Thursday, 1 November 2012

Impact of temperature on wine taste is larger than you think! Part 1 - Red Wine

Some simple knowledge of wine storage and drinking can greatly enhance most people's wine drinking experience.  One such area that is easy to understand and can significantly increase pleasure is the temperature at which to serve various wines.  The general rule is to serve red wine at room temperature and white wine chilled.  And sparkling wine, even more chilled!  But what is chilled?  And in fact, what actually is a suitable room temperature?

This will be a two-part blog on the impact of temperature on wine.  The first and simplest post is for red wine.  This will be followed by the impact of temperature on white wine, which is even more profound and important (but no more complicated to understand).

Hopefully, your red wines have been stored suitably at a consistent temperature that is somewhat cooler than room temperature.  I store my reds long-term at 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) and in my apartment Vintec wine fridge at 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit).  My room temperature is usually between 20 - 22 degrees Celsius (68 - 72 degrees Fahrenheit).  Therefore, if I am planning ahead, I take my bottles of red wine out of the Vintec at least several hours up to a day before serving them.  This (1) allows the wine to reach room temperature and (2) to by standing it straight up, draw any loose sediment to the bottom of the bottle.

By raising the temperature 4 - 5 degrees (Celsius), you really release the flavor.  The wine goes from being a dormant, tight, flat wine to a more open and interactive one.  The flavors become fuller and more robust.  It is always a good idea to drink red at room temperature if the room temperature is between 18 - 25 degrees Celsius (65 - 77 degrees Fahrenheit).  But what do you do if room temperature is above that or you are outside on a hot day?  If the temperature is only a few degrees higher, then you can still drink the wine well enough.  However, as the temperature starts to approach or go beyond 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), drinking red wine at room temperature becomes less enjoyable.  This is because it becomes a bit stickier and may even taste a bit cooked.  Additionally, at those temperatures, you are probably looking for something cooler and more refreshing to drink, like a cold beer or a chilled white wine.

Reusable ice cubes - store in freezer
Therefore, if you are outside and it is 30 degrees Celsius or higher, you may want to chill your red wine slightly.  To do this, I would not recommend putting ice cubes into your wine!  This will water down and flatten the flavors. You may however want to put in one or two reusable ice cubes which are plastic encased ice cubes.  Therefore, you can reduce the temperature of the red wine a few degrees without watering it down.

I am currently drinking a very nice 2005 Bannockburn Pinot Noir at room temperature of 23.5 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and this temperature is working well.  However, if it was a few degrees warmer, I may consider putting a reusable ice cube into my wine!

My next blog will focus on the right temperatures to serve white wine.  The temperature setting has a far more important impact on white wine than it does for red, and this is true to get the most out of both bad and good white wine!

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