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Busting wine temperature myths - red at room temperature is just wrong

Serving wine at the right temperature

We all know the rules when it comes to serving wine, right? White wine chilled, red wine at room temperature and no real movement in between? Well apparently that's not quite right and general manager of Taylors wines, Mitchell Taylor, spoke to 9Kitchen to set us straight about a few outdated wine myths and show us how to get the most out of your wines this season.

"The temperature you serve your wine at absolutely makes a difference to how your wine tastes," says Taylor, and this is particularly true for red wine. The team at Taylors has developed thermometer stickers and labels that let you monitor the temperature of your wines and take note when they are at the perfect pitch. But stickers or not, it's worth understanding why temperature makes such a difference.

"Flavours in wine taste different at different temperatures," says Taylor, "so bitter flavours from tannins and alcohol are more pronounced when a wine is warm, masking the natural fruit and acid flavours. On the other end of the spectrum, chill a wine too much and the acid dominates, completely masking the tannin, alcohol and fruit. A wine at the optimum temperature will be balanced and all the subtle flavours and aromas will shine."

So, if you've gone to a lot of trouble to select a wine that suits your menu/guests/theme (or even if you haven't) it makes sense that you'd want to serve it at its very best, so what exactly are we doing wrong and why do the old rules persist?

"The most common mistake is sticking to the old wine serving myths," says Taylor. "Specifically the idea that reds should be served at room temperature. This idea came from medieval times, when people lived in French chateaus and had stone lined cellars under their drawing rooms—which were very chilly. Today we have climate controlled houses that mostly keep us at a comfortable 23°C. This is not a good temperature for a pinot noir, which is best served around 12°C," advises Taylor, pointing out that 12°C is a temperature more closely aligned to the room temperatures of those chilly medieval castles.

Given that what we know about serving wine has just been thrown right out the window, are there some new guidelines to help us get it right?

"A simple thing to remember is the lighter the wine, the cooler it needs to be," suggests Taylor. "Sparkling, pinot gris and moscato are best served at around 6-8°C, so a few minutes out of the fridge before serving will do the trick," he says. "But heavier whites like chardonnay are best around 10-12°C, so taking these out of the fridge 15-30 minutes before serving will help open up the acidity and bring out the wine's complex fruit flavours."

He goes on to note that for reds, it's basically the same. Lighter reds including pinot noir are very refreshing served at around 12°C (so a little time in the fridge is ideal), but heavier reds like shiraz or cabernet can be served warmer, at around 16°C, still well below what we commonly think of as room temperature.

"A quick dash in the fridge and a simple taste test will let you know when your wine is just right," he says, pointing out that "it's all down to your personal tastes in the end."

Changing the way people think about "room temperature" has been a challenge however. "The biggest surprise I get is when I'm out at a restaurant or pub and the red wines are served too warm," laughs Taylor. "I sometimes have to ask for a chiller bucket or few ice cubes to cool it down a bit. The faces you get when you've ordered a bottle of shiraz and you ask for an ice bucket to chill it down are pretty memorable!"

Red wine should be served at a cooler temperature than you'd think

Taylor's simple wine temperature guidelines:
  • Put a red wine in the fridge 30 minutes before serving. This will chill it down to a better temperature for serving.

  • For white wines, store them in the fridge, but set them out on the counter 15 minutes before serving to give them time to shed off the chill from the fridge.

  • For rosé, getting the temperature right comes down to the style of the wine. Lighter styles like a pinot noir rosé, can be served much like a white wine would, but heavier styles—sometimes made with shiraz—will need a bit more time out of the fridge before being served.

Party time tips:
  • To get it spot on for party time, Taylor suggests sticking to the 30/15 red and white wine rule in the fridge and setting a timer on your phone. "Pop the reds in the fridge 15 minutes before guests arrive, and pull the whites out of the fridge at the same time. That way you can serve your white wines first and your reds about 15 minutes into the party."

  • He also suggests putting out a few metal wine buckets for the reds and whites during the party to maintain the temperature while they are out of the fridge. But suggests using icepacks and avoiding ice-cubes, as they melt and submerge the wine in extra cold water.

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