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How to Serve Wine

This page will tell you everything you need to know about serving wine.

The topics covered are:


How to Remove the Cork

First you will have to remove the capsule. This is the colourful plastic or foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of the wine bottle.

The capsule may be completely removed with a small knife that is often part of the corkscrew. Alternatively use a foil cutter to remove the top of the capsule leaving the lower part in place.

removing the capsule

Next wipe clean the top of the bottle with a damp cloth. If there is mould on the top of the cork pay more attention to the cleaning. Don't worry, mould is not a bad sign; in fact it is a good sign showing the wine was stored in humid conditions.

Which Corkscrew Should I Use?  
Wing Type

The most common corkscrew in use is the Wing Type Corkscrew. It is used as follows:

Fold the wings down so that the screw is fully up. Place the tip of the screw on the centre of the cork, press down and turn the centre handle. As the screw enters the cork the wings begin to rise until they are vertical. At this point take one wing in each hand and fold down back to their original position. As you do so the cork is pulled from the bottle neck.

wing type corkscrew

The disadvantage with this type of corkscrew is often that the screw part (the curley bit) is often too short. Also it tends to cut into the cork too much, tearing it apart and leaving bits of cork floating in your wine.

If you'd like to buy one of these corkscrews then I recommend that you take a look at either the CaterX Wing Corkscrew ZR216corkscrew  or the U-G1010 Corkscrew corkscrew


This corkscrew is about 6 inches long (150mm). It has a plastic body that looks a bit like an oversize clothes peg and a long Teflon coated worm. It is used as follows:

Place the plastic body over the bottle until the lip on the body is resting on the bottle top. Lower the handle until the worm (the curley bit) touches the cork. Firmly hold the plastic body and turn the handle clockwise while the worm enters the cork. Keep turning until the cork is pulled out of the bottle. Remove the cork from the worm by turning the handle anti-clockwise.This corkscrew is simple and

screwpull type corkscrew
reliable to use however it can find flange topped bottles a bit of a problem.
The 'Ah-So' Corkscrew  

This looks like a large key with a squared oval handle and two thin parallel metal strips - one slightly longer than the other. It is used as follows:

Slide the two strips (longer one first) into the tight space between the cork and the bottle on either side with a see-saw motion. When fully inserted, twist and gently turn to pull the cork out of the bottle.

It is called the "Ah-so" because its appearance often baffles people, but when its use is demonstrated, they often exclaim "Ah! So that's how it works".


ah so type corkscrew

The advantage of the ah-so is that it does not puncture the cork which is useful when opening old bottles with brittle corks. This reduces the chances of a brittle cork crumbling into the wine.

A disadvantage is that the Ah-So can also push the cork further into the bottle rather than extract it.

Waiter's Corkscrew  

This is probably the most used corkscrew in restaurants all round the world. It looks like a swiss army knife that contains 3 devices - a worm (corkscrew), a lever and a small knife that is handy for removing the capsule. It is used as follows:

Hold the bottle neck in your fist then guide the worm (the curly bit) slowly down through the centre of the cork. When the worm is fully in then plaace the lever on the lip of the bottle and push against it while pulling the cork out. Give a firm pull or twist at the end to fully remove the cork. This will require some practise until you get the hang of it. This corkscrew is

waiters corkscrew

ideal for removing corks that have broken leaving part stuck in the neck. Simply follow the above but with the worm at an angle of 45 degrees.

If you'd like to buy one of these corkscrews then I recommend that you take a look at the True Utility - TU03 - Corkscrew waiters

Lever Arm Corkscrew  

This Corkscrew is supposed to be one of the easiest and fastest ways to open a bottle of wine however in my experience I have had very little success with it. It is used as follows:

Remove the foil with the foil cutter (gadget in bottom of illustration). Clasp the corkscrew around the bottle neck. Pull the handle downwards, and then push it back upwards to extract the cork.

If you'd like to buy one of these corkscrews then I recommend that you take a look at the Bar Craft Connoisseur Lever-Arm Corkscrew Setlever arm

lever arm corkscrew

How to Open Champagne and Sparkling Wines

Opening a bottle of Champagne or Sparkling Wine requires a completely different technique than that for opening a standard wine.

opening champagne

Sparkling wines have a cork with a mushroom shaped head that is held in place with a wire cage. This is necessary because the wine is under high pressure inside the bottle.

Never use a corkscrew on a bottle of sparkling wine as the pressure could blow the cork and the corkscrew into your eye.

Before opening it is advisable to let the bottle stand for a while (a day). If the bottle has been moved or shaken about then it could fiz violently when the cork is removed - just like a bottle of shaken up pop.

If you have to open a bottle that has been moved about then it is advisable to stand it in a bucket of cold water containing a few ice cubes for about half an hour before opening.

To open, remove the wire cage. Wrap a towel around the bottle if it is wet. Hold the bottle at an angle of 45 degrees, resting the base on your hip. Twist bottle as you hold on to the cork. As you feel the cork start to come out, push down against it as if you are trying to stop it coming out. The cork will come out slowly with a hissing sound rather than a pop.

Another method to remove the cork is to use Champagne pliers, a device like a pair of pliers that grips the cork.


Aerating Your Wine/ Letting Your Wine Breathe

The term breathing means to expose the wine to air. This sometimes improves the aroma and flavour of young wines. To aerate your wine:

  1. Pour it into a decanter (a large glass container large enough to hold the whole bottle).
  2. OR Pour it into large glasses at least 10 minutes before you drink it.

In both cases the wine picks up oxygen as it pours from the bottle. Note that it is insufficient to merely remove the cork from the bottle and let it stand - the air space in the bottle neck is too small to have any real oxygenating effect.

The following wines benefit from aerating:

  • Young red wines high in tannin (eg Cabernet Sauvingnon and Bordeaux). As a general rule leave for 1 hour after pouring.
  • Older red wines with sediment. Leave for only 15 minutes after pouring.
  • Only a few white wines will benefit (eg Full bodied white Burgundies and white Bordeaux.
  • Vintage Ports (one hour) - younger ports longer.

Most red wines do not require aerating especially lighter bodied ones low in tannin.

If your looking for a decanter then I recommend that you take a look at Bonjour Eclipse Chateau Glass Wine Decanter or the Riedel O Wine Decanter or the Riedel Cornetto Decanter

You can even buy a Wine Aerator that has been designed specifically for the job. Another device you might like to consider is the CellarDine Rouge 02 Stainless Steel Wine Breather

Selecting the Right Glass

Does the type of glass really matter? Imagine you are at or you are hosting a special occasion with friends or your boss and you serve the wine in a plastic beaker. How would that feel?

Apart from etiquette good wine tastes better out of good glasses. For a full review of the best glasses to use when serving different types of wine refer to my page on wine glasses.

Filling Level

How much wine to pour into the glass? In order to leave enough room for swirling and smelling the wine without spilling it then only partially fill the glass.

  • For red wines pour out a third of a glass - this also helps aerate the wine.
  • For white wines fill the glass to about half way.
  • For sparkling wines fill the glass to about three quarters full.

Serving Temperature

To get the best out of a wine it is vital to serve it at the correct temperature.

For example if you serve a red wine at too low a temperature then it will taste too tannic and too acidic. It's like serving cold tea, it tastes stewed with the tannin coming to the fore.

Generally people serve white wine too cold and red wine too warm. The correct serving temperatures for different types of wine is shown in the table below:

Type of Wine Serving Temperature(degrees C)
Most Champagnes and sparkling wines
Older, more complex Champagnes
Low cost sweet wines
Low cost white wines
Dry Sherry
Fine dry white wines
Fine desert wines
Light fruity red wines
Most red wines

There are two devices for measuring the bottle temperature. The first is a digital thermometer that wraps around the bottle, giving a colour coded reading. The second is a device that looks like a thermometer that you place into the bottle neck once it is opened. Take a look at one of these thermometers for further info: Wine Thermometer or Barcraft Wine Bottle Thermometer Sleeve or Digital Wine Thermometer

For a selection of wine coolers take a look at Vacuvin Rapid Ice Prestige Wine Cooler Stainless Steel or Vacuvin Rapid Ice Prestige Wine Cooler Black or Vacuvin Rapid Ice Wine Cooler Silver

Storing Leftover Wine

One golden rule to start off with - Wine stays fresher for longer when kept in the Refigerator.

There are two wine enemies - bacteria and oxygen. The bacteria combines the alcohol with oxygen and turns it into vinegar. Cooling the wine slows down the rate at which the bacteria works.

There is little you can do about the bacteria as the spores are in the air all around us so the key to keeping wine fresh is too keep oxygen away from it. There are four basic methods:

  1. If you have half a bottle left over, pour it into a clean half size bottle, cork it and put it into the refrigerator. As there will only be a little bit of air in the neck then the oxygen in contact with the wine will be very small. Be careful when pouring from one bottle to another pour it slowly down the side of the bottle. If you splash it in creating loads of bubbles and froth then you will mix lots of unwanted oxygen bubbles with the wine.
  2. There is a product called a Vacuvin Vacuum Wine Saver which is a small pump that sucks the air from the bottle. Rubber stoppers are then fitted to prevent air from entering.
  3. You can buy small can of inert gas which is squirted into the bottle using a straw. The gas expels the air from the bottle and the cork is then put in to seal it.
  4. A device called a WineSavor is a plastic disk that is inserted into the bottle's neck. When inside the bottle the disk umfolds and floats on top of the wine providing a barrier between the wine and the air, preventing contact with oxygen.

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