What’s the Correct Order for Serving Wine?

Question from Lily: I’m having a wine-tasting party and I wonder if there’s a correct order for serving wine.  

Reply: Hi, Lily. Thanks for asking! Assuming you’re serving some tidbits, they kind of cloud the issue – the food changes the wine and vice versa. Plus, if your friends are like mine, they’re total anarchists when it comes to eating and drinking…

However, there is a normal progression for wine tastings and when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. 

Here’s how it goes: Serve the wines from light to dark and dry to sweet. 

Why? The wines with deeper color usually are “bigger”, or heavier, than the lighter colored ones. If you taste the big wine first, the lighter wine seems almost flavorless. So, even within the white wine category, serve the lightest colored white first. 

TRIVIA! Color can be very communicative in terms of what to expect from the wine. Very light whites, those that are almost as clear as a glass of water, probably never saw the inside of a barrel and are still relatively young and fresh. Time in the barrel allows the wine to oxidize a bit, which deepens the color and concentrates the wine a bit so it’s a touch heavier. BTW, this continues in the bottle. So, if the wines are about the same age, it explains why your favorite New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has almost no color and a rich glass of Chardonnay looks kind of yellow. 

What’s the difference between dry and sweet? Dry is the opposite of sweet. For most of us the threshold is about 1/2 of 1%. Anything less than that is referred to as “dry” and the fermentation may take the wine all the way down to something in the neighborhood of .02% – That’s DRY!  If you taste a sweet wine, followed by a dry one, the dry wine will taste sour.

TIP!  The same principle holds with food and wine pairing. If you pair sweet food with dry wine the wine will taste sour.  The wine should be at least as sweet as the food.

Lily, I hope your party is a blast! Cheers!

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