One factor that often gets forgotten in wine pairing is the temperature you are serving the wine at. Red wines are supposed to be served a room temperature and whites at fridge temp, right? Not exactly.
How many of you keep the rooms in your house between 60-65 degrees? Not many I would guess, and typically the fridge is a little too chilly for whites. My rule of thumb when it comes to wines is to pop the red and/or pull the white out of the fridge when you start cooking. This way all of your wines will be just right when it comes to temperature.
Most of us have thrown out the old adage of white with fish and red with meat, so why not follow suit with wine temperature? The warmer a wine is the more you will be able to smell in the wine and vice versa. So if you have a really fragrant white wine that you serve ice cold, yo will be losing out on a lot of the aromatic characteristics of the wine. Same thing works in reverse – a red you don’t particularly like the nose on? Pop it in the fridge and the offending characteristics will fade away.
When do you play with serving temperature? Well when it seems right (easy answer, isn’t it). If it’s really hot outside, serve your red with a little chill. If you are having Fettucini Carbonara on the coldest night of the year, serve your white a little warmer.
But don’t limit yourself to just the outdoor temperature – think about the meal too. Last night we had a grilled New York with Mediterranean greens (not my best creation, so you won’t find a recipe for this one), and we had a Barbera with a slight chill on it. Now my husband would probably tell you that the chill was because he pulled the bottle from underneath our house right before dinner – but it was actually intentional. The fresh flavors of the greens needed all of the flavors of a big red wine, but muted a bit.
When you are thinking of playing with the temperature here are a few guidelines. Lighter reds typically take the chill better than heavier ones, so don’t go throwing your Petite Sirahs and 90’s Napa Cabs in the fridge for an hour or two. Think Pinot Noir, Gamay, Barbera and even Loire Valley Cabernet Francs – they all play well in the cold. If you want to warm up a white remember acid is key. A really acidic white will end up tasting tart and weirdly tannic if served too warm, whereas a really low acid wine will taste fat and flabby. Viognier is a good candidate, as are French Burgundies. Keep the sweeter wines and the sparkling wines in the fridge and serve those babies ice cold!