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About wine

  • Serving
  • Taste
  • Body

Wine Serving temperature

The taste of wine is a combination of numerous key elements, each of which is dramatically affected by temperature. Any wine will only be at its best at the correct, recommended serving temperature.

With this in mind and glass in hand, lets dispel some myths from the get go.

Red wine isn’t best served at “Room Temperature”, in fact it never should be. Never serve white wine straight from the fridge. Every wine has an individual temperature at which it is best served. An at a glance guide for wine serving temperature:

  • Sparkling wines 42–46°F (6– 8°C)
  • Light white wine 42–46°F (6– 8°C)
  • Medium white wine 48–52°F (9- 11°C)
  • Full white wine 50–55°F (10– 13°C) (not fridge temp!)
  • Light red wines 50–54°F (10– 12°C)
  • Medium red wines 57–61°F (14– 16°C)
  • Full red wines 61–64°F (16– 18°C) (not room temp!)

Lesser quality wines are better cooler and remember the cooler the wine the less aromatics it will have. So what happens when a wine is not served at its optimum temperature?

One point we will make is that serving temperature is a personal preference, however on many occasions the wine makers actually print on the label the recommended serving temperature, so why would they do this? Temperature is just a reference point, after all it is just a number on a scale…but what do these numbers actually mean? And what is the real effect temperature has when serving wine?

Wine is a fabulously emotive drink, which is probably why it’s the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world with over 31 billion bottles being consumed every year. Wine is made up from a range of different elements which all work together to give the wine its characteristics and feeling. Terms such as aroma, body, alcohol, acidity and tannins are often referred to when describing a wine, yet all of these are affected when the wine is served at different temperatures.

For instance Chardonnay, which is the most popular white wine in the world, when too cold the body of the wine is lost, it becomes thinner and watery. The fruit in the wine is muted which leads to a less than tantalizing aroma and the overall flavour will be diminished.

The same is true of red wines, which for the most part are served too warm. In this situation the body of the wine can be excessive and the alcohol content can be over powering. The complex tannins that are found in red wines are also affected by serving temperature by appearing either bitter or unfocused when the temperature is incorrect.

When a wine is served at its recommended temperature all of the elements of the wine become balanced and in harmony, and the drinker can get the full potential of the wine.

The following table shows the effect temperature has on the different elements of wine, the scale shows being too cold at one end, too warm at the other and conversely just right in the middle.

(*only applicable to red wines)

Taste starts in your nose

It might seem like stating the obvious, however when it comes to enjoying wine it is not simply a case of knocking back what’s in your glass. There is an (easily adopted) art to discovering how to taste wine. The skill to inhale and denote the subtle shades of wine aromas is key to truly tasting. Tips include holding your nose while you swallow some wine and you will find the majority of the flavour is muted and your nose becomes the key to unlocking your palate. “Your nose holds the key when it comes to unlocking undiscovered aromas and appreciating your wine before it reaches your taste buds” Master the art of giving wine a good sniff and you will be able to isolate flavour and if you really want to get to the bottom of discovering all the wonders of wine it pays to be dedicated. When you find yourself with a glass of wine in hand try and get into the habit of pausing to focus your attention on the wine’s appearance, fragrance, flavour and finish. We hear about the need for wines to breath but before you can truly savour your selected tipple you need to use your noodle, or nose to be precise and inhale. Your hooter holds the key when it comes to unlocking undiscovered aromas and appreciating your wine before it reaches your taste buds. Your sense of smell plays a significant part in appreciating the nuances of wine from the start. You may well savour flavours of your wine with your tongue, however you experience flavour via your nose. Sniffing a wine brings the aromas in contact with the smell centre, which is one square inch in size and located at the top of the nasal cavity behind the eyes. Smelling wine helps you detect a range of things about the wine including how old it is, fruit characteristics, grape variety to name a few.

As previously pointed out, the shape of the wine glass you use alters the speed and concentration that your nose perceives the wine entering your mouth and so the way you actually perceive its flavour. Many of us will have observed someone order a bottle of wine, seen some poured into a glass and the recipient raise the glass give it a swirl and smell the contents. There is a lot that can be discovered in a wine when it comes to scent and it just so happens this practice is one of the most important elements when it comes to discovering wines you like most and everyone’s palate is unique to them. When we taste something we are detecting one or a combination of sweet, salty, sour, bitter however when it comes to all other flavours you might be surprised to discover they are detected by your sense of smell and this makes up the majority of what we enjoy about our favourite food and drinks, wine included. There are numerous scents you can discover in a wine which can help determine which grape variety was used, where it was grown, if it was aged in wood or not. With some practice, and let’s face it who needs an excuse to reach for the rack, you can hone your senses to learn wines you naturally favour most. When smelling a wine there are four main categories to look at: Fruit, Earth, Wood and Other The aforementioned swirling helps to aerate the wine and release its aromas. Swirling tips include placing your glass flat on a table and move your hand in a fashion as if you were outlining small circles with the base. Then stick your nose in the glass and take a substantial sniff. To help hone your developing smelling skills why not set yourself mini challenges and try and identify a couple of fruits and other aromas before the all important sampling!

Body beautiful

Know your basic wine characteristics and you can help develop your palate and discover new varieties to enjoy. By getting to grips with five wine characteristics you can adapt these building blocks to creating and growing your knowledge of wine. Plus you stand a better chance of selecting a bottle you will enjoy. Wine reviews and listening to your pals or worse a wine snob extol the virtues of varieties you have never heard of won’t guarantee a top tipple to your taste buds, like divided opinion on the latest blockbuster movie release, it’s down to personal preference. There are no rights and wrongs, simply what you enjoy most. By better understanding your own taste you need to classify wines by their basic traits and simply select which you like the best. To appreciate wine’s characteristics you can appreciate more what it is you like about a particular wine. Characteristics are: Sweetness - or dryness. To detect this best focus your attention on the taste buds at the tip of your tongue, tingling denotes sweetness. You will notice a minor oily sensation in the middle of your tongue that lingers. A bone-dry wine can sometimes be confused with a wine with high tannin. Acidity - Tasting acidity is sometimes confused with the taste of higher alcohol. Wines grown in cooler vintages often have higher acidity. They feel lighter in weight and if you prefer a wine that is more rich and round you tend to enjoy less acidity. Acidity characteristics include tingling on front and sides of the tongue - think popping candy. If you rub your tongue on the roof of your mouth it feels rough and your mouth will fell wet, similar to the sensation when you bite into an apple.

Tannin - often confused with levels of dryness as tannin dries your mouth. Wine tannins denote the presence of phenolic compounds which add bitterness to a wine. These phenolics are found in the skins and seeds of wine grapes. Tannin is often described as astringent and however unpalatable they sound tannin adds complexity to wine and helps preserve it for longer. It will taste bitter on the front inside of your mouth and along the side of your tongue which it will dry out. After swallowing you will be left with a dry, bitter lingering sensation. Fruit - savouring different flavours. Tasting for fruit flavours helps you define which varieties you prefer. When it comes to tasting for fruitiness in a wine with red wine do you lean to raspberry notes or dark fruits like blueberries and blackberries? When it comes to white wine are you a fan of lemon and lime or peach? Does a wine give you a more powerful presence of other flavours such as black pepper or olive or even grass? Body. So which will it be, light, medium or fullbodied? There are a number of factors when it comes to body, the wine variety, vintage, alcohol level and how it’s made. Body is a glimpse of the overall impression of a wine and you can enhance enjoyment by taking note as to when and where it’s present. The alcohol level ABV (Alcohol by Volume) adds body. A wine high in alcohol tends to taste fuller-bodied than a light-alcohol wine. Detecting body in your glass…taste how does it compare to other’s you have tried, lighter/bigger? How long does the taste linger in your mouth after you have swallowed several seconds to almost a minute? In the region of a quarter of a million different wines are released each year across the globe so it helps to have a heads up when it comes to identifying wine characteristics and where they are from. Bottoms Up!


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