Not too cold and not too hot - be sure the temperature of your white wine is just right

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 25, 2013 

A cool glass of white wine can be enjoyed any time of year, but it always seems to work best for sipping as the weather turns warmer.

This prompts me to point out a common mistake when preparing to serve most medium- and full-bodied white wines: overchilling.

Serving a white wine too cold masks the fruit and floral flavors and aromas of the wine. That tends to overemphasize the wine's other taste elements, such as alcohol, and, if it's barrel fermented, oak, turning it into a chilled, watery liquid that vaguely resembles anything wine-like.

White wines that fall into this category tend to taste better at about 45 to 55 degrees, with pinot gris and sauvignon blanc leaning toward the lower end of the scale and viognier and chardonnay near the top.

Because your refrigerator normally runs at around 35 degrees, you'll need to remember a few relatively quick fixes to get those white wines in sync temperaturewise and optimize their flavors.

If you have a bottle of white wine that's been sitting on the shelf and needs to be chilled a bit, I find that a good 45 to 60 minutes in the refrigerator will do the job. Conversely, a bottle that's been in the frig too long needs to be left out about the same length of time to warm it sufficiently into the proper temperature range.

If you think overchilling a white wine doesn't matter, take this test. Chill a bottle of chardonnay overnight, then open it, swirl it and taste it. Then leave it on the counter for an hour and try it again. The enhanced flavors and aromatics should be remarkable.

A trick for warming up a wine once it has been poured is to hold the bowl in the palms of your hands and gently rock it back and forth for a minute or two. This is, however, the one and only time your hands should touch anything on the wine glass other than the stem or base, because overhandling can lead to overheating of the wine (after all, you're exposing it to 98.6 degrees).

And while I'm on the topic, let me get on my soapbox and express my dislike for stemless wine glasses. Not only does excessive handling of these glasses warm up your wine prematurely, it also leaves the glass with a smattering of unsightly fingerprints.

I'll gladly accept the label of "wine snob" on this one, and reserve those glasses for a two-finger pour of Basil Hayden Bourbon instead.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.

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