Wine is just like the human body. It was to be kept comfortable and protected from extreme temperatures. if you overheat your body, what’s going to happen? You’ll shut it down. The same is true with wine, weather red, white or a blend. Too much of hot or cold can have a deleterious effect on the lush, fragrant juice inside the bottle. Of course, I learned about this the hard way. I’ve probably ruined more good bottles of wine by failing to store it properly. Now I know better.
First, let’s look at temperature. Most white, dessert and sparkling wines should be served at between 40 degrees and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t want it so cold that it is going to sting the teeth in your mouth. It shouldn’t have small ice chips floating in it either. According to Wine Master Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, one of 26 American wine masters, you should chill white wines for about 4 hours before serving. Then take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 10 minutes before opening. (TIP: More wines are ruined by being served too warm than too cold.)
Second, red wines should be served with a slight “chill” to it. Now don’t exaggerate the meaning of “chill.” Reds are normally kept at room termperature where the room is a cellar or basement and it is cooler than the rest of a domicile. This usually translates to a slightly chilled bottle of wine and that’s fine. But what if you are entertaining during the summer, during a string of 90 degree days and that bottle of Pinot Noir has been sitting on its side downstairs in a 70-degree room. You might want to spice it up a bit. Stick in in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving. Not the freezer, mind you. You just want to lower the temp inside the bottle to around 55 to 60 degrees. Actually, 55-to-60 is the most acceptable range for serving red wines, according to leading wine experts.
I like a bit of a slight chill on my red wine, which is different from drinking it cold. Cold is good for Lambrusco, and that’s about it.
Third, protect and preserve your wine as best you can. If you don’t finish the bottle, cork it and put it in the refrigerator. This goes for both white and red wines. The cool temperature will preserve the freshness of the wine, even though it won’t last for long. The optimum for keeping a satisfying wine after it has been opened is 3-4 days. You can still drink it after that, but you won’t be enjoying its best characteristics any longer. The taste will have deteriorated and so will have its fragrance. Do not leave a bottle of wine unopened, The oxidation will kill it rapidly. And never, never, keep an unfinished and/or open bottle of wine on a kitchen counter or table overnight and for an extended period of time thereafter. If you aren’t going to cook with it, toss it. It’s likely nothing compared to the wine that was in the bottle when it was freshly opened.
My wine cellar is limited to just 40 bottles. I am not a collector; I want to drink the wines I buy and share them with family and friends, so I have set a limit that entitles me to look for value and bargains and stock up on them. Plus, this serves my budget. I only spend when I have a “vacancy.” The red wines are stored on their sides in a basement room against a cool, below ground stonewall. It is cool enough during winter to keep some whites mixed in, although the majority of whites, including several bottles of sparking wine, are kept in a refrigerator that holds 16 bottles.
Finally, here’s what I’ve learned when pairing wine with food. As a general rule, big contrasts in the temperature can be harmful to your enjoyment of both the wine and the food. For instance, it you drink a warm wine with a cold meal, you are heading for a so-so experience. Keep it together. Warm with warm and chilled with chilled lead to sensational results for the most part. Let me know if you’ve found some good pairings. Let’s share!