Some Like It Cool: Serving Temperature and Wine

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Photo by: Amy Fletcher ©www.aefletchers.com

Amy Fletcher, www.aefletchers.com

Every week, Mark Oldman -- wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit series The Winemakers -- shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he'll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

The serving temperature of wine is like weather conditions in a city: Small differences can vastly change your attitude about what’s in front of you.  The following guidelines will cast your wine in the most flattering light:

White wine: It’s no surprise that most of us like our whites -- along with our rosés and sparklers -- fully chilled.  It’s just more refreshing that way. At the same time, if you are drinking a special white -- say, an expensive California Chardonnay or French Pinot Gris -- in a setting where you really want to appreciate its subtleties, you might allow a cold white to warm up 15 minutes or so before serving. As eating a frozen Snickers bar demonstrates, coldness numbs our perception of flavor.  A slightly warmer temperature, therefore, unleashes a fine white wine’s aromas and flavors.

Red wine: We don’t drink reds as cold as whites because low temperatures can bring out the bitterness (i.e., tannins) present in many reds, especially in heftier types like Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. That said, a bit of chilling -- five or so minutes in an ice bucket -- can focus a red’s flavors and make it taste more refreshing. If the red is a lighter type such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, it can take even more of a chill -- a welcome opportunity in the swelter of a summer picnic or barbecue.

Chilling wine is, of course, easiest in a refrigerator or ice bucket, the latter working even better when you add cold water to the ice, which fills the spaces between the cubes and instills a chill even faster.  As for dropping ice into your wine, it is perfectly acceptable to do it for a few seconds with a simple, everyday glass of wine, as my video demonstrates. And what if you want to keep the ice in there? As wine collector and NFL legend Joe Montana once told me: “I’ll sometimes throw an ice cube in wine, especially in the summer. I’m not afraid to do it. Follow your taste.”  How can you argue with "Joe Cool"?

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