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Wine FAQ

Curious about wine lingo or decanting wine? Our H-E-B Wine Buyers have answers to the most frequently asked wine questions.

  • Question: What temperature should I serve wine?


    The general rule is that reds should be served at room temperature while whites, rosés and sparkling should be served chilled following a spell (not days) in the fridge.

    Softer and lighter bodied reds can taste very refreshing if slightly chilled. This is true in summer, when they warm up quickly in a glass.

    Try chilling Beaujolais and other inexpensive, un-oaked and juicy style wines. Dry Sherries such as Fino, Manzanilla and dry Sercial Maderia are also delicious chilled.

    Most sweet wines should be served chilled, as should pale dry Sherry.

  • Question: How long do I chill wine?


    Typically a few hours (2-3) in a fridge is long enough to chill these wines. If you need to chill it more quickly, the most effective way is in a bucket filled with ice and water. This takes about 20 minutes.

    You can buy chiller jackets specifically designed for wine. If you have a jacket in the freezer or ice box, you can chill your wine in about 10 or 15 minutes.

    Tip: Chilling wine in the freezer is not a good idea. If you forget the bottle, it is likely to explode when the wine changes to ice, forcing out the cork.

  • Question: What is the best way to open corked wine?


    First get a good corkscrew and secondly work on your technique. The tried and trusted Waiter's Friend corkscrew is ideal.

    • • Use the blade to remove the foil or capsule. Then twist the screw straight down into the center of the cork, not at an angle.
    • • Use the lever against the neck of the bottle to pull the cork up. You may find it better to twist the screw only two thirds of the way into the cork at first, pull upwards, then twist it down all the way to get the cork to finally pop out.

    It is best to avoid butterfly-style corkscrews with a solid worm since these are more likely to damage the cork during opening.

    Screw pull-type corkscrews are excellent but more expensive. Foil cutters are certainly not indispensable but they do remove the foil or top of the capsule neatly and quickly.

    Tip: A dodgy corkscrew or one inserted at an angle will result in a broken cork and a lot of mess!

  • Question: How do I open sparkling wine or champagne?


    Once your sparkling wine is chilled, open the bottle slowly and carefully.

    Chilling the wine makes it easier to open since it reduces the pressure. Shaking the bottle and popping the cork wastes precious bubbles and may cause an accident.

    Untwist and remove the muzzle but keep your thumb over the cork at the same time to make sure the cork does not escape prematurely, especially if it is not very chilled. It's sometimes safer to keep the wire muzzle on top of the cork once you have loosened it rather than removing it completely.

    Keep a glass nearby and point the bottle away from you and your guests. Point the bottle at a 45 degree angle and twist the bottle with one hand while you grip the cork with the other. As you twist the bottle, gradually allow the pressure to push the cork out so that it emerges with no more than a sigh or whisper.

    Tip: On a hot day outdoors, make sure your open bottle sits in the shade. A good quality sparkling wine stopper will ensure any leftovers keep their fizz for at least 24 hours.

  • Question: What is decanting and when should I do it?


    Many premium wines, particularly Vintage Ports aged in bottle, benefit from decanting. Decanting serves two purposes: it eliminates any sediment that may have formed during bottle ageing and it exposes the wine to oxygen, letting it breathe for a while before drinking. This also releases aromas in the wine that can enhance the tasting experience.

  • Question: How do I decant wine?


    How to use a glass decanter:

    • • Stand your bottle upright at least 24 hours before you open it. This lets any sediment settle to the bottom of the bottle.
    • • Remove foil around the top of the bottle. You may need to wipe the top of the bottle with a clean damp cloth.
    • • Uncork the bottle as gently as possible to avoid disturbing sediment. Using a candle or light positioned behind the neck of the bottle, pour the wine gently into a glass decanter stopping as soon as you see any sediment start to appear at the shoulder of the bottle.
    • • To avoid losing any wine, you could always pour the last bit through a clean cloth such as muslin or a paper coffee filter.
    • • Let the wine breathe for 30 minutes to an hour.

    Tip: Don't leave wine in the decanter too long. This will cause the wine to spoil. This is especially true for very mature Vintage Port wines that can spoil in a matter of hours.

  • Question: What wine glasses should I use?


    For red and white wines look for a clear glass that tapers slightly at the top in a tulip shape. If you fill the glass half way, this allows for the aromas and bouquet to develop and concentrate at the top where you can smell the wine. It also gives room to swirl the wine around in the glass to release more aromas. Sparkling wine and champagne will retain its fizz much longer if you serve it in a tall, thin glass rather than wide cup-shaped glasses.