Sunday, September 7, 2014

Serving Temperatures for Wine

I hate it but when I think about wine and temperature, I always think cheap beer.  No beer is too terrible if you make it as cold as possible.  It will be easier to drink and have less flavor, but a great level of refreshment. 

Temperature is an ingredient as wine professionals that we can control.  By changing temperature we can coax different flavors out of a wine to create the best version of it .  If it’s a light red with a little chill the fruit becomes more enveloping the tannin shrinks and the acidity is still present, but less sharp.  If it’s a richer white a little less chill allows the primary, secondary and tertiary flavors to come out.  Nothing will be masked.  The complexities will come out in full force and the light chill will leave the drinker refreshed after each sip.

What are the ideal temperatures for wines?  How do we maintain temperature in the dining room?  What wines deserve what temperatures? How does it effect pairing?

Ideal temperatures generally speaking (in fahrenheit):

Champagne and sparkling wine should be served from 38 to 50 degrees.  The higher the quality of sparkling wine the warmer you can allow it to be.

Crisp, high acid white wines should be served from 44 to 50 degrees, where richer whites can be served from 50 to 57 degrees.

Lighter bodied reds can be served from 53 to 63 degrees.

Full bodied reds should be served from 63 to 69 degrees.

Where do you keep your wines during service? 
Are they kept in a termperature controlled environment? 
How do you monitor temperature throughout service? 
Who is maintaining the ice in the stations and how do they do it?

Some are lucky to have temperature controlled storage for all wines even those by the glass, but for most of us its refrigerators for white wines, cellar temperatures for red wines that are not by the glass and ice buckets on the floor.  Lots and lots of ice buckets.   

Its easy to shove a bottle of pinot grigio in an ice bucket and forget about it, but what do we do when it’s a beautiful bottle of white burgundy.  Or a red wine by the glass? 

My advice is very simple.  Keep monitoring your wine temperatures.  Keep your ice fresh so that you can lay some items on top of it and dig some deep into it.  Use large buckets for wines by the glass.  Make it look soignee.  What we did for red wines at Ai Fiori which I thought was brilliant was take a linen and lay it over the ice and place the red wines on that linen.  It not only prevented the labels from getting too wet, but it allowed the wine to not slip into the ice as it melted.  This meant that with close attention we could keep reds at appropriate temperatures for by the glass pours.

Ideally in the best of all possible worlds all wines by the glass will come from and return to temperature controlled environments, but due to cost this is unlikely for most restaurants.  It is important to remember that every step of the way this wine has been kept at a specific temperature (fifty degrees) to keep the wines sound during transport to the restaurant and thus the guest.  It is our job to make sure that we show the wines in the best possible way to pay tribute to the producer’s work and not to diminish its quality by serving it too hot or too cold.

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