Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What is the Best Temperature For Wine?

I’m laughing. Each and every week I honestly start with a blank slate on this article. The funny thing is that sometime between Thursday morning and Friday morning I suddenly am reminded by someone or something what I need to write.

Just now, as I was leaving a chamber event to come back to my office and write this I had someone ask me what temperature they needed to serve a particular wine. I quickly responded and walked away, but as I was driving I realized that temperature is a frequently asked question when it comes to storing and serving wine.

The answer to this question is simple, yet quite complicated. And…The answer is 55 degrees.

Seriously, the first thing to understand is that wine is a living organism. Temperature plays a large part on the health of the bacteria in the wine, thereby affecting it greatly. Wine is particularly fragile. Too cold, and you are putting the bacteria into a stressful hibernation state. Too warm and you are simply killing the wine all together.

A second thing to think about is that wine is made from grapes (in most cases). Most people would agree that fruit becomes more flavorful at room temperatures. Numerous times I have been served white wines with frost on the outside of the bottle. While this can be very refreshing on a hot August day, usually the flavors or “esters” are completely muted at cold temperatures.

Also, I’ve been served wines of all kinds straight off the shelf at 70 to 80 degrees. Both red and white wines start to pick up and magnify “funky” flavors including egg-flavored sulfites at these temperatures. I’ve had some highly regarded vintages at above room temp and been sorely disappointed. If you want to find a flaw in a wine serve it warm.

So, I come back to my initial answer. If the world was a perfect place, and all of our homes had a refrigerated wine storage closet with adjustable temperatures, the best temperature would be approximately 55 degrees.

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