Time and Temp are Telling When Enjoying Flavors of Wine

This participatory column has now fielded more questions from
the public. Two basic questions that keep arising are,

How should we store wine?


What temperature should wine be served?

This participatory column has now fielded more questions from the public. Two basic questions that keep arising are, “How should we store wine?” and “What temperature should wine be served?”

Most of these inquiries have come from fellow enthusiasts and people who simply want to know more or hear a humble opinion.

Remember: Wine is a living, evolving thing. A number of factors can influence the health of the wine we drink.

Some people own large collections of wine and perhaps invest in certain vintages, hoping that the wine will appreciate, both in quality and in value. Being presumptuous, these folks have probably installed a wine closet or wine cellar in their homes to protect their wines and their investment.

Wine closets and wine cellars come in different sizes, but they usually can hold hundreds, even thousands of bottles. These storage devices or custom-built spaces contain a cooling unit (a specialized air conditioner that controls temperature and humidity).

Another trend, especially in new homes, is to have a wine refrigerator, a chilling device that is about the size of dishwasher and built with wine in mind. These hold around 24 to 60 bottles of wine, usually with two controllable temperature levels – one for white wines and one for reds.

Most of us have a few bottles of wine or maybe a few cases lying about the house. Even though we might plan to consume them soon, perhaps within a few months or even a year, the wine is susceptible to elements that affect wine – such as light, humidity and variations in temperature.

Here are a few suggestions about storing wine in your home if you do not have contemporary wine storage devices.

n Try keeping wine in a regular temperature, between 50 and 60 degrees. Low and infrequent fluctuations above or below this range are OK. High and frequent fluctuations in temperature will age your wine prematurely.

n Any dark closet should suffice. Darkness, along with modern bottles that have ultraviolet filters, keeps light from imposing unwanted chemical reactions in the wine.

n Store the wine on its side. Keeping the cork wet prevents air from getting inside and oxidizing the wine.

n Constant vibrations or machinery can disturb a wine much as it does our sleep. Do not store your wine on top of the refrigerator or in the garage.

n Do not store wine near other odors that may impart unwanted flavors.

As far as serving temperature of the wine itself, the gold standard in the United States has been to serve white wines cold and red wines at room temperature. In general, this rule of thumb works; we’ve just taken it to the extreme.

I have been dying to do this, so I am going to pull out a Seinfeld reference. Do you recall the episode when George went for a swim in the pool? The frigid water caused a little problem with the shrinkage of a body part, giving George grief and embarrassment in many ways. Well, the same happens to your wine when you serve it too warm or too cold. Your wine experiences shrinkage!

If you are storing your white wines in the refrigerator, most household refrigerators hold a temperature around 40 to 45 degrees. We pull the white wine out of the refrigerator, open it, pour and taste – all in one fell swoop.

If the wine is too cold, the wine shrinks like a frightened turtle. The wine’s true character is inhibited and will not come out to join the party.

You would be amazed how many more flavors and aromas you can notice simply by raising the temperature a bit, up to 50 to 55 degrees.

The alcohol in red wine will produce an unpleasant, almost bitter bite on the palate if served too warm. Try serving the wine at “cellar” temperature – around 55 to 60 degrees – and not actually room temperature.

So, if you don’t have the tools at your disposal to help measure the wine’s temperature, what can you do? Well, here is a homespun remedy shared with me by my friend Robin Nye. This is something you can try if you don’t want to put a thermometer in your guest’s wine or if you don’t have wine-cooling equipment.

Take your white wine out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you plan to serve it. Put your red wine in the refrigerator about 10 to 15 minutes before you plan to serve it. Set a timer so you don’t forget. The method might not be scientific, but it works!


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