Catching a chill

Whether it's served at room temperature or chilled, with or without ice, everyone has a different preference for their wine


A topic that gets discussed in any warm climate, particularly in summer months is whether to chill red wine, or at what temperature do we prefer to drink it?

Personal preferences override most other considerations, and actor Michael Caine’s demand in restaurants for the red wine to be chilled and the white served at room temperature always provokes the obvious reaction, “Surely, Sir, you mean the other way around?”

“No. I mean exactly what I say,” would answer the non-conformist thespian. Oh, that life were so simple.

We regularly see people adding ice to white wine or even to their red wine - or complaining that the white wine is too cold. You cannot please all the people all the time.

Received wisdom is that whites, rosés and sparkling wines should be served chilled, and reds at cellar temperature.

‘Room temperature’ used to be the rule at a time when houses had no central-heating, and the fireplace was a dining room’s only creature comfort. ‘Cellar temperature’ makes more sense, even though few of us have cellars these days.

Cooling a red too much will deaden the flavour-producing esters that are responsible for taste and smell - the main characteristics of any wine.

How much to chill also depends on the grape. We drink Beaujolais cold because Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc, and Syrah simply taste fruitier that way. But heavier reds with pronounced tannins can be spoilt.

Put more simply, an overchilled red wine can warm up in the glass, but for an over-warm red there is little salvation once it’s been poured.