Serving etiquette

Red Wine Etiquette

News about the possible health benefits of drinking red wine sparked a boom in the consumption of red wines starting in the 1990s and continuing today. Holding wine tasting or wine and cheese parties has become a common way for wine-lovers to entertain their friends. Knowing the proper etiquette for serving red wine can make those activities more enjoyable for all.


Facts about Red Wine

In the past twenty years, red wine has experienced a renaissance. These days, wine bars are popping up not just in metropolitan areas, but in small towns as well. The vast number of red wine varieties means that there is a bottle out there to complement nearly every meal and palate.


 Evidence suggests that the fermenting of grapes for making beverages may have started as long ago as 6,000 B.C. in the Middle East, and some archaeological findings suggest it might have started even earlier. Wine probably came to Europe a little later, about 4,500 B.C. The beverage has been important to several religions, from the Greeks and their god Dionysus to the early Christian church, where wine was a sacrament.


If you're among long-time friends, you can serve any wine in any kind of glass, even a simple tumbler. However, for dinner parties or more formal events, you should have good red wine glasses, like the one picture. If you're new to choosing and serving wine, you may not realize that glass shapes are different for serving white wines, sparkling wines and red wines. White wine is served in slim, tall glasses, while the bowl of a red wine glass is usually shorter and wider. This allows for swirling the wine and capturing the scents that rise from the red wine.




Red wine can be classified by region or by grape type. Many European wines are named after the region they are grown in, such as Burgundy or Chianti. Other wines are called by the type of grape they are produced from, such as Merlot or Pinot Noir. Wines can either be varietals made from just one type of wine, or they may be blends of several types of wine. Red wines also vary in taste and dryness. The amount of residual sugar that remains in the wine after the wine-making process determines whether it is sweet, dry or semi-dry.


The general etiquette for serving wines is that whites are served chilled, while reds are served at room temperature. While this is true, it doesn't mean that you can never put a bottle of red in the refrigerator. "Room temperature" ideally means around 60 degrees, the temperature of a typical wine cellar. If you don't store your wine in a wine cellar, it may be 79 or 80 degrees on a warm day. In warm weather, it's perfectly acceptable to put a bottle of red wine in the refrigerator a few hours before you're expecting company, and then let it warm back up to around 60 degrees by setting it out on the table a few minutes before guests are scheduled to arrive.



Red wine is typically sold in a glass bottle with a cork. However, in modern times, plastic corks or even screw tops have begun to replace real cork in some places. Having a screw top doesn't necessarily mean the wine is cheap or inferior. Some bottlers find that it's too easy for the cork to disintegrate and ruin a good bottle of wine, and so they opt for the screw top. Wine can also be purchased in a bag or box. Corked wine typically begins to oxidize immediately and is often no good for drinking after a few days of being opened, while boxed wine can stay fresh for up to a month. Generally speaking, despite the convenience of boxed wines, bottled wine is considered classier for entertaining and high-end public events.


Red wine can be drunk by itself as an aperitif or a nightcap. It can also be paired with cheeses for a light meal or snack. An inexpensive red "table wine" can also be served with a full lunch or dinner. Red wine can change the way you experience food, either interfering with the taste of the food or heightening the flavor. This is why there are entire websites and books dedicated to teaching wine-lovers how to pair different types of wine with different kinds of food.


In recent years, a lot of attention has been given to the potential benefits of red wine for heart health. Studies have shown a correlation between moderate wine-drinking and lower risk of heart disease. Those who have one or two glasses of wine a day have a lower risk for heart disease than those who don't drink at all, but the benefit disappears in heavy drinkers. Red wine appears to have more health benefits than white wines, and researchers believe this may be due to red wine's high concentration of chemicals called polyphenols, or another chemical called resveratrol.

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