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How Cold is your Chardonnay?
Tips on interpreting winespeak and serving wines

Face it, good wine is an expensive beverage. Many people would consider ordering even a $20 bottle of wine at dinner extravagant. Rum and Coke is certainly cheaper, and you don't have to develop a taste for it. So, are you getting the most out of your wine experiences? "An enticing California Chardonnay with a complex profile of rich fig, pear, hazelnut and citrus" or "An elegant Cabernet with a nose of cedar, blackberry and cassis overlaid with notes of dark chocolate" — Do wine reviewers just make all that stuff up? Don't you wonder if they really smell all those aromas in wine? Well, they actually do, and so can you! Try these simple steps and soon you too, will be using the "wine speak" in reviews to help you select wines with the characteristics you enjoy.

The Glass - Perfection is a Riedel glass. Pretty darn good is any decent wine glass with a bowl at least 3-1/2-inches tall and no more than 2-1/2-inches wide at the lip. Also, be sure to check your glass for odors from detergent residue. Cascade does not typically enhance wine.

Temperature - Refrigerator temperature, 40 to 42 degrees, is way, way too cold for Chardonnay and a 72 degree room temperature is way too warm for Cabernet.

Chardonnay and most other white varietals served at that temperature might as well be Boone's Farm, as it will taste about the same. White wines show their best characteristics at 52 to 58 degrees. Let it warm up a little, and you will be rewarded with all those complex aromas.

Serve Chardonnay and heavier whites at 52 - 58 degrees. Serve crisper whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Riesling at 48 - 54 degrees.

Cabernet and most red varietals will show best at 64 to 68 degrees. Pop that room temperature bottle in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes.

Serve heavier reds like Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz or Malbec at 64 - 68 degrees. Serve lighter reds like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais at 60 to 64 degrees.

Pour - Remember, the idea is to enjoy the aroma of the wine, and you can't do that with a full glass. Don't pour the glass more than half full.

Tasting - Before you take your first taste, swirl the wine gently just after it is first poured (watch what you wear when you try this the first time). Now, tilt the glass slightly and just stick your nose in it. Now try to identify the various scents (wearing perfume or aftershave won't help this process). Tasting should reinforce the components you identify on the nose.

What is the mouthfeel like, is it heavy or light? The acids, are they sharp or subdued? How drying are the tannins... did it feel like it grew fur on your tongue? How long do the flavors linger on the finish? Those are all questions you can answer. And, the more times you answer them, the more able you will be to use wine reviews to help you choose wines that have the characteristics you enjoy.

Finally - Remember, it's only wine. Relax and drink it!

Place a room temperature red wine in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before you serve it, and remove white wine from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.

To be exact, try serving:
• Chardonnay at 52° - 55°F
• Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Riesling at 45° - 50°F
• Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz or Vintage Port at 62° - 65°F
• Pinot Noir or Beaujolais at 58° - 62°F
• Champagne at 42° - 45°F
• Tawny Port and Dessert Wines at 57° - 62°F
• For comparison, a refrigerator’s temperature is about 38° to 42°F