Sitting in a restaurant the other night, I couldn’t help but notice the gentleman who was seated a few tables away drinking red wine with ice in the glass. I immediately checked the drink menu, but this restaurant didn’t serve Sangria so it had to be red wine on ice.
A wine purist would’ve muttered “Oh my god” under his breath, but in reality drinking wine is an individual choice. While it is commonly stated that the only two things that you need to know about wine is whether you like how it tastes and can you afford to buy that particular bottle, there is a third consideration -- the temperature at which you choose to drink your glass of wine.
On many occasions, I have ordered a bottle of red wine at a restaurant and upon tasting it I had to request a bucket of ice because the wine was too warm to drink. After about 10 minutes on ice, it will become possible to taste the flavors of the wine as opposed to the heat of the alcohol, which is the first flavor that you will often notice in a red wine that is served too warm.
On the flip side, a red wine served too cold has little flavor, if any, and can taste overly tannic. Tannins are what causes a wine to taste tart.
At about 65 degrees, a red wine will open up and release the flavors that are contained in that wine. In order to bring a red to this temperature, you can place it in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for around 20 minutes or in an ice bucket for 10 to 15 minutes.
It should also be noted that white wine served too warm will also taste alcoholic, but they will also be somewhat flabby -- meaning that it lacks acidity. But served too cold, although it may feel refreshing in the mouth, you will have a hard time tasting its flavors.
Most white wine varietals are perfect at about 55 degrees. So you can place a white wine in the refrigerator for about an hour to get it to the right temperature.
If you really want to know the temperature of a bottle of wine, there are a number of very affordable alternatives available, with prices starting as low as $5.
But I think the perfect temperature to drink red wine -- or white wine, for that matter -- is sitting in a hot tub with a group of good friends sharing a nice bottle of wine after a great dinner. While there are many different ways to drink wine -- chilled, room temperature, on ice, crystal glass, plastic glass -- the one way I could never imagine drinking wine is straight from the bottle!
Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.