In one of those early winter cold snaps where you realize that the heat doesn’t work and you’d better call your heating guy so he can rake you over the proverbial coals that aren’t working. The internal temperature of the house wedged itself at 580. If nothing else, it improved the wine while I waited for the bad news on the bill. Red wine isn’t supposed to taste like blood.
You’d think all the high chemistry involved in wine-making would have squashed that quasi-religious reverence for the stuff, but it seems to get worse with every Instagram post. It’s all those damned rules. What makes them so irritating is that even if you did throw them out the window, or never learn them in the first place, you’d probably find yourself circling back that direction anyway. The old rules are the best guides for the simple reason that there was a perfectly good reason people made them up in the first place. Experimentation is great, but it pays to benefit from mankind’s accumulated knowledge.
Rule #1: White wine, by and large, tastes better chilled, Red at “room temperature.” It’s the one wine rule that everyone knows and just about everyone; waiters; bartenders, the wine rep, that high school friend who went from Jeff Spicolli to wine snob after a single prolonged tear of the Dow Jones… gets wrong. Or at least out of context.
The disconnect is that the famous “room temperature” rule of thumb is a throwback to when room temperature, in castle or hovel, was about 620. This isn’t about global warming, although the Earth was in one of its natural cooling cycles in the 17th century when winemaking technology began to really take off. After that the whole place warmed up again. This is really more a factor of HAVAC systems efficient enough to make it 740 year-round.
So, unless you are at a restaurant that takes wine very seriously, or you have one of those wine cellars that looks like a dorm fridge, chances are that you are drinking red wine too warm by about ten degrees. Try it a little, and just a little, cooler.
The first thing that happens is that everything gets lightened up and a little less, words fail me, “clingy” on the palette. It shouldn’t take more than about 30 minutes in the fridge if your room temperature is 72-74 degrees. If you cock it up and leave the bottle in the box overnight, do not help it come to 640. You will screw it up and then you’re into mulled wine territory before you know it. Just let it come up on its own.
Stemmed glasses will help, gripping the bowl allows you to warm a red that is a little cold. If it’s already room temperature, or higher, holding by the bowl will only warm it further.
It’s worth the effort if only because we’re getting into hunting season and if you’re eye-balling a lot of game on the table, this is the way St. Hubert drank his wine.
Or just don’t call your HVAC guy this year.