Friday, December 23, 2011

Red Wines In Summer

I was at a nice restaurant last Friday, lovely balmy evening around 25C, and we were almost al fresco sitting at the front of the premises where the doors were wide open. They had a good wine list and great food. The unfortunate thing was the Cab Sav was already warm when delivered, and only got warmer when exposed to the lovely evening air.

The crazy thing is the white wine the ladies had, and I'm not claiming whites are for ladies only (though my mate Brian might), was served chilled and with a wine bucket to keep it cool. So the restaurant took the most care of the cheaper white wine made in stainless steel and that was barely 10 months old, and left the Cab, which the winemaker had nurtured for 3 years, to stew in the warm air.

It's about time Australia realised that "room temperature" for red wine is too warm, especially in summer. A Cabernet Sauvignon, like most reds, is best served around 15C, with even 20C really being the upper limit. Pleasant temperatures for humans isn't so great for red wines.

At home this warm weather I don't stop drinking reds, they either get around 30-60 mins in the normal fridge or come from my wine fridge which is 13C. I then put it in an insulated wine bucket. I also have this little round plastic chiller brick thing that I put in the bottom that is perfectly shaped for the bucket and works better than ice would.

If you overchill your red, it will warm up in the glass anyway, possibly with help from a warm hand. I reckon that's far preferable to sticking in an ice cube, as I've heard of some desperate people doing to a too warm wine. It is after all without external means, considerably easier to warm a wine than to cool it.

The better reds for summer are Grenache, Mataro, Tempranillo, and of course blends of those, but I'd encourage you to always cool your Shiraz and Cabs back down to ~15C to have with a nice BBQ steak or ribs.

I wasn't paying for the reds last week, but I regret not asking for an ice bucket so that I could have enjoyed them as much as the food. I didn't want to seem like a wine wanker, but on the flip side I would not have hesitated to ask for an ice bucket for a Riesling in the same conditions.

There's probably a few guides out there, but I suggest 13C is about as low as you want to go, 15-16C is ideal, and 20C as mentioned before almost too warm.

3 comments:

  1. Funny how it's considered being a "wine wanker" when you want something served in optimal conditions. We wouldn't hesitate to send back some undercooked food, yet wouldn't worry about being called a "food snob".

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  2. Last week myself and my wife who was still on holidays saw a mid-afternon movie at the Dendy in Brisbanes Portside. Afterwards we decided to have dinner at Byblos a kind of middle eastern/lebanese type restaurant. Slightly upmarket for this style of eatery and with a decent wine list. Only wanted a glass so that limited my choice, I ordered a Wirra Wirra Catapult Shiraz. The ambient temperature was 30C, that wine came warm. I called the waiter back and asked him to chill the wine. He had been quite professional to this point but responded to my request with a surprised quizzical expression and no words. I said the wine is too warm and needs to have it's temperature knocked down. He asked, "how will I do that?" I then had to tell him to take the glass of wine and either put it in the fridge for 20 minutes or better still in the freezer for 15. Well he did so but looked kinda put out. 12 minutes later he returned with my glass of wine which didn't even give an indication of coolness to my hand, it was still to warm, but I just gave up and drank it. This restaurant is quite popular and given the waiter's startled response I guess they are serving warm red wine all the way through summer and no-one requests a chill. In Brisbane red wines tend to be drunk way to hot in the warmer months. I prefer them to be chilled below their drinking temp because they will warm in the glass quite quickly - so depending on the aircon efficiency served between 12 and 14 is good. It is rare indeed to see a bottle of red wine (unless it's a pinot) in an ice bucket, when you'd think this would be a standard practice in summer.

    Not sure what you mean about better reds for summer being Mataro and Tempranillo - maybe the Grenache if it's a lighter style (some are full bodied), but I would have thought good Mataro and Tempranillo are full bodied complex wines that need to be drunk at around 18C, although I guess lots of examples in Aus aren't quite up to specs yet.

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  3. Ah, to be clearer, Mataro and Tempranillo in my humble view are often better than say Shiraz in summer because they tend to be less fruit driven and more savoury and so they aren't quite so cloying even when full bodied, particularly if drunk on a hot day. Red wine temperature itself should never be over 18C if possible.

    It's not a strict rule by any means, but GSM in particular often makes for great summer drinking where a big fruity SA Shiraz can be a struggle.

    I think it will be a long road to get to where most restaurants serve red wine at sub-20 in summer. They need educating ;)

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