Wine characteristics (colour, scent and taste) change during ageing.
The speed of these mutations depends on a wine's chemical characteristics, above all the preserving elements such as alcohol, tannins and acids: the more preserving elements are inside a wine, the more the wine can age.
You can find alcohol and acids in all kind of wines, but you can normally find tannins only in red ones - for this reason reds are more suited to age.
These chemical features are connected to a series of vinegrowing and winemaking elements, amongst which are the kind of grape, the vintage, place of origin, vineyard position (grapes that ripen better can give wines more suitable to ageing).
Wine needs to be stored in a good way if it is to age well. The ideal conditions for wine storing are considered to be:
- bottles in a horizontal position;
- temperature (without swings) of about 50°-59° F (10°-15° C) to avoid speeding up the maturation;
- humidity of 50%-70% to avoid a dry cork and, the opposite, a mouldy cork;
- no light and vibrations, which change the wine;
- no bottles near strong odours, as odours can pass through the cork.
The more you move away from these ideal conditions the more wines tend to deteriorate. For this reason, some restaurants that do not posess a cellar will make special wine rooms or buy a wine refrigerator.
A lot of people think that every bottle of wine needs to be opened a long time before drinking.
A bottle can be considered as a room - you need to open a window if the room has remained closed for a long period, but it is useless in other circumstances.
For this reason, opening a young wine a long period before drinking could be meaningless but it is useful for long aged wines. If you want to better increase air contact you need to decant the wine.
Decanting wine means to transfer a wine from one recepticle to another; this transfer allows you to check and avoid the passage of wine sediments.
First of all, you need a special recipient (the decanter) with a large base and a narrow neck. The large base allows greater surface to air contact and the narrow neck avoids too much scent dispersion.
Then you must gently transfer the wine and look for sediments settled in the bottom of the bottle; you can use a candle light to better perform this operation.
The Drinking Temperature
The right drinking temperature to serve a wine depends on the kind of the wine itself. A "cold" temperature is good for white and sparkling wines because it preserves their freshness and fruitiness, but it is generally not good for red wines where, because of the presence of tannins, wine can taste too harsh. On the contrary, a "warm" (or room) temperature can increase the scent sensations of red wines.
It is important to consider that not all reds or whites have the same characteristics, for this reason you can follow these tips:
Tannic and aged red wines: 62°-66° F (17°-19° C).
Average tannic red wines: 59°-62° F (15°-17° C).
Slightly tannic red wines: 55°-59° F (13°-15° C).
Soft white and rosè wines: 52°-55° F (11°-13° C).
Dry white and rosè wines: 48°-52° F (9°-11° C).
Champagne and sparkling wines: 45°-48° F (7°-9° C).
The table cloth should be white to highlight a delicate fresh flower bouquet and, if you wish, a tall ivory candle of natural wax.
Add the sottopiatto - this is the base plate which sits underneath all other plates and which will remain on the table for the duration of the meal - plus the flat plate and the soup plate.
The rule is to first use the externally-positioned cutlery and then the others, moving inwards towards the plate. If there are many courses, it is advisable to add the correct cutlery just before a course is served. This allows the table to have a simple look and will make the guest feel more comfortable.
Right side of the plate:
Knife (with the cutting edge towards the plate) and spoon.
Left side of the plate:
One or two forks (according to the menu) and the napkin, folded in a simple way.
Above the plate:
Dessert cutlery (handle of the fork on the left, handle of knife on the right with blade close to the plate.
Above the cutlery on the right, set the glasses.
There should be a glass for each wine and one glass for the water. The glass for the water should be on the left of the glasses for the wine. As for the cutlery, it is possible to add the correct glass just before a wine is served.
Set the bread plate above the cutlery on the left.
The Right Glass
The choice of the right wine glass is very important: wine tasting requires the use of all senses and a wrong glass can alterate the perception of even the best wine.
The following are just general, common sense rules.
Glasses should be transparent, because that allows the taster to look better at colours, and made of crystal, because other transparent materials can give unwanted reflections.
A long-stemmed glass allows the taster to keep their fingers away from the wine, without increasing the temperature of white or rosé wine. A round glass allows the contrary, as the taster may hold it with both hands. In this way you can correctly increase the temperature of red wines, if required.
After use, wash the glass with a neutral, not perfumed soap. Then do not dry them, but hang them by the stem.
As regards the best shape of the glass, it depends on the kind of wine.
Champagne, Traditional Method sparkling, Charmat Method sparkling, dry, white, rosé and red. It is a glass with a slim shape and with a thin stem. It has a small, circular opening, which reduces the possibility that air could alter the wine. Dry sparkling wines need to release the carbon dioxide slowly.
Height 220 mm
Diameter 48 mm
Content 20 cl
Young whites, light whites, light rosé wines, both still or sparkling, dry, sweet, aromatic. Medium size glass, with a tulip shape. With this glass the wine slips towards the sides of the tongue, where it is possible to perceive the acidity and salinity of the young wines.
Height 192 mm
Diameter 64 mm
Content 24 cl
Full bodied whites, robust whites, dry, sweet, still, sparkling, aromatic. Medium size glass, with a slim tulip shape, slightly closed towards the opening, to allow a harmonious concentration of perfumes. It takes the wine in the front part of the mouth, where it is possible to perceive more mature, rounded flavours.
Height 202 mm
Diameter 68 mm
Content 33.5 cl
Full bodied reds, dry, sweet, still, sparkling, aromatic. The large size of this glass allows the wine to breathe and to take it to the back part of the tongue, where it is possible to better perceive bitter tastes, typical of mature, full bodied red wines.
Height 233 mm
Diameter 67 mm
Content 55 cl
Robust reds, dry still or slightly lively. Very large size, with a convex opening. The big size and the shape allow the wine to breathe and give the taster the chance to hold the glass with both hands. In this way, the temperature of the wine increases and the perfumes of the more structured, complex wines can be easily freed.
Height 195 mm
Diameter 82 mm
Content 48 cl
Young reds, light bodied reds, medium/full bodied rosé wines, dry, sweet, still, sparkling, aromatic. Medium size glass, egg-shaped truncated towards the opening. It is good for young, perfumed wines: the narrow opening allows the concentrations of the aromas, before they are weakened by the contact with air.
Height 180 mm
Diameter 59 mm
Content 20 cl
Champagne, Traditional method sparkling, Charmat method sparkling, sparkling whites, reds and rosé wines, sweet, aromatic. Semi-circular shaped glass, wide opening and thin, long stem. Best for sparkling, sweet, aromatic wines. The wide opening increases the contact of the wine with air, diluting the aromas, making them more delicate and enveloping.
Height 143 mm
Diameter 95 mm
Content 20,5 cl
Liqueur, aromatic wines. White, rosé, red, dry, sweet, aromatic. Small size glass with a half egg shape for liqueur wine that, because of the high volume of alcohol, have to be served in small quantities.These wines should be served cold to reduce the sweetness. This glass allows tasters to sip the wine without leaving it the time to warm up.
Height 220 mm
Diameter 47 mm
Content 21.5 cl