Louise’s Ultimate Wine Tips for Hosting this Christmas
The invites are rolling in. The Big Day is nearly here. Preparation is essential to getting you through the frenzy of the next 3 weeks. Preparations and planning can take up lots of time and space and there are countless possibilities and eventualities when it comes to planning the MAIN EVENT. How many to feed? How many can I fit around the table? Who sits next to whom?
These are questions, unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to but if it’s wine-related, I have a few answers up my sleeve.
Do I use good, stemmed glassware or not? To decant or not to decant? Which wine do I pour first? Red, white or rosé? Given the abundance of food, sometimes keeping the wine simple, and drinking the wine you like makes the most sense.
You can rest assured that you won’t run out of wine as ‘We’ll Bring the Wine this Christmas’ and your guests won’t be offered dribbles or sediment as you have all the tips here that you need to make the most of your wine!
Let us take the hassle out of preparations and limit the hours spent Googling “wine tips to guide you through Christmas!”
How many bottles of wine will I need [to get me through!?
A 750ml bottle of wine serves (on average) 5 glasses. However, everyone’s pour size varies! Everyone always wants a second glass so 2 bottles of any wine is essential if you have a few around the table.
Don’t forget Magnums. A magnum is a 1500ml bottle of wine and comfortably serves 10 glasses of wine. It is perfect at Christmas time for a number of reasons:
It is a showstopper, a conversation starter and makes for a great centrepiece. It guarantees a glass for 10 people. The wine in a magnum can also have more body and sometimes more complexity and can age better, making it more ready to drink.
[Shop Magnums here]
What temperature should I serve wine at?
Room temperature is recommended for full-bodied reds, however, given that every room is heated or cooled differently the standard temperature can vary considerably.
A few things to note:
- If reds are too cold they will taste thin and harsh. The best way to warm up a red is to let it warm up slowly or hold the bowl of your glass in your hands.
- Don’t try to heat the wine up with a direct heat source like on a radiator or beside the fire as extreme heat can irretrievably damage the wine.
- If red is served over 18 degrees, it can lose its freshness and the flavours become muddled.
- Light and delicate reds like a Beaujolais/Gamay or Valpolicella can be served slightly chilled at 13 degrees celsius.
- Medium - full-bodied reds are best served at 15-18 degrees celsius such as Bordeaux, Rioja, Shiraz, Châteauneuf du Pape, Barolo, Amarone, or Vintage ports.
Nothing says Christmas more than dusting off the fancy stemware but don’t forget about who’s on wash up when everyone is snoozing on the couch! Having a glass for each wine looks lovely and makes for a great photo but the logistics do have to be considered!
If you are going all out, then yes, a glass for white and red is preferable. As wines do express themselves differently in different glasses especially if changing from white to red. But a good rinse of the new wine in the old glass works just as well.
Tip: try not to rinse your glass between wines with water. It neutralises the glass and can dilute the wine and it may take the wine more time to express itself. A good swish of the new wine in the old glass works just fine.
Which wine do I offer first?
It’s your day and everyone celebrates differently so there is no real set order as there is so much choice of wines and food these days. People eat at different times and all types of foods and courses so it’s difficult to set a standard. However, it is always nice to start any occasion with a toast - my toast of choice would be Crémant . Of course, if you’re going all out then the Crémant can be replaced with Champagne. Now that your palate is awake and refreshed all wines and foods will be enhanced.
Some sequences to try:
- A delicate and fruity red followed by a Full & Flavoursome white and a Warm & Velvety red to finish.
- A Crisp & Zesty rosé, followed by an Explosive & Fruity white, or a Dark & Complex red and a White Port & Tonic to finish.
- A Crisp & Zesty white, a Smooth & Juicy red, a Dark & Complex red and a dessert wine with your dessert of choice to finish.
To decant or not to decant?
Decanting allows the wine to breathe. Air opens up the wine and allows it to fully
express itself. Think about it, a wine has been sealed up in a bottle for an unspecified amount of time so for the day that’s in it, you want to be sure its the best it can be. Nearly all reds benefit from decanting so it’s no harm if you can plan it into your day.
Decanting helps to remove any deposit. Wines with a heavy deposit or sediment
need to be decanted. This deposit is quite natural and is formed during the ageing process of many good red wines. The deposit falls to the bottom of the bottle and lodges in what we call the punt or if the wine is lying down it lodges in the neck or along the sides of the bottle. If the wine has a relatively new year on the bottle like 2020 or 2021 its unlikely to have any sediment. Older than this, it’s likely to be present. You can spot it if you hold it up to the light. Sediment is harmless if you drink it but its an unpleasant texture and masks flavours and aromas.
Tip: if you see sediment try not to tip the bottle to mix it back into the wine. It will not dissolve and will only take longer to settle again and decanting it won’t help to get rid of it.
How to decant:
- Take the bottle carefully from where its being stored. Have a look to see if there is any sediment. If there is, keep it either on its side or upright depending on how it has been stored so as not to mix the deposit.
- If you’ve had the bottle lying down for some time try removing the capsule and carefully removing the cork at a 45-degree angle or whilst still lying down so as to avoid dislodging the sediment from the neck of the bottle.
- If the bottle has been stored upright, then you can remove the capsule and cork as normal as this action shouldn't disturb the deposit at the bottom.
- Get a clean decanter or jug and pour slowly and from a height into the vessel. Pouring from a height adds more air.
- As you get halfway, hold the bottle over a light source and pour slowly and carefully. As the deposit moves into the neck of the bottle you can stop pouring.
- Allow the wine to settle and air for up to an hour if you can resist! The longer the better.
What is the best way to open a bottle?
Cutting the foil under the rim is best to ensure a clean pour. Historically, it was done this way as there were some undesirable metals in the foil caps that could contaminate the wine when it passed over it hence opening it under the rim so that it would only contact glass. A slight twist of the bottle is advised also to avoid the dreaded drips or just simply slow your pour as you fill the glass.
How to open a bottle of Champagne/bubbles
There is considerable pressure in a bottle of sparkling wine. Chilling to the correct temperature helps to reduce this. Even when the wine is chilled, it’s possible for the cork to spring out and injure someone.
- Remove the foil and loosen the wire cage.
- The cork must be held securely in place from the moment the wire cage is loosened.
- Tilt the bottle at about a 30 degree angle, grip the cork with one hand and with the other hand grip the base of the bottle.
- Turn or twist the bottle, not the cork.
- Hold the cork steady, resisting its tendency to fly out, and ease it slowly out of the bottle.
- The gas pressure should release with a quiet ‘phut’ and not an explosion of spray and flying corks!
How long will my wine last after opening?
If a wine is not consumed as soon as it's opened it will begin to lose its aromatic intensity in a matter of days and after that it will begin to oxidise and develop vinegar aromas. Typically, red wines last longer than white wines after opening but it does depend on the wine. Whites typically are best 1-2 days after opening. In general, most whites are not exposed to too much oxygen when being fermented so once opened, they don't maintain that fresh, crisp taste that is so desirable. Reds can last longer (2-3 days) and can benefit from this longer opening time. See it as a form of accidental decanting! Storing both reds and whites in the fridge can preserve their life but if you don’t like chilled red don't forget to take it out in advance of that much desired glass of red!
If you want to prolong the life of your wines its best to:
- Seal with the cork immediately after opening.
- Place a white wine in the fridge immediately after opening.
- Reds can be stored in the fridge and life prolonged if you’re not going to enjoy another glass especially if you don't want it chilled.
- If its sparkling, stopper immediately with a specialised sparkling wine stopper and place in the fridge. Once in the fridge any kind of stopper (scrunched up kitchen towel even) will do as the cold temperatures can maintain bubbles/C02 for at least 24 hours.
What to do with leftover wine?
If you have leftover wine that is! It can be kept as per the times mentioned above. But if you are outside those time frames then I would suggest the following:
- Pour the leftover wine into an ice-cube tray/bag and freeze.
- Use the ice-cubes for homemade ragu, pasta sauces or any seasoning for any winter stew or hotpot etc.
- The wine will also keep on your countertop or in the fridge for up to 5 days after opening (if for cooking) and can then be added to your dish of choice for seasoning.
- Use it for mulled wine. Mulled wine is always a crowd pleaser, and the spices actually enhance the flavour of the [leftover] wine and saves on the cost and exasperation of opening a fresh bottle for what is essentially cooking!!
Whatever your plans are this Christmas, sit back and enjoy it. We’ll Bring the Wine! - FREE
Local Delivery over €50 up until December 23rd.