This page includes some general advice and opinions about wine, and enhancing your drinking experience. Topics include what is a unit of alcohol, and serving temperatures. If you have any questions, topics for us to consider or points to make, then we would be glad to hear them, contact us through the contact page, or via the blog (use the links above!).
Enjoying Wine Responsibly
You will see that in the detailed description of each of our wines we include the alcoholic content of the wine. We describe it in two ways:
We have included the units per bottle, as a useful guide, as over the last year or two the Department of Health/NHS has become much more active in promoting information about what constitutes a safe drinking level by talking about units, and the media has also begun to talk more and more to talk about units of alcohol.
But what is a unit of alcohol? Technically it is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, but a more useful measure is the number of units in a bottle. This is easy to calculate:
So a 75cl bottle of wine at 12% abv has:
Units are a simple way of keeping track of your consumption, remembering the guidelines state that women should drink no more than 2 – 3 units per day and no more than 14 in any week, whereas men should drink no more than 3 – 4 units per day and no more than 21 units in any week.
Serving wine at the right temperature will really enhance your experience of that wine, but it is really easy to make a mistake with the serving temperature of any wine, fortunately a bit of prior thought will make things easier, and don’t forget, if you have got it slightly wrong, there are ways to cool or take the chill off a wine quickly!
Please don’t drink your white wines straight from the fridge – it’s too cold. Really crisp whites, like Muscadet from the Loire, are probably at their best at 8 to 10 degrees – just above fridge temperature. Most other whites will be at their best at around 12 to 15 degrees – things like the Chardonnay from Domaine de Petit Saint Aunès, or the Viognier form Domaine Grangeon – and some of the richer whites, particularly those with a slightly oilier texture - the Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup Cuvée Sainte Agnès Blanc, or the Carignan Blanc from Domaine des 1000 Roses – are probably even better at 16 degrees.
But how do you get the wines to those temperatures? For the coldest serving temperatures, just get the bottle out of the fridge a few minutes before you want to drink it. For the mid and upper-range temperature wines then just get them out a bit earlier, serve straight from the cellar, if you are lucky enough to have one, or let them warm for a while after you liberate them from the wine fridge.
It is worth experimenting, one evening you take a bottle of wine from the fridge, say that lovely little Chardonnay, open it and try it immediately by tasting a small amount - just put a centimetre in each glass. Then every 10 or 15 minutes try another centimetre noting what people thought of each sample compared to the last. This should give you an ideal time for the bottle to be out of the fridge before you drink it.
If you do find that you are drinking something too cold, then only put a little in each glass to begin with, and swirl it around. The wine in the open bottle will also warm more quickly then if you had left the cork in. Similarly if it is too warm, then pour a little into each glass and stand the open bottle in the fridge, where the wine’s temperature will fall fairly quickly.
I treat these like white wines, aiming for around 14 degrees, or perhaps even a little warmer, around this temperature the fruit aromas and flavours really come to the fore, which is just what you want from a rosé
To state “drink red wines at room temperature” is too simplistic, often in modern houses it is too warm. I tend to aim for a bottle to reach the table at around 18 to 20 degrees; it then will slowly warm to the room temperature, but usually most will have already been drunk before it gets there!
I am often asked about what wine glasses to use. I personally always use large uncut glasses that taper in at the top. This gives me ample room to put some wine in the glass and still be able to swirl the wine around. I will be able to get a good look at the wine, and the taper will hold the aromas in the glass, allowing me to really appreciate them. Don’t forget that the senses of taste and smell are very closely linked, and if you can smell a good wine it will enhance the overall drinking experience.
To Decant or not to Decant Red Wines?
That is a good question. Now I like the wine to reach the table in the bottle, with the label there to give anyone who is interested the chance to have a look. But many red wines, particularly young ones really benefit from decanting, it really brings out the fruit flavours and aromas, and also helps the development of other characteristics, like spice and any herbal notes to come through.
So what do I do? I gush the wine from the bottle into a large jug, and then carefully pour it back into the bottle, leaving any touch of sediment in the jug. This technique is called double decanting, it needs a jug that pours well, and a steady hand, but if you take it slowly it should be straightforward.
I always use this technique with red wines under about five years old, to more robust red wines between 5 and 8 years old and never to older wines, as they can be shocked by exposure to too much air and become much less interesting. If in doubt, then don’t decant, but doo swirl the wine in the glass and see if the air getting to the wine improves it.