Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On temperature of wine

Let's try something - bear with me. So we talked about colour in wine. A bit. But I'm just trying to present a thought, you see - nothing too specific, because wine is personal and the adventure is in discovering and learning on your own. It's what I try to do with every bottle I open - not just tasting the wine, but trying to further my understanding and experience.

Ok, so we move onto serving temperature of wine. It's odd that many people make the mistake of serving red wines too warm and white wines too cold. Where did that start? That you have to chill your white wines to the point of brain freeze, and you have to drink your red wines at room temperature. There are no absolutes in wine - as a matter of fact, there are no absolutes in anything. Serving temperature really depends on the characteristics of each wine, rather than the simple generalizations which are particularly appealing to the culturally bereft.

Young wines, I would always drink a bit cooler. For mature wines, swishing it for 15 minutes in an ice bucket will suffice. As a general rule, I try not to ice down any wine to the point of frosting up the glass. The cooler the temperature, the more nuance you lose. Too warm, and the wine becomes flabby. There's a sweet spot of a slight chill, to bring balance and harmony.

White wines. For a wine with sharper acidity (German riesling, Chablis, etc.), 15 minutes in the ice bucket will do. You want a slight chill - anything more and the first to disappear will be the all-important minerality. Richer white wines with more oak benefit from cooler temperatures, to focus the aromas and sharpen flavours. Sparklings wines, maybe a 30 minute ice bucket dip. Fine Champagnes, 20 minutes in ice, then let it warm up on the table.

Red wines. I ice them all. Young wines, about 20 minutes in ice. Mature reds, 15 minutes. Burgundy and New World pinot noir, I generally always like 15 minutes in ice. And overly alcoholic wines benefit from cool temperatures - less of a burn.

I know I haven't covered everything, but try it. Try icing down your wines in an ice bucket or fridge, especially young red wines. White wines, try drinking it at a warmer temperature than what you're used to. Whatever the case, don't go to extremes. Balance, mes amis. It's all about balance.

What I love to do is chill a bottle down, then leave it to warm up on the table. As you drink it over a dinner, and experience it at different temperatures, the wine shows you different aspects and nuances. Fascinating stuff. Just make sure you have a tight grip. Glass is slippery when wet.


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