The Wine Guy Eddie McDougall

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Illustration by Elis Wilk

Having worked in the wine industry for over a decade, it’s amazing how often I get asked about the ‘right’ way to serve and enjoy a wine. I’m frequently puzzled as to why people get so hung up about having the exact glass for a particular wine. However, there are some subtleties to the enhancement of a wine based on the glass type or decanting. To help you understand the theory behind the snobbery, let’s answer some common questions I get asked a lot.

Is it important to use the right glassware for wine?

No, it’s not super-important. However, selecting the right glass can enhance the delivery of wine across your palate.

Champagne, sparkling and fizzy wines are best served in a flute, as it helps deliver the bubbles neatly down the middle of your tongue – ensuring you get the full blast of flavour and fizz. Flutes are also great to retain the fizz in the wine, as they prevent the liquid from being exposed to air, which makes the wine flat.

Aromatic whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling perform well in a standard tasting glass known as an XL5. These wines are distinctively pungent right from the get-go and are known to oxidise quickly, so it’s best to not use a wide-based glass, as it exposes the wine to a greater surface area of oxygen – causing the wine to rapidly lose its freshness. 

Fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay and Viognier, and lighter-bodied reds like Pinot Noir, do particularly well in wide-based, fishbowl-like glasses. The wide base offers a greater surface area for the wine to react with the oxygen, resulting in a wine that is more perfumed. These types of glasses are referred to as Burgundy glasses.

Full-bodied, rich, ripe and robust reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Malbec work well in glassware that offers width and depth for swirling Chunkier wines which often require time to open up’ –  meaning to release more aromatics. 

Decanting: why do it?

Decanting is only required for two reasons. The first is that, when a red wine is of an older vintage, it may have released some sediment into the bottle. The sediment causes the wine to taste gritty and look cloudy. So the idea is to separate the wine from the sediment by transferring it to the decanter for serving. 

The other reason for decanting is that wine at varying stages of its life can come across as closed’ or muted when it comes to aromas or softness on the palate. The process of decanting allows for oxygen to react with the wine, which firstly reduces the chemical power of any anti-oxidant, and secondly allows for the volatile aroma compounds to unleash its goodness in the glass. Thirdly, it’s often adopted by those drinking youthful wines who are too impatient to let the wine evolve in the glass, though decanting a wine does run the risk of it losing its freshness at a rapid rate.

Generally, reds with age or fuller-bodied reds are the varieties to decant. Some examples would be Port and Shiraz, Cabernet blends Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino. I do not recommend decanting any white wines or Pinot Noir.

If you are interested to learn more about wine and what to drink, follow me on Twitter @eddiewinemaker.

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