Chill, man ... but how much?
Observe the "wine ritual" in a fine restaurant, and if white wine or bubbly is being served, chances are you'll see a fancy ice bucket being called into play. This tall, cylindrical vessel, fashioned of glass, pottery or even shiny silver, is large enough to immerse an upright bottle - or several - in close contact with water and ice. If you need to chill your wine, this near-32F (0C) solution will make it ice cold in a hurry.
Most people agree that whites seem more refreshing if they'd served cold. But near-freezing temperatures essentially stun the taste buds, and I find it difficult to pick up much nuance or subtlety in the taste of wine or anything else served with an icy chill. If the wine is good, I suggest trying it with a light chill, not a deep freeze. I think you'll find that you get a lot more out of its aroma and its flavor if you try it at approximately "cellar temperature," around 55F or 13C.
Precision is not important - you needn't carry around a pocket thermometer to discern whether your wine, like Baby Bear's porridge, is just right. But try this simple experiment, the next time you're enjoying a quality white: Serve it directly from the cellar, if you have one, or if you're keeping your wine in the fridge; take it out a half-hour or 45 minutes before it's ready to serve. Taste it over a period of time as it warms in the glass, and see what you think. And if you're dining out, I suggest that you take the bottle out of the ice bucket and put it on the table, perhaps keeping the bucket handy so you can stick it back in if you decide it's getting too warm.
Today's wine, a favorite Southern Italian white variety from Feudi San Gregorio, a producer I particularly like, is a sterling example: Straight out of the fridge, it came across as a decent, straightforward white, with good fruit and high acidity to make it a good food companion. But as it warmed in the glass, it seemed to blossom like a rose, taking on a rich, creamy texture and complex layers of aroma and flavor that were much more difficult to discern when the wine was cold.
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Feudi San Gregorio 2002 Greco di Tufo ($12.99)
This is a clear, light-gold wine with brighter glints of gold against the light. Honey and almonds, the attractive "oxidative" scent that often attends Southern Italian whites, are displayed against a blackdrop of subtle wildflowers and clean white fruit. Full-bodied, almost creamy in texture, the wine fairly coats the tongue with luscious white fruit, flavors reminiscent of clover honey but bone-dry, with steely acidity to provide structure and balance. A very fine wine that shows its ripe texture best when it's not served overly cold. U.S. importer: Palm Bay Imports, Boca Raton, Fla. (April 23, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: A natural partner with a veal dish from the other end of Italy, ossobuco bianco scented with garlic, parsley and lemon peel. Fine with just about any veal or heartier seafood dish.
VALUE: Head and shoulders above the competition in the lower teens, but I got an exceptional buy for once. This wine often sells in the upper teens to $20 range, at which point it's still fairly priced for its quality but not so much of a bargain.
WHEN TO DRINK: Meant for enjoyment while it's young and fresh, but its body and structure should hold it for at least a year on a wine rack in a cool place, or a couple of years in a temperature-controlled cellar.
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Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
Fair restaurant wine markup?
We started this new topic in midweek, so for weekly subscribers and anyone else who may have missed it, I repeat the invitation to our current Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
Few wine enthusiasts would dispute that a restaurateur in a free market has the right to enjoy a reasonable profit on the sale of wine. ... But where's the fine line that separates making a decent profit from showing unseemly greed? You don't have to dine out often to discover that restaurant wine-list pricing varies dramatically, from the generous to the rapacious.
Let's focus on restaurant wine lists for this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth, setting aside such alternatives as bring-your-own and "corkage" pricing, as we ask, "What's a fair markup for restaurant wine?"
To cast your vote, you'll find an online ballot at
To see how others have voted, click
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Wine World News: Haut-Brion owners launch new label
Oxford Town Wines: Life after Merlot
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: I hate cork!
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Last week, however, we went on a vacation schedule because of my travels, skipping the usual Wednesday Wine Advisor and Thursday FoodLetter. Here's the index to last week's columns:
New Zealand Pinot (April 22, 2004)
Vouvray vs. 2003 (April 20, 2004)
What's the matter with Merlot? (April 18, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: The Gourmet Burger (April 21, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Monday, April 25, 2005