A Matter of Degrees
The two favorite topics right now around town are the daily temperatures and the Saints preparing for their assault on the NFL. Let’s leave the Saints to their own devices and assume we will all be in that number in another Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in Atlanta, in February of next year.
As far as temperatures are concerned, let’s focus on temps we can do something about, and allow the outdoor situation to take care of itself. What we can control are the temperatures of our refreshments, with most of those being liquid. This being New Orleans, and all, it is in this area where most of our interests lie anyway.
We all probably heard from our first sip of wine that the proper temperature to serve and store red wine was “room.” What we were likely not told is that the room noted is a relatively small space in northern France. And nothing around here is ever going to approximate those conditions.
That one piece of Fahrenheit folklore has probably given rise to more faux pas situations than anything else we have ever been told, except the tales about ghosts in French Quarter buildings and honest elected officials. Growing up and facing the truth about a harsh world takes all the fun out of becoming an adult.
Anyway, the proper serving temperature of a wine has a lot to do with what kind of wine it is and your personal preferences. Any wine served too cold for its style dampens the subtleties of the wine which the winemaker pays great attention to achieving. A too-cold wine does not share the aromas and the flavors as cheerfully as a wine at the proper temperature.
That being understood, many wine lovers appreciate their sparkling wines served very cold. Not technically the best way to go, but, it’s wine and we should all drink what we like the way we like.
A wine served too warm puts the wrong emphasis on certain qualities, such as sugars and tannins, which tend to “stick out” in disproportionate ratios.
You were also likely told by some well-meaning soul that red wine does not belong in a cooler environment, like a refrigerator or even an ice bucket. You have been seriously misinformed by someone who has never been through August in New Orleans.
Wine thermometers are cheap and testing a wine before consumption with a thermometer is an amazing way to improve the wine when the results are taken seriously.
Sparkling Wines of every style should be served between 38° and 50° F.– Ice cold.
White Wines should be served between 44° and 57° F. – Refrigerator cold
Lighter style red wines, such as Pinot Noir, Grenache, etc., should be served between 53° and 63°.
Heavy red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, should be served between 63° and 69°.
Never be afraid to put a lighter red wine in the refrigerator or in an ice bucket for 7-10 minutes before serving. Throughout the serving period, keep wines with bubbles on ice, and if the time will be long, use a Champagne stopper to seal the bottle between pours. (Something you already know: the cork that you extract from the Champagne is never going back into the bottle. It will expand to more than twice its size after you open the wine.)
The refrigerator freezer is not a good short-cut to achieving the proper serving temperature of a wine. The difference between freezer ambient temperature and whatever environment the wine was just in is dramatic and could harm a delicate beverage, especially one that has a few years of age.
A lot of the quality of a wine is determined in the vineyard, and then more quality decisions are made in the winery. After that, it’s up to whomever is going to enjoy the wine to maximize quality and enjoyment. None of us want to fall down on our responsibilities, especially after the wine has come so far.
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails in New Orleans, every month in New Orleans Magazine.