A friend of mine who moved to Florida as a child, often recounts how lovely it is to her, to sit by a fire, sipping on some hot cocoa, while outside the temperature drops to a chilly 59F. After having spent 15 years living in the Northeast, I find her fondness of that memory downright wimpy. Really? 59F?
We live in a time when we are able to accurately measure not just temperature, but how that temperature actually feels to us given other variables: is it sunny? Is it windy? Is it cloudy? We know the thermometer may say 50F, but it feels like 35F. So it comes as no surprise that some of us find it confusing when we hear that this wine should be served at “room temperature” or that wine should be poured “chilled”. How cold is “chilled” exactly? And what is your room’s temperature if you live on the Golf Coast and keep all the windows open?
Common wisdom says red wines should be consumed between 55F and 65F and white wines between 45F and 50F. Any warmer than that and the wine’s character begins to rapidly unravel. Any colder than that and you won’t be able to tell a Montrachet Grand Cru from a 4-dollar Pinot Grigio. OK, I’m exaggerating but you get the point. So, while wine does not require refrigeration for safe storage purposes, it may not be unwise to stick a red wine in the fridge for a few minutes before serving it, if the current temperature in the room where you are reading this says 75F or if you are having lunch on your deck. Likewise, you might want to take your white out of the fridge a few minutes before pouring.
When served at the right temperature all those scents and flavors we, wine geeks, love to describe as if we were competing for a medal for who can come up with the most adjectives, tend to gently flow out of your glass and into your nose and mouth with every sip. Because remember, you are now over 21 and wine is for your enjoyment, not to get you wasted at a frat party.
PS: You probably figured this out already, but yes, if you buy a cheap wine, chilling it will hide its flaws. So go ahead and buy that 3.99 bottle on the shelf for your friends who “like to drink but don’t care” but remember, the money you save on wine, you’ll end up spending on Motrin…