How much of a difference does it make - and why..?

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Wine serving temperature

Charles Ingleton, Yorkshire, asks: Can you settle an argument for me? I maintain that one doesn’t need to be precise about wine serving temperatures, and that the weather and the season influence how one feels – and one can judge what feels right by feeling the bottle.

A colleague of mine says (I won’t use the word ‘obsessively’, in case he reads this) that one should be precise about temperature, and that a wine thermometer is an essential tool for serving wine in peak condition, rather than a bit of clutter to get lost in the back of the drawer. What do you think?

Xavier Rousset MS replies: Temperature of service is more important than glassware, but you are right: you don’t have to be precise about it. I can’t recall the last time I used a thermometer either at home or in a professional environment. Everybody has a different tolerance to heat or cold, and the environment is also extremely important; we tend to drink our wines cooler in summer.

Also, the temperature of wine rises dramatically in the glass, so your classic 18ºC Bordeaux becomes (depending where you are) 22ºC or more in the glass very quickly. The hardest thing by far is to maintain the correct temperature throughout the time of consumption.

Touching the bottle is not always an adequate technique as the temperature of the glass will often differ from that of the liquid inside, especially if you try to accelerate the cooling/warming process – the glass of the bottle will be warm or cold long before the wine inside.

My advice for home consumption of whites and reds is to open the bottle, taste it then make a decision either to leave it out or put it back in the fridge, ideally a temperature-controlled wine fridge.

Edited for Decanter.com by Ellie Douglas.