Cheap Buzz: The book on red wine

Posted: August 03, 2012

Buzz: Hey, Marnie. We were out to dinner last night and I saw the funniest thing — the guy at the table next to us asked for an ice bucket for their RED wine. What a rube!

Marnie: Not exactly, Buzz. I do that myself. Red wines are often served too warm, especially at this time of year. They taste much better with a little chill — brighter and less harsh. I'll ask for an ice bucket in a heartbeat if the wine's too warm.

Buzz: Wait, I thought red wines were supposed to be served warm, like whiskey.

Marnie: Yes and no. The rule of thumb is to chill all wines except reds, and to serve those at room temperature. But, room temperature in the U.S. is much warmer than in wine's native Europe. We keep our homes at 75 degrees here. Room temperature in Paris or Milan is closer to 65 degrees, and that's a much more flattering temperature for most red wines.

Buzz: Why not just keep them in the fridge with the whites if they taste better cold?

Marnie: That's a little complicated. Wine components like alcohol, acids and aroma compounds are highly volatile. Even 5 or 10 degrees can make a huge difference. Reds definitely taste better slightly chilled but will taste much worse — very bitter, thin and sour — when they're ice cold. In a perfect world, I recommend serving reds about 10 degrees cooler than room temperature, and all other wines about 10 degrees warmer than refrigerator temperature.

Buzz: Sounds way too complicated. No wonder I love beer.

Marnie: It's not very hard, Buzz. Just use the 10-minute rule. Put your reds in the fridge 10 minutes before you serve them, and do the reverse for whites — taking them out 10 minutes ahead. Or, if you're poured a glass of red that's too warm, just add a couple of ice cubes. They'll take the wine's harsh edge off in a flash. And, unless you're drinking something super-fancy, the meltwater won't significantly dilute your wine's flavor.

Buzz: I have a 10-minute rule too. Ten minutes after I open my first beer, I open my second one.

Marnie Old is Philadelphia's highest-profile sommelier. She has designed wine lists for restaurants like Parc and Bar Ferdinand. Her latest book, Wine Secrets, is a collection of wine advice shared by top wine professionals. Marnie consults for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and is an adviser to the beverage trade. Check out her blog at Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News City Editor Gar Joseph.

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