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Serving Wine

by Toni Paterson

At the connoisseur's end of the wine market, the pomp and ceremony surrounding the serving of wine can be extremely off putting to the average wine drinker. However beneath the pretension are some guidelines that will enhance the pleasure of every day drinking.

Many people think that wine will taste good served in any vessel but to be absolutely truthful, this is not the case. You don't need expensive glassware to make your wine taste great, but you do need to have the right type of glass.

Glass is the ultimate material for a wine vessel. Its transparent nature allows you to see the wine, which gives you the first indication of a wine's quality. Glass is also strong, long lasting and can be blown or moulded into a variety of shapes.

The choice of wine glass is important as it can have a major impact on the taste of a wine. It can dilute or enhance a wine's flavour, it can show case complexity or it can reveal its simplicity.

Shape is the most important aspect of wine glassware. As a guide, choose a flute for sparkling wine, a tapered rim for aromatics and a large glass for reds. The Austrian company Riedel takes shape to the extreme and makes wine glasses that are perfectly suited to specific wine types. They even make a glass specifically tailored to Australian Shiraz. They are exquisite to drink from but they are expensive.

If you are looking for good wine glasses without the high price tag, try the DOC range from Luigi Bormioli. Their C66 is a great all purpose glass where as the C99, being slightly larger in size, is great for reds. The Schott Zweisel Classico range is also great value for money.

If you are a lover of Pinot, it is definitely worth investing in a 'Burgundy' glass. These glasses are bowl shaped and they truly enhance the aroma complexity of Pinot Noir. The Schott Zweisel Diva Burgundy is an excellent, affordable option.

What about wine temperature? Sparkling wines are best served highly chilled, straight from the ice bucket or the fridge. Crisp white wines like Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are also best served from the fridge (3 - 4°C) though full-bodied whites such as Viognier, Verdelho and Chardonnay are better a few degrees warmer. Reds are best served around 16°C, which means that on a really hot day, they may benefit from a brief period in the fridge!

There is often a lot of discussion on when to open wine. Sparkling wine and white wines are best opened immediately prior to serving. Red wines benefit from being decanted one hour prior to serving to improve their aromas and flavours. The exception to this rule is that very old wines should be decanted just prior to serving to protect their fragile characters.

© Toni Paterson December 2006