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home > food & wine dictionary > temperature

Food and Wine Dictionary


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 temperature 

There are two important temperatures to consider with wine-storage and serving. The ideal storage temperature is 50 to 55F, but a range of 45 to 70F is completely acceptable. What's important is that the storage temperature remain constant or, if it changes, that the change not be drastic. Warmer storage temperatures make stored wines age faster but, unless the temperature is excessively hot, don't damage wine. The serving temperature for wine varies depending on the style of wine and one's personal preference. Serving wine too cold masks its aroma and flavor and highlights any bitterness. Serving it too warm can make the flavors unpleasantly FLAT and DULL and the wine seem harshly ALCOHOLIC. White wines are served cold, but how cold is a matter of individual taste. Generally, SPARKLING WINES, CHAMPAGNE, and young, sweet white wines are served colder, about 40 to 50F. On the other hand, RICH, full-bodied whites like California and Australian CHARDONNAYS and French white BURGUNDIES are better served at around 50 to 55F. Other white wines should be served somewhere in the 43 to 53F range, depending on the complexity of their flavor. More intricately flavored wines should be served on the warmer side of this range in order to fully reveal their full scope of aromas and flavors. Because cold masks flavor, flawed or less expensive wines (except those with a bitter characteristic) should be served slightly cooler so detriments aren't so glaringly obvious. Lighter red wines like BEAUJOLAIS or VALPOLICELLA are best served at 50 to 60F, whereas bolder reds like BORDEAUX, RHÔNE, BAROLO, CHIANTI, and California CABERNET SAUVIGNON and ZINFANDEL are best at about 62 to 67F. Other red wines, such as California PINOT NOIR and red Burgundies, are best served in the 55 to 65F range, depending how rich and full-bodied they are. The cellar temperature dictates how a wine should be handled before serving. Some will require chilling (if the cellar's not cool enough), while others should be removed from the cellar early so that they can gradually warm to the proper temperature. A cautionary note about serving a wine at "room temperature": today's centrally heated homes can be warmer than the maximum temperature (62 to 67F) suggested for the bigger red wines. Remember that wine will warm up a little through the natural effects of air, swirling the wine in the glass, and the heat of one's hands. Chilling or cooling wine can be accomplished by placing the bottle in a refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the desired final temperature. Or wine can be chilled in about 20 minutes by submerging the bottle in an ice (or wine) bucket filled with half cold water and half ice. If the bucket isn't tall enough for the ice and water to cover the bottle's neck, invert the bottle for the last 5 minutes. Invert a bottle only if sediment isn't a problem. In warm environments the ice bucket should be brought to the table to keep the wine cool. Conversely, wines that are too cold can be quickly but gently warmed by placing the bottle in a bucket of warm (70F) water for about 5 minutes.

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Material adapted from the The New Food Lover's Companion

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.


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