The myth of room temperature
Mon, 21 November 2016
White wine should be served chilled and red wine should be served at room temperature. Well, that’s the general rule anyway. But what if room temperature happens to be too warm to be enjoyable? Truthfully, red wine should never be served at room temperature in Australia. This rule dates back to when wine was served in European dining rooms in medieval times. Before air conditioning and central heating, those big halls usually sat at a cool 15-18 degrees naturally.
Nowadays, the room temperature refers to the temperature of a European cellar. Even with homes being warmed and cooled, the temperature of the average European cellar is still the same as back in the medieval times. That means when you choose a bottle of red to drink with dinner, you can serve it straight away. In some parts of Europe, the place where they store the wine can be even colder than this, dropping down below 10 degrees. In this case, the wine will need to be bought back up to ‘room temperature’ before being served. It is not uncommon in European households to bring their wine inside the heated area of the house to warm up before enjoying it.
In Australia, room temperature is much higher on average at 21-25 degrees. If a bottle of red is opened and served in that environment, you will get a strong alcohol taste and it could be quite acidic. If you cool the wine down first, you will unlock the aromas and the optimal taste will emerge. The strong alcohol taste in warm wines will overpower the subtler flavours that are what makes the wine special. It is especially worse in red wines as they often already have a higher level of alcohol to start with.
It doesn’t take long to cool a bottle of red down because it doesn’t need to become cold, it just needs to be cooler than room temperature. Put the bottle in the fridge for 15 to 45 minutes or so, and it will drop to a good temperature. If you usually drink your wine at Australian room temperature, you will notice a really big difference by doing this. You don’t have to get out a special wine thermometer to check that you’ve reached the exact optimal degree, you can just check the temperature sensor on Taylors Estate and Promised Land wines or taste the wine at intervals while it slowly warms up or cools down, and choose the temperature that you enjoy most.
Room temperature variations
Back in medieval times, the only thing that would make a room temperature fluctuate is the outside weather. And even then, it would take a long time for those old stone buildings to heat up. These days, we have a whole host of reasons why a room may go hot and cold. In older homes, poor insulation can account for a hot house in summer and a cold house in winter. The temperature can swing quite dramatically with the changes of the seasons, so anyone storing wine in an older home may find the wine ages faster than what it says it should do on the bottle. Sudden changes in temperature is not good for any wine, which is why bottles are normally stored somewhere constant like a cellar.
There is also an enormous difference in the levels in two-storey (or more) homes. As heat rises, the top level of a multi-storey home can be 8-10 degrees warmer than the ground level. That kind of temperature difference can make a big impact on your bottles of wine if you store them in a room upstairs. Always store wine on the ground level or below if you can.
Another thing that can make an impact on the room temperature in your home is if you have a leaky air conditioning duct. Up to 30% of airflow can be lost through ducts that have even small leaks. Sometimes, it isn’t obvious that you have a leak and as much as you try to keep your house cool it just doesn’t seem to be dropping in temperature. Meanwhile, everything inside the home is getting hotter and possibly spoiling.
High humidity levels can alter the temperature of a room. Dry air, however, can spell disaster for wine that uses a cork. Dried corks will eventually crack, which then allows oxygen to get into the wine before you’ve even opened it.
There are so many variables at play when it comes to room temperature that it would not make sense to have wine served at ‘room temperature’ in different homes or restaurants across the world.
If the temperature in your home fluctuates between extremes, it might be a good idea to invest in a good wine fridge. Choose something that controls humidity as well as temperature, and you will be able to enjoy wine at the optimal drinking temperature no matter what the weather is doing outside.
At Taylors Wines we have developed a unique, touch activated temperature sensor so you can tell when your wine is at the perfect serving temperature to enjoy. Read more about our new Optimum Drinking Temperature sensor and order your FREE sensor stickers today to take the Taylors Temperature Challenge and see the difference for yourself.