• Drinking Well in the Dog Days

    A note about wine service temperatures in New Orleans Summer Heat

    (And an argument for storing red wine in your fridge.)

    It is common knowledge that white wines are served chilled, red wines at room temperature. But what is room temperature? To us, it means the climate-controlled (usually air-conditioned) temperature to which people are generally accustomed. For most of us in the U.S., that means something between 68 and 79 degrees farenheit.

    However, the ideal temperature for serving red wine is actually something between 62 and 68 degrees. This is somewhat cooler than most of us keep our homes, and much colder than the typical climate of almost any room in New Orleans during August.

    During most of the year you can get away with serving wine at “room temperature,” that is- the temperature of your actual rooms- 68 to 75 degrees or so. It's not ideal, but it's not a disaster. When it's 100+ degrees out, though, even if you're inside and even if you serve your wine at 70 or 72, it's bound to warm up to an ungodly temp in your glass, even just two or three sips in. And trust me, you don't want to drink 80-degree red wine. Especially if the alcohol content is above 12%!

    When red wine is served too warm, the alcohol evaporates at an accelerated rate. The effect is nearly always unpleasant and can be ruinous. The scent and flavor of the alcohol overwhelms all the pleasant fruit, floral, mineral elements, and all other nuances. It obliterates all the reasons you love wine. The drink just tastes and smells like alcohol, and at worst, the fruit can even taste stewed. It is flat-out unpleasant to drink.

    One solution is to drink only chilled whites and rosés during Summer, which is exactly what many people choose to do. Another option is to invest in a wine storage appliance that will store your reds at the perfect service temperature. But there's another solution, for the rest of us: toss out the conventional wisdom you've been taught all your life and put your red wine in the fridge. Just let it sit out on your counter for 15 or 20 minutes before you drink it.

    If anyone looks at you sideways for serving red wine “cold,” just tell them that the wine's not cold; everything else is hot. Because that's the truth. (And feel free to send them my way for re-education.)

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