Vol. 1, No. 23, June 21, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
The small chill: Defining "room temperature"
Experience shows us that most red wines seem dank and flavorless if they're served ice cold, opening up at warmer temperatures to display their aromas and flavors. Whites, in contrast, seem crisp and refreshing when they're served with a chill; many of them seem bland and almost cloying if they get too warm. (Very fine whites shouldn't be served too cold, but that's a story for another day.)
But what's "room temperature"? Speaking as a resident of the Southern U.S., summer room temperature in my house can easily reach into the lower '80s F (27C) even when the air-conditioner is running; but I remember a trip to Scotland one fine autumn when my host's rooms must have hovered around a brisk 18C (65F).
When summer brings its sultry heat, I submit that there's no harm in placing your red wine in the refrigerator for a short stay before dinner. Don't leave it too long -- 20 to 40 minutes on the refrigerator shelf is about right for most reds, up to possibly an hour for light and fruity styles like Beaujolais. An hour in a typical home refrigerator should bring your wine down to the natural temperature of an underground cellar (54F or 12C), which may be just a little too cold for most reds; but don't worry if you miss the mark. It doesn't take long for it to come back up again, and the wine won't be damaged.
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Three reds to serve cool
Very dark garnet, almost blackish-purple. Ripe red-fruit scent with fragrant black pepper, perfumed floral notes and a sweet hint of leather; simpler on the palate than the nose, red fruit built on lemon-squirt acidity, fresh, juicy and tart. Like a Beaujolais, this one adds refreshment with a good chill. Don't serve it ice cold, but up to an hour in the refrigerator before dinner does it no harm on a hot summer day. (June 20, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: Just right with a rare T-bone served sizzling from the grill.
Antinori 1996 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico ($14.49)
FOOD MATCH: Perfect with a Ligurian classic, linguine with pesto over green beans and new potatoes.
Mas Igneus 1997 Barranc dels Closos Priorat ($11.99)
FOOD MATCH: Lamb chops. Rare red meat definitely helps bring the wine into perspective.
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