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Tips for better-tasting vintages

I hear this all the time, "I had the same bottle of wine that we tasted together, but the second bottle didn't taste as good."

My reaction is always the same, inquiring about how the wine was served.

In Shanghai, and pretty much everywhere else in the world, improper wine preparation and service is a huge problem. The wine maker can do everything right and create something beautiful, but if you serve the wine improperly, your experience will be compromised.

Therefore, I'll introduce proper wine service and some fine wines that need special care when being served. Follow these simple steps in serving wines and your wine life is guaranteed to improve.


Wine lovers can get very selective about glasses with different varietals having their own glasses of a certain size and shape. This specialization of wine glasses started in the late 19th century and reached new heights of precision in the 20th century with Austrian glass maker Riedel.

While a Bordeaux wine does perform best in a tall and generously sized crystal Bordeaux glass, does a Syrah wine taste better in a Syrah glass than it does in a similarly shaped Bordeaux glass? Perhaps not, but it is fun and the more you fall in love with wines, the more likely you will also love a beautiful glass.

If you wish to keep things simple, then any crystal glass of adequate size will do. Just avoid very small glasses that make swirling difficult and colored glasses that don't allow you to accurately judge the color of the wine.

It's also a good idea to sniff the empty glass before you pour the wine as many glasses in restaurants and at home may have ambient smells depending where they were stored and how they were cleaned.


In general, red wines need breathing and white wines do not. The exceptions are some of the greatest white wines like grand Burgundies and top Pessac-Leognan wines from Bordeaux that usually benefit from some breathing time in the glass.

Most whites are ready for drinking as soon as they are poured into the glass.

This is not the case with red wines. In general, the better and stronger the red wine the longer the breathing time. The process of oxidation helps the red wine open up and become smoother.

Great wines at their peak often need an hour or more before they are ready to drink. Most red wines are ready to be enjoyed 10-20 minutes after opening.

If time is of the essence, pour the wine into a glass or decanter to increase the surface area where the wine interacts with oxygen. This can halve the breathing time.


The single biggest factor in compromising the wine experience in China is serving wines at incorrect temperatures. Have you ever heard the saying, "White wines should be chilled and red wines should be served at room temperature?"

Well, at least it's half right as whites should be served chilled. But the standard for serving wines at room temperature was set in northern Europe over a century ago when room temperatures seldom exceeded 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. In Shanghai restaurants the temperature typically ranges from 22 to 25 degrees.

Homes, especially in the summer months, have even higher temperatures. Perhaps you are comfortable in these temperatures but your red wine is not. When a red wine is served at such a high temperature, the alcohol and tannins become very aggressive and harsh. Red wines will also taste dull and flat when served too hot.

Don't be afraid to chill a red wine for a few minutes to bring it to the proper temperature.


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