Harvey Norman Presents: the Perfect Temperature to Serve Wine
As you start getting into the nuances of wine, questions arise as to the ideal temperature to serve it, how to cellar it, what happens when a wine ages and which wines can age.
One of the most common questions we get here at Selector is about what temperature wine should be served at. The age old answer is room temperature, but that must be taken in context. The room temperature in this instance refers to the degrees Celsius of a drawing room in a French castle in the region of Burgundy. Historically, that is around 18ºC, which is a far cry from the room temperature many of us may experience in Australia, in the middle of summer.
Another important point to note is the best temperature to serve red wine is different to that of serving white wine and different again for Sparkling wine. The infographic on the right indicates the general ideal serving temperatures for a range of our favourite varietals.
As you can see, Champagne and Sauvignon Blanc are best served at 6-8ºC, while Chardonnay and most other whites should be enjoyed at around 10-12ºC. Red wines enjoy being served a little warmer due to the fact they have more tannins, are generally bigger in fruit structure and are more complex. Delicate reds such as Pinot Noir suit a range around 14ºC, while full-bodied reds like Shiraz and Cabernet are best served at around 17-18ºC.
The art of serving
Of course, all of this creates a bit of a problem when you go to serve your wines from the fridge, pantry or wherever you store them. For instance, if you grab a bottle of Chardonnay from a fridge, which is commonly chilled to around 4ºC, and serve it straight away, it will not show up any of the delicious stonefruit flavours and characters the winemaker intended you to enjoy. Why? Because it is too cold. Chill a wine too far and the flavours are suppressed, the tannins become harsher and the acids too sharp.
Likewise, if you serve a wine at ‘room temperature’ in December in Brisbane it is more than likely going to be too hot. The result is the alcohol in the wine dominates, overwhelming the subtle fruit flavours and characters.
So how important is temperature to enjoying wine? It is paramount. In fact, experts say the ideal serving temperature is more significant than the shape of your glass or letting a wine breathe.
The ideal solution
To become the ultimate wine host, you could go down two paths. Carry a thermometer in your pocket and use a complex mathematical equation to calculate the time you should let your Chardonnay sit on the bench in your kitchen after you’ve taken it from the fridge before serving. Or, purchase a wine cabinet.
There is an amazing range of wine cabinets on the market. From simple single zone freestanding units that can hold up to 35 bottles, through to multi-temperature cabinets that have a capacity for 198 bottles, there is a wine cabinet to suit your needs.
Dual-zone cabinets are ideal if you want to cellar and serve your wine at the ideal temperatures. For instance, Vintec’s smart dual-zone cabinet is perfect for serving both reds and whites. One side can be set at 6-8ºC for Sauvignon Blanc and Sparkling or 10-12ºC for Chardonnay, while the other side can be set at 12-14ºC for reds. So you know that you can serve your wine at the ideal temperature for any occasion at any time of the day or night.
As well as keeping your wine in the ideal conditions for serving, wine cabinets are also the most proficient way to cellar and age your precious vinous investments. Many wines are made to be enjoyed now, but some are meant to be aged: best enjoyed after a few years of careful cellaring. Cabernet Sauvignon is one such wine.
With bold tannins and a large fruit profile, Cabernet is a wine that is naturally driven to age. In fact, the reason why you see young Cabernet Merlot on your bottleshop shelf is to make the Cabernet a ‘drink now’ proposition as Merlot ‘fills the hole’ in the mid palate of Cabernet that usually develops after time cellaring.
What wines age?
So how does one determine whether a wine can age? Generally, most red wines, provided they are in balance, will be better with some age. The key when ageing reds is to look for tannin structure. Tannins are compounds that are found primarily in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. And as red wine is made using contact with grape skins along with being crushed with the seeds and stems, it is more tannic. The thicker the skin, the more tannic a wine usually is and the more it can be aged.
Lighter bodied wines such as Pinot Noir and Grenache only need about five years careful cellaring. Medium-bodied reds such as Merlot, Malbec, and Tempranillo benefit from 5-10 years cellaring, while bigger wines such as Shiraz, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon can be cellared for 20+ years before nearing their best.
As a general rule, most white wines should be enjoyed now, but there are some that can age. The key is acidity. White wines with a strong acid profile such as Semillon and Riesling can be cellared for 5-12 years, and it is a well known fact that Hunter Semillon, often described as Australia’s gift to the wine world, shines at 10+ years of age.
The one white that perhaps sits alone in the ageing stakes is Chardonnay, as it has an ability to benefit from time stored in oak, which imparts tannins into the wine. If this is the case, Chardonnay can be aged to perfection for 5-10 years.
Better with age
Most wines, whether young or aged, are enjoyable. So why cellar a wine? The first reason is for enjoyment. A perfectly aged wine develops complexity and beguiling secondary characters to create an almost ethereal flavour and textural sensation. Primary fruit aromas merge into a more complex ‘bouquet’ as secondary (bottle age) characters mingle with the remaining primary (fruit) characters. At the same time, powerful fruity flavours change into and mix with subtler savoury ones, while acidity and tannin levels soften as all the wine’s elements integrate seamlessly in a wondrous vinous offering.
The second reason is value. A perfectly aged wine can increase in value, much like a well considered stock can.
Of course, the best way to ensure you cellar your wine perfectly is in a wine cabinet, where the four key elements of temperature, light, humidity and vibration are perfectly controlled.
Harvey Norman are the trusted experts in wine storage. They have a huge range of wine cabinets and friendly educated staff to help find the best model to suit your needs. For more details visit hn.com.au/brands/vintec