Samui Wining & Dining
Perfect Presentation is Paramount
When it comes to serving wine, you can’t beat the old fashioned way.


Perfect Presentation is ParamountQuick, quick. Rush, rush. For me, the trouble with modern society is that sometimes we can move too fast and, as a result, many aspects of civilized living can be forgotten or overlooked as not important. Things such as tried-and-tested old-style wine etiquette. And by that I mean how we appreciate and serve our precious libation in particular. Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for most of the modern advances in the wine world. I like screw-caps, straightforward labeling and wines being made ready to drink. But I do worry that we may be in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water if we don’t maintain some of the traditional customs.


No matter how good wine becomes available and affordable, we must remember that it’s a unique beverage, unlike any other, and worthy of our respect. And wine deserves special attention when being served, both in restaurants and whilst entertaining at home. Of course, the care we take in serving a wine and the little customs and courtesies of the table cannot do much to change the wine’s virtues or vices. But they can add tenfold to its enjoyment. If there are different glasses (and decanters), varying degrees in temperature, and even serving rituals and brief introductions for different wines, it’s not out of any physical necessity, but an expression of the many differing sensuous pleasures they each give us. In emphasizing and paying attention to the different characteristics of a wine, and reminding us of their origins, they satisfyingly add to the wine-drinking experience, making it more memorable and complete.


As we all know, there’s a (slightly overwhelmingly) vast array of wine glassware. And although the practical and pretty glasses have evolved to put each kind of wine in its best light, if truth-be-told, there are far too many to seriously consider acquiring every one. However, it’s absolutely worth investing in some good quality wine glasses, of say, three of four different shapes and sizes. And when choosing wine glasses, in my opinion, size does matter – so always go big (not pretentiously so, but large enough so that a good measure fills them one-third full).


Always choose clear uncoloured glass so that hue and viscosity of the wine is pronounced, and a rim that cups in slightly towards the top, which makes it possible to swill the wine inside the glass allowing it to release its aroma without spilling. The glass should be as thin as possible, without feeling perilously fragile.


Prior to serving, and I know it may seem too obvious to mention, wine glasses should be scrupulously clean (i.e. untainted with smells of any kind). And when clean, they should then be rinsed in hot water and polished by hand. Glasses are much easier to polish whilst still hot. No wisps of linen towel should stick to them. And the glorious anticipation of gleaming wine glasses awaiting at a table evoke in a wine lover is one of the few lasting pleasures that make their life worth living (sad, I know).


With the glassware sorted, choose your wines carefully. And I say wines, because any good wine benefits from comparison with another. It is not affectation, but simply making the most out of a good thing to serve more than one wine at a meal. A young wine served first shows off the qualities of an older one, a white wine (usually) shows off a red wine, a light wine shows off a big one, and a dry one shows off a sweet one. But, interestingly, any of these combinations played the other way round would be a disaster for the second wine. In a similar way, a really good wine puts in the shade a lesser wine served after it. And the same thing happens to a (otherwise adequate) dry white wine served after a ballsy red wine. Wine is a bit like show business – it’s all about the timing.


Next, the serving temperature is key. Wine’s characteristics change dramatically with temperature. It affects the tongue’s ability to detect the full taste spectrum. White wines, and especially sparkling wines, must be well chilled (but not ice-cold). Red wines served too warm will taste flabby and unfocused. Yet, too cool can make them bitter and tannic. In a tropical climate, such as Thailand’s, room temperate is far too warm. Reds will need to be chilled to 18˚C.


Breathing time is also important with full-bodied red wines. And decanting an old wine is both necessary and part of the wine ritual. (Call me old fashioned, but it’s exactly these kind of finer details that I worry we losing in our contemporary fast pace, have-it now, consumerism driven society.)


Finally, the question of how much to serve is an important factor in wine enjoyment. There are six good glasses of wine in a 75cl bottle (which means generous glasses filled one-third full, not miserably small ones filled to the brim). At a light lunch, one glass per person might be enough whereas, at a lengthy multi-course dinner, five or six might not be too much at all (especially if your friends are anything like mine).


Generally speaking, in the restaurant business, we say a total of half a bottle per person (perhaps one glass of white and two of red) is a reasonable average for most people on most dining occasions. But the circumstances and mood of the meal, and above all how long it goes on, are the deciding factors. A bottle each is certainly not too much for a long evening with foodies and serious wine buffs. However, please remember, the golden rule for hosts is to be generous but never pressing, and offer water, too.


Peter James

Wine Guru


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