Vail Wine Ink column: For best results, keep your wines chilled
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $30 — I am on a bit of a savvy kick lately, I guess because it is summer after all, and this blend of estate-grown sauvignon blanc and semillon turned me upside down. So many savvys these days are steely and direct, where this rendition is rich, elegant and complex. It is another reason to love the folks from Duckhorn and the wines they make.
IN THE RESTAURANT
Of course, the only thing worse than drinking a too-warm glass of wine at home is going to a fine restaurant and paying, say, $15 for a good glass of chardonnay and having it served at 75 degrees. It’s just wrong.
It is the obligation of a restaurant or bar to maintain appropriate control over the temperatures of the wines, both when they are stored and when they are served. A few years ago, wine writer Anthony Giglio wrote an exposé where he ordered two glasses of wine at 13 upscale New York restaurants. More than half of the glasses were served at 75 degrees or more. Totally unacceptable.
If you order a glass of wine and it is too warm, don’t just accept it, don’t just pay for it. Ask your server to do the right thing and chill the bottle for you. It’s the cool thing to do.
I recently attended a wine symposium where there were any number of big-time sommeliers, winemakers and distributors. The esteemed group made presentations each day, and the recurring theme was “cool your wines down before drinking them.”
Now this may be obvious to even novice drinkers. I mean, after all, who wants to drink warm wine? But to this group of professionals, the sense was that people still drink their wines too warm, and they felt compelled to make that point — again and again and again.
THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE FOR WINES
In this column, we don’t like to dictate how people should drink their wines. But if there is one thing, one rule of thumb, especially in these dog days of summer, it would be to try to chill your wines to colder than you think is necessary before opening them.
What are the recommended temperatures for drinking wines? Well, for red wines, the ideal suggested temps are between 62 degrees and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. For whites, the experts suggest a range from 49 degrees to 55 degrees. I’ll bet that these suggested ranges are well below the temperature at which the average person drinks their wines.
Of course, it is crazy to submit that you keep a digital instant-read pocket thermometer on hand and check the status of your wines before consuming. But what is not crazy is that you pay attention to insuring that your wines have been cooled a bit, or more, before you open them.
There are a few reasons why wines should be consumed at a “proper” temperature. First and foremost, the goal is to get the very best aromatics, those lovely notes on the nose that come from a wine that is served at the right temperature, without spoiling the taste of that wine. Secondly, a wine that is chilled to the right temperature simply feels better, particularly on a warm summer day, than one that is too heated.
HOW TO COOL WINES
The best way to keep your wines at optimal temperature is to store them in either a wine cellar or a wine refrigerator that maintains a constant temperature. If you are a collector of wines, that is the most efficient and the most cost-effective way to insure that your collectables are in good condition. Keep the temperature of the cellar at the right spot, and the wines will follow suit.
But, let’s face it, most of us simply purchase our wines at the local retailer, leave them in the car when we head in to buy our fish and veggies and then come home and put the wine on the kitchen counter. That’s just the way it is.
But if you can, try to keep the wines, red or white, out of the direct sunshine in your home. Find a cool spot in a closet, preferably off a heated floor, to store them until you are ready to drink them. Then, at least an hour or so for reds and at least two hours for whites, put them in the refrigerator to cool down before you open them. In my opinion, cooler is better. Even if you open a bottle of, say, merlot, and it feels too cool to drink, it will warm up once it comes out of the fridge. If it is still too cold, then pour some in a wineglass and cup the glass with your hands; 98.6 degrees of body temperature will warm it up fast.
Use a bucket
Another option, and the best to use in a pinch when you have forgotten to chill the bottles, is to take a bucket, fill it with water and a few ice cubes and then just let the bottle sit in it for a few minutes. The disadvantage of this is that it plays havoc with your labels (they may begin to peel off in the process), but at least your wine is chilled.
Finally, and this takes a little planning, you can buy some grapes, wine grapes or even table grapes, and throw them in the freezer to make little grape-y ice cubes. Pour your wine and toss a few in. It’s actually kind of cute.
Regardless, the point is not that you should put a lot of work into keeping your wines chilled, and we should not obsess over a glass anyway. But rather, since you have spent good money on a bottle of wine and want to have a good experience, it behooves you to take an extra moment before you pour yourself a glass of wine.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and black Lab, Vino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.