When to open a wine bottle

You may open a bottle of wine when you have the time, for example before guests arrive. This gives you the opportunity to reach perfect temperature and ideal airing.

Should I decant a bottle of wine?

Should I open wine in advance? The answer is yes. Opening a wine bottle in advance lets out undesirable odours (such as sulfur or volatile acidity). You may take this opportunity to consider oxygenating the wine: the airing softens a red wine like a white wine (exception: the reds with many new oak and tannins, like the Californian cabernets).

Persia woman pouring wine, detail from a wall in Ispahan, Iran It doesn’t do much good to simply open the bottle because the airing surface is tiny: only the size of the bottleneck. On the other hand the wine will oxygenate a little if you pour a first glass.

Do not decant an old wine. A wine loses structure year after year. It is not necessary to let an old wine air out, decant: it risks losing its bouquet. So you have to handle it carefully. Please choose a quiet moment to appreciate.

How to carafe a bottle of wine

Many wines benefit from passing in carafe. Open the bottle of wine before the tasters arrive and pour yourself a glass bottom to decide what to do next. This tasting also allows you to check if the wine is too old or corked.

If the dress is evolved (orange highlights) and the nose is weak, then the wine is too old: do not carafe it. If the dress is sustained and the smell is weak, the wine is young. It may then deserve to be passed in carafe. To do this, bring in a decanter, a large pitcher or even a water jug. Rinse well (traces of detergent are formidable).

The temperature of the wine must be that of wine storage to avoid unwanted chemical reactions. Pour the equivalent of a small glass into the carafe and then taste it:

  • If the taste has improved, the wine claims oxygenation, pour the amount you intend to drink.
  • If the structure has fled, leave the rest in the bottle.

  • If the aromas are still weak and the structure is tight, the wine is said to be closed. Shake the carafe or transfer the wine several times, it might soften as much.

What is the ideal temperature for a wine

Wine tastes better at a moderate temperature. It is convenient to serve wine slightly cold (rather than warm) as the wine warms up in the glass.

  • I serve the light reds (fruity, early) around 12°C; the glasses warm up quickly. In the summer, serving wine fresh means going through the refrigerator.
  • The tannic reds (for example from California or Italia) like the area of 18°C; so in summer I do not take them out (from the cellar or a short stay in the refrigerator ) before serving.

How to reach the ideal temperature for a wine

Serve bottles of red and rosé wines at the ideal temperature So how to quickly cool a bottle of wine? Here I am proposing three easy methods, from the simplest to the most risky...

Put the wine bottle in the freezer for one hour but don’t forget it!

Put the wine bottle in a bucket of water with plenty of ice. The water melts the ice quickly and the bottle is surrounded by chilly water. Soon the wine is cold, then some labels come off... It is also a good method to keep the temperature stable.

A more dangerous idea, both for the label and for the wine, would be to surround the wine bottle with a wet cloth and put it in the freezer. The water freezes fast and transfers the cold quickly (because it is in contact with the bottle). This cools the wine in a rush!


Have you read my primer on types of white wines (per variety and district)? Or a summary of storage conditions for aging?

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