So how do you serve your wines? Straight out of the fridge for whites? Straight from the rack for reds?
Getting wines to a temperature for you to really appreciate them to their full potential is both blindingly straightforward and also fraught with difficulties. So why do different wines show better at different temperatures? What temperature should you serve your wines at and how the heck do you get them just right?
The first and easiest rule is that rules are there to be broken. If you love your Chardonnay close to freezing point (which will reduce its intensity) or a big red Rhone at mulling heat (which will release all its flavours intensely) then that's just fine.... enjoy your wine! Wines change remarkably with the temperature they are served at. They contain thousands of compounds waiting to either titillate or fight with your senses. Some wines need submission and others love to be liberated. I suggest you experiment and try a wine at two temperatures only 5° apart and pay attention to the differences.
For those of you who are never quite sure whether to go for the radiator or freezer, here's the bluffers guide:
The bigger, chunkier or just brutally tannic the red, the more warmth and comfort it needs but try not to go beyond a generous room temperature.
For the fresher, lighter and delicate reds don't go throwing them on the coals to warm; these sensitive types need a more temperate than tropical climate. Try cellar temperature for a mid weight Burgundy or even chill an Alsatian Pinot Noir slightly on a warm summer's day. Basically the bigger bodied wines need more heat, but don't overdo it.
The whites are equally straightforward. A big rich southern Burgundian white benefits from a little less chill than a bone dry, fresh and steely Sancerre from the Loire. Again, easy; big rich whites love being cool but not cold, while their lighter, dryer, crisper and frankly more stern-faced cousins need a bit of a chill. But remember not to overdo it; a wine near to freezing point won't be giving you as many of those aromas to enjoy.
Not all of us have all day to wait for our wines to gently get from cellar/garage temperature to slurping temperature. Don't be shocked, but to warm those wines how about a little warm water in a bowl with the wine bottle and wait one to two minutes. Or the really adventurous might try 20 seconds in the microwave! Not ideal, but it works! And for chilling? Well, nothing beats the old ice bucket, ice and water.
Drinking wines in a restaurant also has it own hazards. I have more than once had to ask for an ice bucket to cool down red wines that have been stored in the hot kitchens and don't be afraid to take a frozen white out of its glacial ice bucket to bring the temperature up a little.
Finally, remember the first rule: drink wine the way you enjoy it, warm or cool, or in whatever way tickles your fancy (and your senses).