From the Cellar/Kiki Obadal – Chill out!

From the Cellar/Kiki Obadal – Chill out!

One of the things about which wine professionals debate is the right temperature at which to serve wine.  

What they do agree upon is that overly chilled wine has no depth, complexity, or character.  Wine that is at room temperature tastes highly alcoholic, and this overwhelms its more complex aromas.  Most of us consume our red wines at too high a temperature, and our white wines too cold.   

However, a good bottle deserves good treatment, at the very least so that you get your moneys worth from it.  

Decorative wine racks are pretty to look at, but unless the room is unbearably cold, they are not good long-term storage solutions.  Wine can spoil very quickly at room temperature.  The refrigerator is a better solution, but it leaves wine too cold for drinking.  I hesitate to admit that I have even microwaved glasses of red wine for seven seconds after taking them out of the fridge.  This is on the written advice of a very knowledgeable wine writer, Hugh Johnson.   

In a pinch, this will do, but it is no way to treat a very good bottle. 

Most cellars and storage units (also called Euro-caves) are between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit; this is fine for reds, but of course the whites still need to be chilled prior to consumption.  In spite of hairsplitting arguments over precise degrees, it is clear that there is an acceptable range of degrees of temperature at which wine is best for consumption.   In order to settle this debate in my mind I compulsively went on an errand to the pharmacy to purchase a thermometer.  

Just as I thoughtmy refrigerator is too cold a place to store wine.  It is somewhere between 35 and 40 degrees in there.   Have you ever tasted red wine right from the fridge? The results are yucky.  The white one at 35-40 degrees tastes highly acidic, and the red is tannic, flat, and awful.  Wine at room temperature (68-72 degrees) is just as bad.  In the summer, though, our rooms can soar to 75 degreesalso very bad for wine.  What I have to say about the white wine at room temperature is unprintable, and the red one is hot with its alcohol, and lacks fruit.

As a final test I am trying the red at somewhere around 60 degrees; and the white at between 45-50 degrees.    Thats the ticket: these temperatures do the wines proper justice.  Remember, nothing is worse for wine than sudden changes in temperature, and all but the very oldest need time to breathe, whether in the bottle or in a decanter.  If you really want to get the most out of wine, there are Euro-caves or wine storage units.  In the next column I will discuss these options.   Until then, there is always gin and tonic.

Kiki Obadal writes from Old Town, and is online at