallmarks of a wine sophisticate. Here are four easy steps that show you how:
1. Remove the foil from around the cage that holds the cork in place. Use the tab provided or the knife on your cork screw to make a clean cut.
2. While firmly holding the neck of the bottle and placing your thumb on top of the cork, unscrew and loosen the cage and remove it in a smooth, quick motion, returning your thumb to the cork.
3. Tilt the bottle at a 45° angle away from your guests. Twist the bottom of the bottle while holding the cork, press back against the cork to keep it from popping out.
4. Continue to counter the wine’s pressure with your own until the cork is nearly out. Tilt the cork slightly to one side to allow gas to escape slowly and quietly. Like the hiss of air from a bicycle tyre.
BROKEN CORKS? USE A POURER
When cork gets deposited in your wine or if you are drinking a particularly old wine with traces of sediment, attach a pourer to the bottle. This will act as both a sieve and an aerator. Le Creuset has a good one but it’s expensive. A simpler and cheaper option especially when opening older bottles is a fine-mesh sieve and funnel combination. If you break the cork and don’t think you can extract the remainder cleanly, first push whatever is stuck in the neck down into the bottle, then pour the wine through the funnel into a decanter, and serve. The pros do it all the time.
STEP UP YOUR STEMWARE
Innumerable wine glasses of all shapes and sizes (some even grape specific) are available today. But you really only need three basic styles:
The all-purpose glass
Go with something plain and durable with a big bowl and stem. You can use a 600 ml red wine glass for both red and white wine. Try a set of six from “Ocean” which cost about Rs 900.
The occasions for opening Champagne or sparkling wine at home are likely to be special occasions, so a champagne glass or flute is a must. Vinum Extreme Champagne by Riedel is a classic, but pricey. Inexpensive ones are also available.
The after-dinner glass
A medium sherry glass will double up for serving dessert wine as well as an after-dinner liqueur.