Serving South African Wine
For perfectly serving a wine or just to enjoy it on your own, two aspects should especially be taken into consideration. On the one hand, this is the serving temperature and on the other, whether and how a wine needs to be decanted. There is no ideal way of doing this, but some general rules have established nevertheless.
Correctly Tempering Red Wine
Many still know the old rule that a red wine needs to have room temperature in order to reveal its full taste. Averagely, room temperature is 20 degrees - this is simply too warm, even the most exceptional wine cannot handle this. For a grand red wine, 18 degrees are enough, younger and more fruit dominated representatives are their best between 14 and 16 degrees. The rule of thumb is that the tannin content determines the serving temperature - the more a wine has, the warmer it can be enjoyed; the less the cooler it should be. A fruity up to light red wine can therefore be enjoyed at only 12 degrees. Solely fridge temperature should be avoided as the bouquet is hardly noticeable then. If you like your wine cool, a rosé is more often than not the better choice.
White Wine Has a Wide Spectrum
There are white wines that should not be cooled down to much, but rather be enjoyed at temperatures around 16 degrees. Especially full-bodied wines that are demanding due to their development in wooden barrels not only tolerate this warmth, it is even essential for them as they need the temperature to reveal their true taste. Mostly, these are wines of the grape variety Chardonnay, but depending on the development other white wines can fall into this category, too. Gourmets serve wines that have been developed in steel tanks, often Sauvignon or Chenin Blanc, considerably cooler. Between 8 and 12 degrees are appropriate; personal preferences define the exact temperature. If you mostly enjoy the tanginess, you would want to drink your wine cooler than someone who prefers fruit dominated wines with a full bouquet.
In Case of Doubt, Serve Cooler
Every wine will eventually adapt to its ambient air temperature. This is why it is generally recommended to serve the wine 1 or 2 degrees cooler than actually recommended. In the glass, the wine has enough time to reach its optimal drinking temperature.
Red Wine: Decant or Not?
Just as not every red wine should be at room temperature, there is no need to always decanter it. A fruit dominated red wine would only be deprived of this striking feature that was the reason it had been purchased in the first place. And an old and fragile wine that has spent many years in the wine cellar waiting for the perfect moment is at danger of losing its complex aromas or, in the worst case, go sour. You should only decanter when you either want to separate the wine from tartar or to take the rough tannins from a young, tannin dominated red wine.
By the way, it is even recommended for some white wines to get the carafe for decanting. Especially Chardonnay developed in wood, but other white grape varieties, too, benefit from some time exposed to air.