Spring is a very confusing time for me. As much as I love drinking red wine, I simply don’t enjoy it as much when the temperatures start rising and then red wine starts tasting all wrong. It almost feels like every year I am being forced to make the switch to white wines for the warmer season, and to be honest, I always feel a little hard done by when this happens. I am however happy to report that I have done my homework and found an explanation as well a solution to my dilemma.
Wine serving temperature. It really does matter. The temperature at which you serve a particular wine has as much (if not more) influence on the taste and experience of the wine, as the glass from which you drink it. You can completely ruin a perfectly good wine by serving it at the wrong temperature.
The science behind wine serving temperature is fairly simple.
The temperature of the wine which we consume dictates the way in which our taste buds will interpret the taste. Basically, the higher the temperature becomes, the sweeter we perceive the taste. The reason I have not been enjoying my red wine, is because I have been drinking it at room temperature. If you are storing your wine in a cellar that is situated under a Tuscan Villa, that “room temperature” is the ideal temperature to serve that wine. If, however, you are living in South Africa, and it is Spring, “room temperature” can be over 80°F. 80°F for a medium to full bodied red wine is far too warm, and unless you have cooked yourself a batch of steaming mulled wine, or have grown up drinking wine in China, red wine should never be consumed warm (or too cold for that matter). It should be just right.
Here are the suggested serving temperatures for different wines:
Medium to Full-bodied Red Wines – 62°F – 68°F Wine Serving Temperature
If the red wine is too warm, it will come across as sweeter and less complex than it really is. By bringing the temperature down (or up) to somewhere between 62°F and 68°F, you are exaggerating the tannins which gives the wine depth, structure and complexity. The other day I wanted to open a bottle of Cape Sun 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, but it was a scorcher of a day at 90°F. The solution? I popped the bottle in the fridge for about an hour and voila! It was delicious. If I had opened it when it was warm, I expect the only flavor I would have tasted, would have resembled sweaty cheese. Instead, the palate I experienced was elegant and structured with fantastic aromas of stone fruit and spices.
Lighter Red Wines and Rosés – 52°F to 62°F Wine Serving Temperature
Lighter wines, such as Pinot Noir, Grenache, or Rosés, really shine when served at these temperatures. The only thing a glass of warm Grenache is good for, is clearing the sinuses. The warmer the wine, the more the alcohol is accentuated, and unless you are on your second bottle and can’t taste much anyway, this is never a very pleasant experience.
White Wines – 49°F to 55°F Wine Serving Temperature
I will venture to say, that in the same way that people drink red wines too warm because of the “room temperature” misconception, many people drink white wines too cold. This really is a pity because a white wine that is served too cold does not bring much too the party. If you drink it too cold, you can lose many of the wine’s intended aromas and flavors. If you drink a white wine that is too warm, it is quite likely that all you will be able taste is ethanol with a hint of heartburn. So always be Goldilocks and make sure it’s just right.
I have more than once been judged for adding ice to a good white wine because I simply like my white wines colder, and at the same time, I have severely judged everyone who has ever added ice to red wine. As with all things wine, it is a matter of personal preference and taste. It is everyone’s right as a wine lover to decide which wines they like, from which glass they like to drink, and how to adjust the temperature of a wine to their liking. All I can say is, things are looking up for my red wine consumption this season! As long as the wine serving temperature is just right. 🙂