Red wine temperature

The difference that a few degrees can make is profound. (Photo: Videoblocks)

The recent spate of hot weather has reminded me about the importance of red wine and temperature.

In general, we give more attention to the temperature of our white wines than we do our reds. Well, at an elementary level at least. We chill, or invariably over-chill, our whites, and we drink our reds at room temperature.

If the red wine temperature is too high, not only does it affect one’s enjoyment and refreshment, but it dramatically impacts how the wine expresses itself.

But considering room temperature in an Australian summer can climb above forty degrees Celsius, ambient temperature for reds is generally not ideal.

Red wine is usually served too warm unless you are lucky enough to be storing your bottles in a temperature-controlled cellar or wine fridge.

If the red wine temperature is too high, not only does it affect one’s enjoyment and refreshment, but it dramatically impacts how the wine expresses itself.

The difference that a few degrees can make is profound.

I recently opened a bottle of Mornington Peninsula pinot noir, from a good year and top producer, that I had placed in my kitchen earlier that day. It was a warm spring day, but not overly hot.

Upon pouring a glass, I found the wine unsatisfying, open-natured and lacking in tension, though at the same time it was highly sweet-fruited and flavoursome. As I had this wine on a few occasions, I knew that it did not look its best.

On measuring the temperature, it came in at 24°C which was definitely too warm. I then proceeded to chill the wine, tasting it at every 1°C drop in temperature.

A reduction of two degrees increased the vibrancy of the wine considerably, however, it was not until the wine reached 19°C that the palate knitted together, increasing the freshness and focus of the palate.

When the wine reached 16°C, it has lost all of its aromatic interest and charm.

Reducing the wine by five degrees completely transformed and improved the wine. Too warm and the wine looked blousy; too cold and it was closed.

Considering the surrounding air temperature of 24°C and my personal preference, 19°C was the perfect serving temperature for this Mornington pinot.

If I repeated the process with a different style of red wine, made from a different variety, I would get a completely different result. For example, certain full-bodied reds look their best much lower than 19°C. And certain ultra-light reds look great well-chilled. The season would also have an impact.

If one spends good money on fine red wine, not to mention quality glassware, decanters and specific food pairings, we also need to be giving due attention to temperature.

But it can’t be a broad-brush approach. Trust your palate and make adjustments accordingly.

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