Tag Archives: chilled wine

Tips on Storing and Serving Wine

storing and serving wine

How do you know if you’re doing it right?

Picture it:  You’re at a good restaurant with friends and one of them is a self-proclaimed wine snob so you hand him the wine list.  He chooses what he says will be an amazing wine.  You take a sip and you are seriously underwhelmed.  What happened?  There could be several reasons – you don’t enjoy the same wine profile (but you could swear that this was a wine you loved the last time!), the bottle is ‘corked’ (i.e. the wine has been contaminated by a fungi from the cork and it smells like wet dog!) in which case it won’t hurt you but it does indeed stink and affect the taste of the wine, or it wasn’t stored or served properly.

This can happen at home even easier than at a good restaurant but here are some easy tips to avoid it.

First, all wines, red and white, should be stored in a cool (heat is the biggest enemy for wine), dry, dark place.  That means no sunlight, on their side so the cork stays moist, away from heat and ideally at approximately 55° Fahrenheit.  Temperatures higher than 70ºF will age wine more quickly and any warmer than that and you will have ‘cooked’ your wine.  On the other hand, don’t keep wine in a place where it can come close to freezing either.

Now for the fun part – serving and drinking the wine.

Everyone has heard that red wines should be served at room temperature but what they don’t say is that ‘room temperature’ is basically the temp of a wine cellar in Europe!  So, it’s not REALLY room temp.  When red wine is served too warm it loses its nuance, it will taste flat and very often jammy.  On the other hand, whites are often served way too cold which will mask any flavor or dimension the winemaker has worked so hard for.

So here are the serving temperature tips that will help your wine taste as wonderful as the winemaker hoped.

  1. Light bodied white wines like Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling and rosé – serve them cold straight from the refrigerator. Once poured they will warm up to about 40°-50°F which is ideal.
  2. More full-bodied whites like Chardonnay, Chablis, Viognier and even light, fruity wines (think Beaujolais Nouveau) taste best between 50º-60ºF. Just take the bottle out of your refrigerator about 15-20 minutes early so that it warms up just enough before you want to serve it and you’ll be very close!
  3. If you’re like me and you love a more full-bodied red (a big Cabernet anyone?) then you want to start sipping them at about 60º-65ºF. You will notice there will be a difference in complexity.  Again, just take them out of the refrigerator about 15-20 minutes before you want to serve and you’ll be good.

Now that you know how to store and serve your wines – get creative with the bottles you pick.  Have a wine tasting party or just friends over to taste your new choices.  The more you taste the more you know.  Enjoy!

tips on storing and serving wine

Wines in the picture:

Home Entertaining Tip – How to speed-chill a bottle of white wine

Fran Berger speed-chill wine

Guests on the way? Forgot to chill the wine? Here’s an old restaurant trick that will get you chilled wine in 15 minutes FLAT.

A restaurant – an excellent restaurant – will never have a shortage of good wine chilled to the correct temperature dictated by decades of tradition and agreement among experts. The sommelier (someone educated in all things “wine” and the person in charge of the wine ‘vault’) will know that red wine should be chilled to 55°F (12°C) and white chilled to 45°F (7°C). Unofficially, the sommelier knows a bottle must be chilled to the customer’s taste. On rare occasions, a customer may say, “I’d like this bottle chilled more.” As we say in the restaurant business, the customer is always right.

But, let’s pause here.

There are several calculations we keep in the back of our minds when we open a restaurant for business. One of them is that it takes about 2 hours for a bottle of wine to reach its ideal temperature in a standard restaurant refrigerator. You can shave off about an hour in the freezer. That’s it – no way to change the laws of thermodynamics when chilling a bottle in ambient air temperature. Given that the average customer is usually done with their meal in about 1.5 hours, sticking a bottle into a refrigerator or freezer won’t work. Worse yet, bottles that have already been chilled will get cooler, but at a significantly slower rate. I’m told that also has something to do with thermodynamics.

So, what do you do?

This is such a simple trick, it’s amazing. On those rare moments when a bottle has to be chilled more – or let’s say that you have guests coming and you forgot to put that bottle in the fridge! What do you do?

Just add salt to your bucket of ice water!

You think I’m joking, right? I’m not! You probably already know that putting wine in a bucket of ice and cold water, rather than just ice, will chill the bottle faster. But did you know that adding salt to the mix further speeds up the cooling time? Salt reduces the freezing point of water and allows the water to get to a lower temperature or colder without turning into ice, which in turn chills your wine more quickly.

Next, be sure to spin the bottle!

Maybe you didn’t expect that one either, but spinning the bottle occasionally will help the water/ice/salt method work more efficiently. Place your precious Sauv Blanc into the water so that you cover most of the ‘shoulder’ (where the bottle narrows to the ‘neck’) of the bottle. Keep the bucket nearby and gently spin the bottle in the ice water mixture every couple of minutes.

Why does this work? First, the cold water/ice is far more efficient than cold air. Direct contact with the entire surface of the glass bottle helps the wine chill. Also, by turning the bottle, you move around the contents inside, allowing more wine to come into contact with the cold glass, chilling it faster. From room temp to a good “chill” – this method takes about 15 minutes to work. See? I told you this was simple.

Keep in mind that this method works best for non-sparkling wines. If you try this method with a bottle of Champagne, don’t spin the bottle (you can GENTLY turn it) or you and your guests will be in for a little shock when you pop open the bottle!

Enjoy!