Order of Wines to be Served

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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This can affect how individual wines taste quite considerably. The general convention is a wise one for maximizing pleasure: dry before sweet, ordinary before fine, and, generally, young before old.
A sweet wine can make dry wines taste acidic and unpleasant if they are tasted afterwards, so it makes sense to serve wines in an increasingly sweet sequence (which matches the usual sequence of foods during a meal, although serving the sweet course before cheese can upset things).

Old wines are generally more complex than callow young ones and so it generally flatters all wines if the oldest in the sequence are served last. This is not infallible, however. Many young wines are so overwhelmingly robust in comparison to a delicate old wine that they overpower it, and increasing levels of average alcoholic strength with each vintage also provides an argument in favour of tasting from (weaker) old to (more powerful) young. For this reason, many tasters approach large tastings of port, especially vintage port, from the oldest to the youngest wine. Some wine producers, particularly but not exclusively in newer wine regions, also prefer to show their wines in chronological order of progress, and possibily prowess, from old to young. And those planning particularly generous meals may find that the nuances of the oldest, finest wine they serve last may be lost on some palates already soaked in too many younger wines.