Saturday, August 20, 2011

Room Temperature is Not Room Temperature

Last week we posted a link on our Facebook page to a short but interesting article in Food & Wine about wine pairing; it's worth a read.  Which brought us to today's topic, the proper chilling of wine.

We all know that white wine is served chilled, while red is served at room temperature, which has brought up a recurring discussion during our staff trainings, because not all wines are create equal and neither are temperatures.

Let's start with red.  We're Californians in wine country, we drink red wine and we're comfortable drinking it at any temperature.  Whatever room temp is, that is what we go with for our daily glass of red, but if you're having a party or a particularly good (or particularly bad) bottle, then chill it properly to get the most out of it.

That classic rule of thumb to serve red wine at room temp is from a different era, an era when room temp was typically in the low 60's, not 72 degrees, or (forgive us wine gods) a 95 degree summer day!  In catering the wine is coming out of the case at whatever the outdoor temp is that day, and we typically don't have much or any refrigeration at the event site.  So our rule of thumb is to place the bottle on top of a bed of ice for 15 minutes for the first 10 degrees of cooling, then an additional 5 minutes for each 10 degrees more.  Shoot for 60 as the room temp wine glass will warm it up a little bit.

White wine is more complicated.  It uses the same cooling technique, but the proper temp varies by type:

Dry White         50 to 55       About 20 minutes on ice
Sweet White     45 to 50       About 25 minutes on ice      Estimated cooling times are
Sparkling          40 to 45       About 30 minutes on ice      based on starting in the low 70’s
Port                   60 to 65       About 15 minutes on ice

Another good rule is that poor wine should be chilled further.  Making it colder will knock out some elements of a bad flavor profile.  The worse the wine, the lower the temp.

My favorite rule comes from my sommelier professor in college: "It's your wine, drink it however YOU like it".  The rules only help us get the most out of our wine, they don't dictate what we like.


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