When I select wines for buying, I often taste blind, where possible, and always at room temperature – especially the whites. This allows the aromas present in the wine to come to the fore (often pre swirl) and an accurate assessment of their true quality to be made, as well as any obvious, or less obvious, examples of physicochemical spoilage such as; oxidation, chemical or enzymatic reduction, microbial spoilage or precipitation by crystallisation or polymerisation.
I taste alone most of the time, finding this suits my rather misanthropic temperament, and as most of my selections are based on personal opinion it helps eliminate distractions making it easier to concentrate on the wine in the glass.
At the end of the week we taste as a team, this is a great way to round out the week, engender that Friday feeling and swap opinions and perceptions. On a monthly basis I meet with a control group, of like and unlike minded palates, to broaden out and level the tasting field and receive some invaluable market research into the bargain.
This has been the norm for the past three years, we taste all the wines as a double blind, and agree to disagree on a regular basis. One thing we always agree on however, is the correct or optimum temperature at which the tasting samples should be served. Sommeliers and Restaurateurs are aware of this, as a matter of course, but how many members of the wine buying public are so well informed.
I’ll walk you through it, excuse the dryness wine nerds, but it will help enormously:
Dry, white, wines should be served between 8 and 14°C, this spectrum covers most eventualities such as time of year, season and temperature of surroundings. The lower end of the scale is better for simple, primary-fruited wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, while the higher end is for more robust, complex, secondary-fruited wines such as White Burgundies.
Champagnes should be drunk at around 8 or 9°C, cold but not too cold, vintage wines can take 10°C.
Rose´s and Clairetes between 8 and 12°C, higher end for serious cru classe rose’ with the lower price bracket benefiting from pre chilled glasses prior to pouring and, in extemis, even accepting an ice cube or two on a hot summer’s day.
Sweet, white, wines should be served between 6 and 10°C depending on age, the older the wine the higher the temp. Sweet reds at between 10 and 15°C – tannins depending.
Fruity, juicy, thirst-quenching reds with simple aromatics, such as Beaujolais can be served around 11 to 14°C, with the lower end reserved for vin de primeur (Beaujolais Nouveau) and the higher end for the Crus. You can even go cooler for Nouveau and room temp for Moulin a Vent.
Rhone wines range from as low as 13°C for basic CDR Villages rising to around 18 or even 19°C for the serious kit such as Northern Rhone Syrah and Southern Rhone Grenache. A good rule of thumb here is that the bigger the structure of the wine (tannins and extract) and the more complex the vinification and maturation methods, the higher the serving temperature – so you can go up to around 19 or 20°C for red Bordeaux.
Red Burgundies should be served between 14 and 17°C dependant on the style and weight of the wines.
What about Italian, Spanish and Portuguese reds? I hear you cry. Well you should have learned a thing or two by now, the higher the tannin the higher the serving temperature should be.
And finally. If you are serving cheap, white wines, to people who get through a lot of volume but don’t care about the taste, then chill the bejaysus out of it so as to mask any neutrality, lack of structure and faults therein.