Perhaps there is no bigger turn-off than being served a too-warm wine, whether it be red or white. In truth, all wine should be served chilled, at varying temperatures depending on the type of wine.
Older wine literature recommends serving red wines at room temperature, but this recommendation comes from the days before central heating, when drafty room temperatures rarely exceeded 65 degrees. Actually, 65 degrees is not a bad starting point for serving most wines, but lighter reds, most whites and sparkling wines need to be served cooler than 65 degrees.
A red wine served too warm can seem hot on the palate, high in alcohol and out of balance. But dropping the wine’s temperature to the 65-degree range changes the wine. At this temperature, fruit is more pronounced and alcohol less obvious, and the wine seems more in balance.
When white wine is served too warm, alcohol becomes more pronounced and the wine loses its delicacy. Served at the correct temperature, whites become light and crisp and are more refreshing, especially as the weather grows warmer. White, rosé and sparkling wines perform best in the 45- to 50-degree range.
It is almost equally egregious to serve wines too chilled. A cold wine simply loses it identity and gets lost in a vast morass of nothingness. Fortunately, wines that are too chilled regain their identity when they warm a bit.
While temperature-controlled wine cellars and expensive wine coolers are attractive must-haves for some oenophiles, such extravagances are not without their problems. They are good for maintaining constant temperature for wine storage, but most do not have the mechanics to maintain wines at different temperatures.
Even wines taken from fancy-smancy coolers are unlikely to be the correct serving temperature when removed from the cooler. Some bottle manipulation will be necessary before the wine is ready to serve. It may be as simple as setting a bottle out for an hour to allow it to warm before serving — or plunking a bottle into a bucket of ice to allow it to cool.
Traditionally, white and sparkling wines are associated with ice-bucket chilling. However, the world-renowned author of "The Wine Bible," Karen MacNeil, says she often asks for a red wine to be placed into a bucket of ice for a few minutes, much to the dismay of waiters who think they know better.
There are numerous devices on the market for measuring wine temperature. Brookstone has a cuff resembling a digital watch. When the cuff is affixed securely around the bottle, a reasonable facsimile of bottle temperature appears. Alltemp offers a device that looks like a fountain pen, which gives a digital temperature reading when held against a bottle.
If a wine is too cold, the easiest way to allow it to warm is to leave it out 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Some advocate warming wine by a hit with the microwave, though I do not recommend trying this at home.
Most wine temperature issues occur when wines are served too warm. It will not destroy a wine to cool in the freezer for 30 to 40 minutes, but it is easy to get distracted and end up with a giant wine popsicle.
VinePair — a jazzy, graphic-filled blog about all things related to wine, beer and spirits — recently published tips for chilling wine. The site suggests putting bottles in the freezer, with the caveat of wrapping the bottle in several dampened paper towels. This method is said to cool a bottle within 15 minutes.
Correct serving temperature is integral to wine enjoyment. Remember when it comes to wine temperature, it’s all about that base, that base temperature.
Contact Pat Kettles at email@example.com.