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When white wines are too cold and red wines are too warm

on 12/09/13 at 2:17 pm


indexThe wine was tart with pucker-strength acidity. It seared my mouth and disappeared, leaving nothing but a wince. Was it faulty? Imbalanced? Poorly made?

Not at all. It was too cold.

Twenty minutes later, the wine, an Orvieto from northern Italy made by a winery named Argillae, tasted like a fruit basket of peaches, apricots, mangoes and almonds. It hadn’t opened up, as wine lovers like to say. It had warmed up.

Almost any wine drinker knows that white wines should be served cold and red wines at room temperature. But we often drink our whites too cold and our reds too warm. My straight-from-the-fridge Orvieto was, well, frigid.

That refrigerator temperature — about 40 degrees for most home models — deadens the wine’s fruit while magnifying its acid and alcohol. So if your bottle has been chilling for several days or even a few hours, plan to leave it out at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before drinking.

About those warm reds: The maxim that reds should be served at room temperature dates from an era before central heating and air conditioning. Red wines served at 70 degrees or higher can taste flabby. A slight chill — say, 30 minutes on the door of your refrigerator — can brighten the fruit and lift the aromas.