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Serving Wine FAQ

Wines should be served at the temperatures which they taste best. More specifically, wine should be served at the temperature you enjoy it. Usually white wines, rosés, Champagnes/sparkling wines taste best chilled, because they are most refreshing served that way. Red wines are typically served at room temperature. But room temperature is relative, as we all live in different climates. Here are some more detailed guidelines:

  • White wines and rosés are best served between forty-five and fifty-five degrees. Serve lighter white/rosé wines and Champagnes/sparkling wines closer to forty-five degrees. You can achieve these temperatures by chilling the wine in the refrigerator for about two hours. If you find the wine is too cold, drink it after it has been out of the refrigerator for about fifteen minutes.
  • Red wines taste best served between fifty-five and sixty-five degrees. Serve lighter red wines closer to fifty-five degrees. Proper cellaring of your wines is critical – especially here in Arizona. For more information on properly storing wine, please click here.

The easiest way to open a bottle of wine is the method easiest for you. Most bottles of wine are stopped with a cork or a material simulating cork. This requires a wine opener of some kind to remove it. There are many “cork screws” on the market. The key is to find the one that works best for you. Before using your opener of choice, remove the capsule (the material covering the top of the bottle, also called the foil) to expose the cork. If there isn’t a capsule, remove any wax from the top of the cork. Here is a rundown on some basic wine openers and how they work:

  • The waiter’s friend. This is a basic corkscrew that is screwed into the cork and then manually pulled from the bottle. It looks like a pocket knife with a folding knife, screw (called the auger or worm) and a lever. The knife is used to cut the capsule. Then the auger is screwed into the cork. Next, a notch on the lever is positioned on the lip of the bottle. As the lever is lifted up, the cork is extracted from the bottle.
  • The butterfly opener or double-winged opener. As the auger on this opener is screwed into the cork, two “wings” on either side of the auger are raised. The cork is extracted when the two wings are pulled down simultaneously.
  • The Ah-So. This opener has two parallel prongs that are wedged into the bottle on opposite sides of the cork using a back and forth motion. The cork is then pulled out by lifting the Ah-so straight out of the bottle.
  • The Screwpull. A very easy corkscrew to use. The auger is surrounded by a plastic sheath that grips onto the bottle neck. After the auger is screwed into the cork, continued twisting extracts the cork.

Hold the bottle at a forty-five degree angle pointing the cork away from people or things that could be injured by a flying cork. Remove the wire muzzle. Hold the cork in place with one hand while you gently twist the bottle with the other. The cork should be released slowly.

“Corked” wine displays off characters as the result of the cork being affected by the action of mold combined with traces of chloride compounds from the environment. In severe cases, cork taint manifests itself as a smell reminiscent of a musty cellar or wet carpet - generally not a pleasant aroma. In more mild cases, the taint will make a wine smell flat and devoid of the normal bouquet one would expect. Often the wine will also appear flat on the palate, and in some cases, it is only on the palate where this taint can be detected. The compound causing the taint is called 2, 4, 6-Trichloroanisole (TCA), and is detectable by those sensitive to it at extremely low levels. The compound can be found in several other packaging mediums such as oak barrels and even cardboard.

By the way it smells and tastes. A wine has gone bad when it is “corked” or oxidized. This is evident by a pungent corky or moldy smell (sometimes associated with wet cardboard) in the case of being corked, or an unpleasant aroma and flavor reminiscent of Madeira or other fortified wine if it has oxidized. An oxidized wine also will turn brownish in color.

This is a much debated issue. Many believe that few wines greatly benefit from breathing because the wine’s surface area exposed to air is minimal. But many believe that few wines will be hurt by giving it a chance to breathe. The argument for letting the wine breathe (especially older red wine designed to be aged) is that the wine can benefit from the exposure to air just as it may benefit from the oxidation that occurs during the aging process. On the other hand, an older red wine may begin to break down when exposed to air for an extended period of time. If you are drinking a wine you feel needs time to breathe, most likely a young tannic red wine, try letting it breathe in the glass rather than in the bottle. More of the wine will be exposed to the air that way. Also, consider decanting it. Let your personal taste dictate how you like your wine, whether you prefer it fresh from the bottle or after it has had time to breathe.

Wine can be drunk out of any vessel you like, so don’t let the lack of a special glass stop you. Glass is preferred because it is completely inert and doesn’t impart any off flavors to the wine and is clear so the wine’s color can be appreciated. Professionals and dedicated amateurs value glasses with stems to hold on to so the temperature is not altered by the temperature of the drinker’s hands. Wine glasses narrow toward the rim so wine can be swirled (to maximize aroma) without spilling out of the glass. Traditionally, red wine glasses are bigger than white wine glasses. If you are planning on purchasing wine glasses and are either on a budget and/or don’t have a lot of room to store separate wine glasses for red and white wines, consider buying an all-purpose, ten ounce wine glass and use it for both red and white wines.

Decanting is the process of slowly pouring the contents of a bottle of wine into another vessel, leaving any sediment behind. It is a technique used to not only clarify the wine, but aerate it, as well. Many wine lovers will decant younger reds to soften the tannins and older reds to remove the sediment.

Wine will keep longer than you may think. Don’t throw it away! Re-cork the wine. If you’ve thrown away the cork use plastic wrap and a rubber band. An open bottle of red or white wine will keep in the refrigerator for three to five days. A bottle of Champagne/Sparkling wine, tightly recorked, will also keep for three to five days in the refrigerator.

Dry before sweet, white before red, light before heavy, lesser before finer, young before old. This gives your taste buds a chance to get used to the increasing strength or complexity.

If the cork breaks in half but is still stuck in the neck of the bottle, screw a corkscrew into it at an angle and pull it out. If you get the cork out but pieces of cork are left in the wine, you can pour the wine through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove the cork. If the cork becomes completely mutilated, the easiest thing to do is push it in, and then pour the wine through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove the pieces of cork.

No, the wine is fine. Simply remove the pieces of cork from the wine glasses after you pour it and drink as usual. If there is too much cork in the wine to remove easily, decant the wine into another container through a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

Sediment is made up of solid particles that are a byproduct of wine-making, such as dead yeast cell or fragments of grape seeds or skins. They are harmless if consumed, but the wine drinking experience can be more enjoyable if you decant a wine to remove the sediment.

A re-corked, leftover bottle of red or white wine can be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days without compromising its flavor. Just take the red wine out of the refrigerator to let it come up to room temperature before drinking. A tightly corked leftover bottle of Champagne/sparkling wine can also be kept fresh in the refrigerator for three to five days.

Red wine stains are easiest to remove if they are still wet. If you can't deal with the problem immediately, lay a wet towel over the carpet area or put the affected clothing to soak until you can treat it. The following methods work almost all of the time:

  1. Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover - This is by far the most effective product Passport Wine & Spirits has found. It not only works almost every time on red wine stains, but it is also extremely effective on coffee, grape, grape juice, blueberry, pizza sauce, urine and grease stains!
  2. Blot stain with paper towel. Dowse stain area with club soda or seltzer. Blot again. Repeat dowsing and blotting.
  3. Keep cheap white wine around. Blot stain with paper towel. Dowse stain area with white wine. Blot again. Repeat dowsing and blotting. This works because red and white wine have the same proteins (not to mention alcohol).
  4. Blot stain with paper towel. Build a mound of salt over the stain. Let sit overnight. Vacuum in the morning.
  5. Use spray (pump) carpet cleaner such as Resolve or Woolite. Soak for three to five minutes. Then dab with paper towels or clean rags, but don't rub.
  6. Use Dri-Clean, an automotive product sold in many automotive departments. Results are impressive.
  7. Use Quick & Brite, a product sold on many late night cable stations. Unlike the knives and other junk sold this way, this product works.
  8. Other commercial products that work well are Spot Shot, DidiSeven and Dev-Tec.