Worlds of Wine: Keep your cool with wine this summer

Twice in one day, last week, I was reminded of the importance of the temperature of wine, an issue that becomes especially important as the weather warms.

The first of these reminders came during a tasting of rieslings that I was leading. We tasted two, then three, all served a little too cold at first, but each developing to the point where the flavours shone through, yet staying cool enough for the acidity to pop (as you like in riesling).

After we had tasted the third riesling, I suggested going back to the first, which most of us had a little of in our glasses. By then it had warmed up and the freshness had disappeared. The wine was insipid and flat. And all that had changed (in a matter of 10 or 15 minutes) was the temperature of the wine. It was an excellent example of the effect of temperature on flavour and texture.

Later that day, I was one of a foursome that went to dinner at one of Ottawa’s better-known (and more expensive) restaurants. We ordered a bottle of pinot noir (Hidden Bench Pinot Noir 2008) first, and it came far too warm. It lacked the acid edginess of pinot, and the texture was soupy and dull. After 20 minutes in an ice bucket, it was ready for drinking, but by then we had all finished our appetizers.

Knowing we were all having steak, I ordered a Bordeaux blend (Château des Charmes Equuleus 2007), and ordered it early, in case it, too, was warm. It was, and we were able to get it into an ice bucket that transformed it from a flat, dull red into a vibrant blend with serious fruit and fresh acidity.

You can become obsessive about temperature if you read books or websites that tell you this variety should be served at 13 C and that variety at 15 C. Even if you can get a wine to just that temperature, it starts to change as soon as you pour it, and you’ll spend more time fussing with the wine than enjoying it. Instead, here are some simple guidelines.

White wine straight from the fridge is too cold. Leave it out 15-20 minutes to warm up a little. Red wine at the temperature of most of our rooms is too warm. Stick it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes or an ice bucket (ice and water) for 10. It’s better to serve wine too cold than too warm; it will warm up in the glass. If you’re drinking in very warm conditions (such as outside in summer) pour small amounts (not full glasses), so that you’re not left drinking warm wine, and put the bottle in an ice bucket between pours.

Honestly, you’ll enjoy wine a lot more if you cool it down.

Angels Gate Pinot Gris 2011

This is a very attractive Niagara pinot gris, with quite rich and persistent flavours. The acidity provides a clean and refreshing texture, and it’s great with roast pork, chicken and turkey, but also extends to spicier dishes in an Asian style. 13.5-per-cent alcohol. $14.95 (331495).

Domaine Laroche ‘Saint Martin’ Chablis 2011

From one of the most prestigious producers of Chablis, this shows lovely flavours that are focused and subtly layered, and a refined, fresh texture. It’s an excellent choice for shellfish, seafood, white fish and poultry. 12.5-per-cent alcohol; $21.95 (289124).

Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2009

From the Carneros region of California, this is quite an elegant pinot that shows solid and well-defined flavours from start to finish. It has the fresh acidity you look for in the variety, and goes well with poultry and pork. 13.5-per-cent alcohol; $24.95 (304105).

Ruffino ‘Riserva Ducale’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

This stylish chianti from the original Chianti zone delivers ripe fruit flavours with breadth, depth, and definition, and fresh acidity. With ripe tannins and a juicy texture, it’s a great choice for steak Florentine, osso bucco, and braised lamb. 13.5-per-cent alcohol; $24.95 (45195).

Email Rod Phillips at rod@rodphillipsonwine.com. Join him online Thursdays, 2 to 3 p.m. at ottawacitizen.com/winechat, and follow him on Twitter at @rodphillipswine

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