With this brilliant weather beating down on us in June and July it occurred to me that the red wine drinkers amongst you might be a tad fatigued with the traditional manner of drinking it?
Tradition tells us that the French word “Chambre” (room temperature) is the right way to drink red wine after all. If you check the reverse label on many red wines it states, “serve between16 and 18 degrees Centigrade”.
How can this be right with the local temperatures reaching 30 degrees on many occasions which in turn heats the wine to an unbearable temperature rendering it barely drinkable?
What can a red wine drinker do to enjoy their favourite tipple in this blistering heat?
Maybe chill or cool the wine? Place (or leave) in a wine bucket? Add ice cubes to the wine?
Without being “pompous or holier than thou” I might just have the right answer to this “difficult” summer problem!
But first a little history and tradition that might, just might, help to understand the phenomenon of red wine served cool!
Back to the word you might know – Chambre - a word that has its history back in the 18th century when ennobled French gentry enjoyed a vast wine cellar and staff, to serve at grand suppers and feasts.
The wine butler or Sommelier would bring the chosen wine from the very cold cellar to the dining room and over a couple of days care for the wine by (eventually) decanting into a suitable vessel. This will of course help to bring the wine up to a temperature deemed suitable for sipping. This was probably around 14 degrees C, which, when poured, would take on the atmosphere (plus temperature) of the dining room, hence Chambre.
It is also widely thought that some red grapes (wines) suit being chilled better than others. On the plus side liking a chill are Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir, that in the main are fruity wines with less tannin and more acid. Grapes (wines) that might clash are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Primitivo and Merlot, that are also fruit based but, in general, fleshier and often bound in tannin that will certainly tend to clash, often creating an imbalance in the palate.
So you see this non-scientific suggestion of wines that will suit a chill are easily found and should (in general) offer the wine sipper a chance to experiment and decide if this works for you.
Indeed, in just last week’s heat, I took a Malbec of just 12% (Vin de France) to a social gathering, that I remember previously tasting at room temperature and realised that it would be a better wine offered cool! It was a complete hit and soon disappeared in the heat of the night! French guests kindly brought some St Emilion Grand Cru 2014 and Crozes Hermitage 2015 from Lidl – perfectly good wines but they placed them by the side of the freezer’s fan outlet!
A few minutes in the fridge would have rendered them a better drink!
Spain also has a different attitude to red wine in the heat of the night as ALL the Tapas Bars I have visited (Rioja and Jerez) always serve (simple) Tinto straight from the fridge and delicious it is with the plethora of spicy Tapas they serve.
This doesn’t mean that all red wine should be subjected to this bottle shock of cooling, as better quality wines will show their mettle by being served (or decanted) at around 14 degrees C and served in the largest glass possible! The moderate amount of wine served in this style of glass will find its own drinking temperature quite quickly, without excessive heat simply wrecking its delicate quality.
So my wine slugging chums, experiment with the lighter-styles of red wines with your next summer BBQ and maybe serve them with a “cooling vibe”, creating a simple alternative sip this lovely summer.
Stephen Barrett is a Wine, Food and Travel Writer based in Plymouth. Stephen welcomes correspondence via his website www.stephenbarrett.com or www.vinelaves.com Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram @BistroWineMan