By Laura Ness
Red wine on ice?? Yes, when the summer sun reaches it’s peak. Read on…
Call it climate change, global warming or Mother Nature’s hot flashes, there’s no denying we’ve got some changes going on in our precocious atmosphere. The fact is that things are heating up and we’d best get used to more hot weather. Given that, it’s time to observe some simple serving etiquette at wine events. The basic premise here is that wine is a living organism, and should be treated with respect. It would prefer to be cool vs. warm, if given the choice. So make that choice on behalf of the wine, and keep it cool.
Here are some simple rules for serving wine at events:
1. Do not leave wine sitting in the sun, ever — even if it is not particularly hot outside, glass absorbs heat and wine needs neither a suntan nor vitamin D. When wine gets too warm, it expands and starts pushing the cork out. You end up with a sticky, runny mess.
2. Avoid opening wine hours ahead of time unless it is really young and tight and needs a lot of air. Use one of those fancy decanters that mimics two hours worth of air instead. This is usually necessary only for youthful Bordeaux varietals, which tend to be angry teenagers that lock themselves in their rooms for several years before they run out of underwear and need a refill on their potato chips and Coke.
3. The adage of serving wine “at room temperature” applies only to those of you fortunate enough to live in a castle, where your cellar (and one must assume it’s a massive cellar on the order of a Bordeaux cave or perhaps even a dungeon) is sufficiently Claudius Maximus that it remains at an even 48 degrees all year long. Since you probably didn’t pull your red wine out of such a sublime environment, please, when the outside temp gets above 78, put all the wine on ice. Even red. Yes, even, and one could say, especially red. Warm red wine tastes as bad as warm ice cream. So, if it’s going to be a warm day, bring your cooler, ice blocks and ice bucket. People will thank you for it. (Yes, wine labels might get icky. People don’t care. They want what’s inside to taste good — it’s not a beauty contest, and nobody is going to ask to lick the label, trust me.)
4. Pinot Noir tastes better a bit cool. Try putting it in the chiller for an hour before opening. The bright fruit comes out, and the alcohol is tamed.
5. Remember, the higher the alcohol, the cooler you should serve it. Nothing worse than a big snort of a hot wine that’s served too warm — it singes the nosehairs and gives you instant throatburn. That’s why shots of vodka taste better right out of the freezer.
6. For table displays, use empty bottles, rather than full ones.
7. In hot weather, you’re better off serving wine in plastic cups – without lips – and make sure you keep them out of the sun. I would keep my cups in the cooler as well, just to keep things even. If you absolutely must use glassware, keep the glasses out of the sun. If you can store them indoors, that’s the best option. After 20 minutes in the heat – and not even in the direct sun – glassware will render chilled wine moot. So, plastic rules!
8. And, when in doubt, chill it out. This applies to wine, the glasses, and one’s overall demeanor at pouring events. To ensure you keep your own cool, put your hands in the ice bucket often.
I certainly wish more people had been following these rules at Barberafest, which took place on the hottest day in decades, in Plymouth, outdoors, in a vineyard, earlier this month on June 8. Mother of Goodness – and she was nowhere to be found – it was hotter than hades and still people put cases of wine out on the tables in the 115-degree heat. That’s criminal. You can certainly cook with wine – you’ve seen the saying, “and occasionally, I put it in the food!” However, you should never cook wine while it’s in the bottle. Period.