Drinking Temperature is very Important
As some of you may know, I recently became Chef Grandpa a few months ago (and loving it btw). My son and daughter in law went for dinner recently to have a night out. My son texted me during dinner asking me what temperature should Prosecco be served at? My response was around 40 F. We then had a long discussion about temperatures after since he said he was not happy with the wine.
In previous articles, I’ve discussed temperature and how important it is for service. As a Sommelier, it’s hard to serve a bottle at the right temperature unless appropriate steps are taken. More importantly, most guests never realize how important temperature is. I’ve seen countless times where wines are being served at the wrong temperatures. I passionately believe that this fact alone causes a massive reduction in the sale of wine. The wine does not taste bad…it just does not taste optimum.
For today’s writing, I decided to sacrifice my tastebuds for you and try a wine at three different temperatures.
I decided to try this with a sparkling wine. I used the Codorniu Clasico Cava since I had one mini bottle left. This was in one of my wine fridges at 48 F at 8:50 am. The goal was to chill the bottle down and then try 3 samples at different temperatures to see what the differences were (if any). Since I knew the bottle was not as cold as it could be, I chilled it down. I placed it in ice water for 1 hour completely submerged to chill it. This is similar to what you could hope for in a restaurant setting. Yes, I could have placed it in the freezer for a bit. However, I wanted to recreate what most guests go through as they dine out.
The most valuable tool for this was my wine bottle thermometer. I picked this up years ago and I always travel with it. Now, you can say that I’m a snob when it comes to temperature. AWESOME BECAUSE I AM!!!! I’m tired of going out to a restaurant or wine bar and reviewing the list. I will see a gem of a bottle from a great producer and that gets me super excited. The bottle is presented for me to check which takes me to another level of happiness. The waitstaff open the bottle and pour me a sample (and yes, I’ve checked the glass already before pouring). I pick up the glass with a big grin on my face and bring the wine to check the aroma. GREAT!!! Then I taste it and:
The wine tastes bad because the temperature is off!!!
You can tell due to the acidity. Sometimes, it feels like vinegar on your palate. It’s not that the wine is bad. It’s at the wrong temperature. I won’t reject it 95% of the time. However, I will ask for an ice bucket with lots of ice water. If they do not have one (which you should – just saying), then I ask for a glass of ice cubes. Yep, I know you can see where this is going. I will pop 1-2 cubes (depending on their size) in the glass to chill it down.
Questions that I Always Get
Here come the questions that I always get when I do this (along with stares from everyone in the room watching).
- “Excuse me Chef. Are you not diluting the wine by adding Ice?”
- A minor amount but I’d rather have the wine taste better a touch thinned out then be astringent, bitter, or wimpy in the glass.
- “Um…Chef. Isn’t that improper etiquette placing ice in your glass?”
- Maybe but so is serving the wine at the improper temperature 😊.
Ok, I will get off my box now. Here’s what I found out about serving temperatures for the Cava.
First Pouring (at 10:05 am)
I let the Cava chill for an hour in the ice water. When I pulled it out, the bottle temperature was 40.1F. I instantly poured this into my Reidel sparkling wine glass and the glass temperature red 46.1 F. Now, was that temperature change due to the glass being warm (room temperature) or the probe reads the glass slightly different? I do not know for sure. However, pouring anything into a room temperature glass (temperature is 74F) will cause the liquid temperature to rise.
In any case, the Cava was crisp, clean, and refreshing. It had great cleansing acidity that rinsed the palate clean each time. I loved the flavors of apple, pear, citrus, bread yeast, and biscuit flavors that were delicate. The aromas were a bit muted, but the yeast / biscuit tones were evident with a hint of the citrus underneath. The bubbles were small, tight, and popped aggressively on the palate.
Overall, the Cava showed great notes and was highly refreshing and balanced on the palate. I gladly finished this sample. I made sure the glass was empty. If I left wine behind, the temperature for the next pour may be altered.
Second Pouring (at 10:23 am)
The Cava bottle sat out of the ice water at room temperature. This caused the bottle temperature to rise to 46.7 F in less that 20 minutes. I instantly poured this in the glass and its temperature was 50.1 F. Now we are looking at a 4-degree temperature swing warmer.
The aromas were still evident, but it had a more pronounced yeast tone to it. Still not unpleasant but noticeably different. As for the flavors, they still were evident but there was more citrus rind. What changed the most was the mouthfeel. Instead of being crisp and clean, it started to coat the palate like having butter on your tongue. This led to a buttery, creamy mouthfeel that was different than before. The bubbles were still there but popped quicker and seemed a bit larger.
Overall, it was still drinkable, and some may like it at this temperature range as it produced more texture with the same flavor profile. I still enjoyed it but did notice the overall change.
Third Pouring (at 10:29 am)
Since the bottle was out of the ice water, it rapidly increased in temperature. I checked multiple times, but the bottle temperature was 52.4 F. The Cava poured into the glass was now reading 56.1 F. Now, in a short time, the wine increased in temperature an additional 4 F.
The aromas at this level were masked by a vinegar tone. While you could still smell the citrus and yeast, the Cava now just smelt off. I knew it was not bad but just had changed. The flavors were very muted and covered with notes of cider vinegar.
The mouthfeel was completely changed. It was thicker and cloying and not refreshing at all. It felt like your entire palate was coated and the acidity covered everything. It felt flabby for a lack of better term. The bubbles broke instantly on the palate with no refreshing ‘pop’ to them.
Overall, the Cava was not enjoyable. It’s rich aromas and flavors were gone and left with a clingy acid that I found not palatable.
I hope the above gives some insight into how important temperature is, especially with sparkling wines. While I preferred the coldest pour, the middle temp was acceptable as well and in line with sources. My suggestion would be to serve it as cold as possible and let it warm in the glass. For years, I’ve taught these important aspects for serving:
- Keep the bottle slightly below service temperature since when the wine is poured in the glass, it will warm up slightly.
- Keep the bottle in ice water and serve small pours that will not warm up and can be consumed quickly to keep the serving temperature close to optimum.
- Try to drink all of the pour before adding more wine to your glass to keep the wine at optimum serving temperature when poured.
Let’s work to serve wine at the proper temperature. Someone worked hard to make it and wants you to enjoy it.