In our opinion, many bad habits have developed over the recent years due to both poor services prevailing in most restaurants and traditional savoir-faire no longer passing down through generations. Let us review some simple facts:
1) Serving temperature
It is commonly known that red wines should be served at room temperature. But is it really so? What is known as ‘room temperature’ dates back to the time when dining rooms were (not much) heated at 16 or 17° C. Many restaurants today serve wines at 25° C, but no wine should be served above 20° C. Of course, white wines should be served between 8 and 10° C, while sweet whites can be chilled at 6° C. The wines will rise in temperature in the glass anyway.
So many clueless theories are heard about decanting that we have to weigh in with strong affirmations. Contrary to common belief, old vintage wines should be decanted even longer than young wines. It is a way to get rid of their ester aromas caused by their ageing, but which contributed to form their complexity. Two hours is a good minimum. The risk of having wines fading does exist, but it is rare and far less dangerous than not decanting it sufficiently. I know only one exception: all wines from the 1978 vintage will pass after twenty minutes.
You can decant all sorts of wines; even white wines and champagne will be better if decanted, but as for champagne you need to be very careful to avoid an excessive disappearance of bubbles.
Before decanting, you need to put the bottle up for at least one hour to let the sediments fall to the bottom. Otherwise your decanted wine will look like mud.
The basic rules for decanting are: put a light on a table (electric or candle), take a decanter in one hand, the bottle in the other, and incline slowly the wine bottle over the light and pour delicately into the decanter. When sediments appear in the light, stop. That’s it!
Again, there are lots of theories about glasses, but only one answer is good: a beautiful glass is always more pleasant. A fine crystal glass with a large bottom and a somewhat restricted opening is ideal, especially with young wines, while a larger opening is more suited for older vintages (20 years and above). Please forget about flutes for Champagne, and use tulip shaped glasses instead. The flutes are just a clever invention to make more glasses from one bottle!