Wine Temperature: Getting it right

Posted in Wine on 19/01/2010
Wine Temperature: Getting it right

L’Ortolan sommelier Stephen Nisbet takes a moment to explain just how temperature affects your enjoyment of wine:

"There is a bit of a an unspoken rule that white wine is best served cold, where as red wine is best served warmer. Whilst this is to some extent true, the ideal temperature is remarkably similar for both white and red fine wines. Because of the way we often go about preparing wine for drinking it is easy to get it wrong and you can risk your enjoyment of your bottle, but it is straightforward :

Getting the Temperature Right – Colder

Temperature is the only main way of a affecting the way that you receive and enjoy wine. Although you are not dramatically altering the wine’s character, it does have quite a big affect on your perception of it.

When the wine is too cold, you risk your enjoyment of it in the following ways:

  • Suppression of aroma – if a wine is too cold some aspects of the wine may not release the aromas it is supposed to, meaning that it is not able to express itself fully.
  • Creating a numb palette – Your palette is sensitive; a wine that is too cold causes it to be numbed so you won’t be able to fully appreciate all the different flavours in it.

So with a wine that is too cold you risk missing out – both from your numb palette and your enforced restrictions on the wine!

Whenever you consume anything below body temperature, you are shocking your palette. Any lower than 10 degrees your palette gets ‘surprised’. Whilst this might not be too noticeable in your glass of cola, with the delicate flavours that interplay in wine it’s a balance to find that point where a wine is enjoyable & refreshing, but is not so much of a shock to the palette.

It is the reciprocal relationship between wine and palette that is important to appreciate when serving wine – if the temperature is too cold both of these aspects can cause the flavours of the wine to seem sluggish which can ruin enjoyment.



Getting the Temperature Right – Warmer

You should always avoid serving wine too warm as this will make certain characteristics will over develop, and the wine will become unbalanced.

If a red wine is served too warm then it tastes flabby as the alcoholic and fruity nature – the lighter sides of the wine – come out too much. The characters such as acid, and the more savoury elements of the wine that are required for balance, get left behind.

Alcohol in an unfortified wine should be in the background, but if served too warm then it can cause it to come to the foreground – which is often not all that pleasant. Alcohol is there as a consequence really – to me, it’s not really the point of the wine – it’s a by-product of fermentation. The quantity of alcohol in wine has little to do with its quality – so it shouldn’t be allowed to come to the fore-front.”