Wine 101: Unconventional Wine Service

I'm sure we've all watched a video at one point over the last few years of someone putting a wine bottle in his or her shoe and banging it on a wall until the cork eases out. While it's unlikely you'll ever see a sommelier pulling this in a restaurant, this is fodder for party tricks. I thought of other offbeat service techniques—some you'll likely never see in a restaurant and others you may see more regularly.

The Shake Up. With today's interest in natural and non-interventionist wines, it's less rare to drink wine with very low- or no-sulphur additions (all wine will naturally contain some sulphites). As an extra measure to protect the wine's freshness for travel, it has become an accepted practice for winemakers to fill the ullage of the bottle with CO2. You'll see it in the wines of Thierry Puzelat, Pyramid Valley, and even Pearl Morissette's Gamay 'Cuvée Mon Unique'. These wines can hold a slight fizz that an inexperienced drinker might credit to a 'refermentation', but the bottles just need a decant. Or, as I'll sometimes inelegantly do after pouring out a splash, recorking the bottle and giving it a hearty shake (thumb over the cork, of course).

Blend It Up? You may have also seen videos of people 'hyper-decanting' wine by ringing it through a blender. Some proponents claim that you can make a cheap wine taste great by aerating it in a blender. Others will even blend expensive young Barolos to make them ready to drink. I've tried this. If you need to blend your wine to make it taste good, I'd recommend buying better wine. And show a little patience, let your Barolos age in peace.

Sucked out by Syringe. Ben has mentioned the Coravin on My Wine Canada in the past, but I wanted to give it more airtime as it's changing the way expensive wines are served and drunk. These days it's becoming more common to see an asterisk beside those glasses on a wine list that cost $20 or $30 (or even $100) annotated with something like "poured from a wine accessed by Coravin". These pours are made possible by a little device that inserts a syringe through the cork and injects inert gas as it sucks out the wine. Sommeliers are grabbing high-end bottles from the cellar and pouring them without the constant fear of a quick oxidation.


Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.

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