The Gift of Good Temperature
I cannot stress enough that serving wine at the proper temperature is imperative if you want to taste the best of the wine’s features. Too often we drink our red wine too warm and our whites too cold. When reds are served too warm, they become flabby and the alcohol character dominates. When a well-made white wine is served too cold, the flavours are muted, preventing the wine from fully expressing itself. Now, if you have a poorly made white, chill the hell out of it to cover up the flaws. But we don’t want to be drinking poorly made wine, do we?
Many refrigerators maintain a temperature of 4˚C, which is far too cold to serve most white wines. The ideal temperature for serving whites is generally 8˚C to 11˚C. For reds, the expression “room temperature” is misleading. The ideal temperature for drinking reds is 14˚C to 18˚C, which is less than what we consider room temperature in our centrally heated homes and restaurants.
The too-cold part for whites can be rectified by taking the wine out of the fridge and letting it warm up a few degrees — about a half hour to an hour. It’s the too-warm for red wine that often poses an issue.
If you have temperature-controlled wine storage, the ideal temperature to maintain your wines at is 13˚C. At home, when you are ready to drink a red wine, take the bottle out of the storage unit and let the wine warm up to the proper drinking temperature. If a white wine is your choice, take it out of the unit and place it in the fridge for about twenty minutes and it will be chilled to just the right serving temperature. In a restaurant with controlled-temperature storage, the same process can be applied except the white wine would be placed in an ice bucket at the table. Or if the wine was being kept in a cold beer fridge, it would be left on the table so that it could warm to the proper temperature to maximize your drinking pleasure.
But most people don’t have ideal storage conditions for their wine. What then? If a red wine is too warm, you could put it in an ice bucket or in the fridge to cool it down. But that takes time. Or for a white wine, what happens if you forgot to chill it or you just purchased it from the store and want to enjoy it right away? Well, there are some devices that can take care of these problems.
The Canadian-developed Ravi Instant Wine Chiller disassembles into three pieces and its cylinder goes in the freezer. When you want to serve your wine, take the cylinder out of the freezer, snap the pieces back together, and insert into the top of the bottle. The wine passes through the frozen cylinder as you pour it into the glass. An air inlet allows you to regulate the flow by placing your thumb over it, which also allows you to control how long the wine is in the cylinder and how cool your wine will be once it hits the glass. The effect is immediate.
For red wine, allow the wine to pass through and it will immediately be cooled several degrees. For a warm white wine, keeping the air inlet covered holds the wine in the cylinder a little longer, cooling it even more. The tube is made of stainless steel, so it doesn’t alter or affect the wine’s characteristics.
I’m always sceptical of gadgets claiming to enhance your wine-drinking experience, but when I tried the Ravi, I was really impressed. It’s a practical gadget for wine lovers who want to enjoy their wine at the proper temperature, which will enhance their enjoyment of the wine. It allows a well-made wine to taste like it’s supposed to taste (all other factors being equal: i.e., no TCA or other such issues).
Most restaurants should consider having one or something like it on hand. There is nothing more discouraging and frustrating than ordering a good bottle of red wine and having it taste like it was stored on a heating grate. Restaurants need to wake up! I don’t begrudge restaurants their markups on wine (generally anywhere from 100 to 400 per cent), but part of that markup has to include serving wine at the proper temperature so that their clients are getting the wine that they are paying for.
Devices like the Ravi are important because they allow the wine to taste like the winemaker intended for it to taste. You are getting the wine you paid for, as opposed to a wine that’s altered as a result of poor handling and serving.
A bottle of wine is a great gift, but what could be better than a gift that helps make all your wines taste better?
Wine Temperature Guidelines
17˚C–18˚C Bordeaux varietals, Shiraz
16˚C Pinot Noir, Rioja
15˚C Chianti, Zinfandel
14˚C Tawny Port
13˚C ideal wine storage temperature
12˚C Beaujolais, Rosé
11˚C Viognier, Sauternes