The small chill: Defining "room temperature"
Serve your red wine at room temperature! That's one of the most basic so-called rules about wine. But what's "room temperature"? Speaking as a resident of the Southern U.S., summer room temperature in my house can easily reach into the lower '80s F (27C) even when the air-conditioner is running; but I remember a trip to Scotland one fine autumn when my host's rooms must have hovered around a brisk 18C (65F).
When summer brings its sultry heat, I submit that there's no harm in placing your red wine in the refrigerator for a short stay before dinner. Don't leave it too long -- 20 to 40 minutes on the refrigerator shelf is about right for most reds, up to possibly an hour for light and fruity styles like Beaujolais. An hour in a typical home refrigerator should bring your wine down to the natural temperature of an underground cellar (54F or 12C), which may be just a little too cold for most reds; but don't worry if you miss the mark. It doesn't take long for it to come back up again, and the wine won't be damaged.
Here are three good, hearty reds that I think gained from a slight chill on those lazy, hazy summer evenings.
Laurel Glen 1997 REDS California Table Wine ($7.99)
Very dark garnet, almost blackish-purple. Ripe red-fruit scent with fragrant black pepper, perfumed floral notes and a sweet hint of leather; simpler on the palate than the nose, red fruit built on lemon-squirt acidity, fresh, juicy and tart. Like a Beaujolais, this one adds refreshment with a good chill. Don't serve it ice cold, but up to an hour in the refrigerator before dinner does it no harm on a hot summer day. (June 20, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: Just right with a rare T-bone served sizzling from the grill.
Antinori 1996 Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico ($14.49)
Dark ruby in color with an orange glint. Aromatic "tar" and "smoke" entwine with ripe black-cherry fruit aromas. Flavors are consistent with the nose, tart cherries with hints of black coffee and dark chocolate with a good acidic balance. An excellent food wine, and a very slight chill -- 30 minutes in the fridge -- adds enjoyment on a hot summer night. U.S. importer: Remy Amerique Inc., NYC. (June 19, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: Perfect with a Ligurian classic, linguine with pesto over green beans and new potatoes.
Mas Igneus 1997 Barranc dels Closos Priorat ($11.99)
Clear, dark ruby, with spicy cherry-berry fruit and burnt-sugar aromas. Warm, plummy fruit, black pepper and oak flavors, full fruit and alcoholic heat, almost a Bourbon-like quality. Big, raw, a little coarse; definitely smoother after 40 minutes in the refrigerator to impart a cellar-temperature chill. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Cincinnati. (June 15, 1999)
FOOD MATCH: Lamb chops. Rare red meat definitely helps bring the wine into perspective.
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All my wine-tasting reports 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.||