We’re all familiar with the advice ‘drink white wine chilled, red wine at room temperature’, but what do we mean by ‘room temperature’? I’ve noted before in this Blog that normal room temperature today (especially in winter) is likely to be rather higher than our pre-central heating ancestors would have been used to. As a result, we’re probably serving our red wines quite a bit warmer than was intended when the advice first emerged.
But a brief heatwave in Bristol recently put an entirely new slant on the term; our living room reached close to 30°C (86°F) mid-afternoon and our outside terrace remained well into the 20s for much of the evening. Not the ideal temperature for a red wine.
Ever since a trip to France’s Beaujolais region in the early 1990s, where we found restaurants always served the local wines chilled, we’ve given light-bodied reds, like Beaujolais, a half an hour in the fridge before drinking and find them more refreshing that way. But, where we store our wines is quite cool and we usually serve anything heavier than a Beaujolais straight from the wine rack. But, during our heatwave, it was time for a re-think. What else might benefit from chilling?
I picked Yves Cuilleron’s Syrah from France’s northern Rhône region (Grape and Grind, Bristol, £13.25) – not as big and chunky as many Australian Shirazes, but by no means a light-bodied red. A half an hour in an ice bucket worked beautifully, bringing out all the wine’s deep blackberry fruit and subtle spiciness without making the tannins harsh or too intrusive. A real treat sitting out on our terrace and accompanying some delicious goat chops cooked in a tomatoey sauce (the tomatoes also grown on our terrace!) with fennel.
I’m not suggesting you chill a young claret or a robust Zinfandel – leave those for cooler weather – but for a nice medium-bodied red on a hot evening, room temperature is definitely not the way to go.