A generation ago, the hard and fast rules were: red wine with red meat, white with poultry, rosé was snubbed as not worthy and sweet wine with (in some countries) or after the dessert.
Red wine was to be room temperature, white and rosé wine (if you dared drink it anyway) , cold (8° C. to 10° C.). The non-European held to those rules hoping to be ever so knowing and correct. There is safety in rules and wine rules are based on achieving the ultimate flavour from so noble and ancient a nectar such as wine.
Today, the rules about which wine with what are more flexible. Some rosés are perfect with fish or pork and some reds are quite harmonious with chicken.
Originally the rules were meant as a general guideline and have for far too long been taken literally. Do what the Spanish, Italians and French have always done – drink what your palate desires!
The reality of today is, the younger generation has changed the tried and true rules of the older. Horror of horrors, even ice is dropped into the red wine, rosé has been lifted to a respectable position of honour and one drinks what one really wants to with confidence with or without meals.
It is not only the Americans who cling to their ice in everything drinkable habit – but what would a Sangria be without it? Even the (young) French are known to drop ice into their wine in the heat of summer.
One could argue that the Americans and the youth – not known to be subtle – in general are rebellious anyway…but I never mix politics with my wine.
Because wine in most European countries is viewed not as a sign of sophistication and trend but simply a part of life, it is not taken so terribly serious as I have found outside of Europe.
Yes, in summer, some countries and some individuals like a cube or two in the red wine – but the important by-line to this is: never with an aged wine.
Young wines can be played with and used for interesting summer coolers such as Sangria. With good quality wines (and price is not always the deciding factor with this issue) it would be disrespectful and naive.
The term “room temperature” is a not a good guide if you live in a hot climate. A young red wine should be between 12° C. to 16°C., the average red wine between 14°C. and 17°C. and a very good or vintage, between 16° to 18°C.
The tastebuds cannot detect the subtle flavours or true characteristics of good red wine that has been iced. However, a white wine that has not been properly chilled will be disappointing if you have ever enjoyed it at the temperature it needs. Here, it is the chill of being cooled to just the right temperature range that enhances a white wine’s potential.
In general, a white wine needs 8°C to 10° for a young wine and 9°C. to 12° C. for an older one. Sweeter white wines 6°C. to 8°C., a lighter muscatel 5°C. and sparkling wines 6°C. to 8°C. Champagne 8°C. to 11° and not ice cold. (Chilled – not shocked as I was once told!) Proper temperature will bring out the best in a wine.
A sweet white wine unchilled will taste too sweet and unpleasant masking the other fine characteristics.
Rosé is made in the same way as red, however, the skins of the grape are removed early to prevent the wine from darkening further.
Being neither red nor white, its temperature preference lies also somewhere in between, a little cooler than a young red and a little warmer than a young white, about 10°C. to 11°C. is ideal for most.
To wine or not to wine…? A toast to that enigma!
“Wine can be considered with good reason as the most healthful and the most hygienic of all beverages.” – Louis Pasteur
Article first appeared in The Epicurean Table.