Saturday, August 8, 2009

Too Hot, Too Cold--Am I Goldie Locks?

We made friends with the guy who orders wines and beers at our local shop—his card reads “Wine & Spirit Educator”—but let’s just call him Ken. He called the other day to say that a wine that we requested was in, and I said “No Torpedo though, huh?” “The customer comes first,” he muttered and confessed that he had five bottles—not quite a six-pack. I said I’d be there that afternoon to pick it up. Score! We brought home four bottles and gave Ken the fifth. Apparently, he’s yet to enjoy a Sierra Nevada Torpedo himself—they can’t keep it on the shelf long enough for him to get to it.

In any case, along with the Torpedo, a bottle of
Strong Arms Shiraz 2007 came home with us, too. It's a screw top from South Australia which I will be reviewing for this month’s assignment a bit later. Before I do, however, I wanted to share a little something about wine temperature. I am not a wine snob, I mean, I drink wine from a box, so I can’t be, can I? A few years back, my husband and I decided to sign up for a single evening wine class at the wine shop, and the one thing that has stuck with me from the two hours of trying all kinds of wine (we’re lucky I retained anything useful from the evening!) is that temperature matters. White wine should be served chilled, but not at 38 degrees, as I had previously thought. White wine is best served a bit warmer than right out the fridge, say, about 20 minutes warmer. Red wine, on the other hand, should be served cooler than room temperature, about 20 minutes in the fridge cooler. Why does it matter? I asked that very same question. My answer to you is to try it. Get two identical bottles of wine and try one as you normally would--fresh out of the fridge for a white or straight from the wine rack for a red, and the other, pour it a bit chilled or warmed, depending on the color. Try both side-by-side and I promise you'll notice a difference in taste. In fact, you might even question that both glasses contain the same exact wine.

I tried this myself, with a red wine I quite like, but don’t love. Even a wiff of the stuff at room temperature smelled off to me. It smelled “dirty” according to my husband and that's a fitting description. It had a strong alcohol odor, as well as a strong alcohol taste. The chilled red wine, however, smelled fruity and tasted nothing like the warm wine, and had alcohol burn on the back of my tongue. In the room temperature glass I couldn't find a hint of the cherries I tasted in the cooled wine.

Generally, a white that’s served too cold or a red served too warm can cause certain unsavory aspects of a wine to overpower more favorable characteristics. Now, if I were a real wine snob, I might be able to tell you that your chardonnay should be enjoyed at 48 degrees Fahrenheit, but your sparkling wine could stand to be a bit cooler and I won’t tell you that port should be served closer to room temperature, unless it’s vintage. I don’t test the temperature of my wine before I drink it, but I do drink my reds a bit colder than most folks I know, and if I happen to have a white, I generally drink that a bit warmer. Give it a try and tell me how it works out.


Mrs Big Dubya said...

I'm such a dork... this is fascinating and now I'm on a mission to try it out.

Will keep you posted

Great Post!!!


TwoBusy said...

It's never occurred to me to slightly chill a red... that's an idea I'll need to explore a bit more. But I'm with you on the whites -- we've learned that when opening, say, a NZ Sauv Blanc, it's best to give it about 10ish minutes out of the fridge before opening. It's almost as if the chill numbs the subtlety of the wine, and as it gently begins to warm it pulls together some of the layered tastes that transform it from "a glass of chilled alcohol" to something really interesting.