Serving wines at the correct temperature.
Temperature is probably the most crucial factor to appreciate any wine at its best.
There is an adage that the English drink their white wines too cold and their red wines too warm. The temperature a wine is served can show the wine off to its best advantage and will allow us to appreciate the wine.
The best guide is to consider how the wine was made. A wine that is fermented in stainless steel at low temperatures to retain freshness should be served at a cool temperature, 8 to 9 degrees Celsius, to show these qualities; a wine fermented in oak or oak-aged would benefit from a higher temperature, say 14 degrees Celsius.
The domestic fridge temperature (between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius) might be too cold. So the best way to serve white wine from the cellar of about 13 -14 degrees is to put it in a mixture of ice and water to reduce the temperature, not just ice, as ice acts as a good insulator (think of an igloo) and will not reduce the temperature on its own.
Top tip- if you want to serve poor wine, serve it ice cold to mask its faults !!!
Rosé wine is made by leaving the skins of the grapes in contact with the juice for 12-24 hours and then draining the juice off and fermenting it like a white wine, so we serve it at the same temperature as white wine, not at a temperature between red and white.
It is often said that red wine should be served at room temperature, but even thirty years ago rooms were a lot cooler than they are now. Room temperature before central heating was about 18 o c when now 20-22 is the norm. Wines, if served at this centrally-heated temperature, will be fat and flabby.
The service temperature really depends on the amount of tannin in the wine. This is due to how the wine is made, the colour and tannin are leached from the skins and so long maceration will give a wine of colour and longevity.
Low tannin wines such as Beaujolais and those made from the Gamay grape can be served quite cool, in fact Beaujolais nouveau is nice chilled, as can be a glass of port.
The tannin comes from the skin and pips of the grape. A wine with more tannin is often a wine where the grape skins have been macerated for a longer period and these are the wines that need longer ageing. When these wines are brought up from the cellar they are best left upright for 24 hours in the room in which they are to be served to come up to (appropriate) room temperature. But if you need to bring a wine up to temperature quickly DO NOT MICROWAVE it. The best thing to do is to warm a glass decanter under hot running water and then decant the wine into it, this will take the chill off the wine. Many are tempted to try and accelerate the process by placing the wine near radiators or other sources of heat. This is a recipe for likely disaster, with the end result quite possibly a stewed, soupy, over-heated wine, especially left there too long if the mind is occupied elsewhere.
The correct serving temperature can enhance our appreciation, but wine is made to be enjoyed and best served with friends.