"Take off your heavy make up and your shawl…"

by Katie Pizzuto on November 7, 2008

in Wine

coldwhiteTasting white wine is a two-part ritual for me because I decided a long time ago that most times we drink our white wines way too cold. In fact, no one has ever been able to give me a valid reason for chilling white wine at all other than to make it more refreshing. But, you know what? If I’m drinking a glass of Alsace reisling in December, in New Jersey, during a blizzard, I don’t want it to be refreshing…I want it to taste good. Truth is, when you serve white wine at room temperature, it reveals much more of its personality to you…you don’t have to dig as hard to unearth its aromas and nuances because they’ll pretty much slap you upside the head. So now when I taste a white wine, I first serve it at room temperature (between 65° and 70°) and take some notes. Then I chill it a bit, taste it a second time and take some more notes. And as it turns out, most of the note taking occurs BEFORE the wine is chilled…there just ain’t too much more to discover once the wine has cooled down. It’s kinda like the wine is naked at first, boldly and unabashedly revealing itself to you, and then, once chilled, it has put on its flannel PJs…you gotta do a whole lot more searching at that point, to get to the good stuff.

The move that always makes me cringe, though, is the ice cubes. There have been times when I’ve gone to someone’s house, been offered something to drink, and asked for a glass of white wine. At that point the host or hostess will apologize for forgetting to chill the white wine, and ask if I would like some ice in it. Now listen, I understand putting ice in a glass of scotch…sometimes people actually WANT it to get watered down; they WANT to dilute it. But why in hell would you want to dilute your wine? Most white wine is delicate enough as it is. Bathing it in slowly melting ice cubes that have the subtle taste of 2-year-old frozen venison, bagged peas and tater tots will just about kill it. So I inevitably wrestle the glass out of their hand before they plop those funky ice cubes in.

The colder a wine, the less aromatic it will appear. If this is something we want to experience in a white wine, then it begs the question…why chill it? If I buy a bottle of wine for its flavor, why would I numb those very flavors? Now, of course, we’ve all been handed the occasional plonk at parties, in which case you WANT it damn near iced over…the aroma of red plastic cups and bad chardonnay is forever etched in all of our minds, I’m sure. But nonetheless, I’ll take my steaks rare, my broccoli steamed, and my white wine at room temperature, please. Why? BECAUSE I WANT TO TASTE IT, NOT KILL IT. I’ll leave the well-done leather, the boiled green mush and the arctic whites to those who like things “the old-fashioned way”—better to forge your own rules than be bound by someone else’s.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linsey November 7, 2008

as the resident ‘i know sod all about wine’ person – my addition to this thread is…

chocolate – always best eaten at room temp too – totally pointless chilled you cant taste that either

;o))

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2 Katie Pizzuto November 7, 2008

thanks Lin! Same is also true for cheeses!!

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3 Larry Swain November 7, 2008

Preach it!

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4 Ile November 9, 2008

Hi!
What can I say but to agree with you.
The problem is that I am one of those guilty of drinking chilled white wine.
No ice cubes ! but chilled.
We South Floridians find it a little difficult to savor a room temperature white wine with a 95 degrees temperature, specially we ladies 50+
Great article Katie
Love you

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5 Katie Pizzuto November 9, 2008

Ile, if I was drinking it in FL, I would chill it too! THERE, you do want it to refresh!!

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6 Tish November 9, 2008

nice points all around. I like to compare the temp issue with white wine to salad. If you whip up a salad straight from the fridge and hit is with cold dressing, it has maybe half the flava of a salad that has had a chance to come up toward room temp.

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7 Thom Calabrese November 10, 2008

I like serving white wine chilled and watch how it changes as the wine warms to room temperature, but when you really want the skinny on a wine then the less chilled the better.
I do agree that 2 many whites are served way too cold.
I love your blog and read it all the time(you’ve been saved).
It’s great to see all the wonderful blogs and places to drink and talk about wine in my old neck of the woods(grew up in Jersey City) and I am continuously delighted every time I come to visit family.
Ciao
Thom

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8 Katie Pizzuto November 10, 2008

@Tish, interesting analogy…I’ll have to remember that one as an example!

@Thom, you make a great point. Sometimes, watching a wine as it evolves in a glass over a period of time is a wonderful thing. Thanks so much for being a regular reader…I’m glad you like the blog! I grew up a stone’s throw away from you in Jersey City, because I was in Weehawken/West New York!!

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9 Anthony November 10, 2008

I 100 % agree with you Katie! I never put ice cubes in a glass of white wine. Most definately does dilute it and distorts the flavor. On another note does prefer white wine chilled but over chilled. I do intend to try it at room temp though, because i dont think i ever have.

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10 Katie Pizzuto November 10, 2008

Here’s an interesting test, Anthony, as so much of this is perception. Close your eyes when you drink the room temp. white and pretend you are drinking a red….does it still bother you that it’s not chilled? We are so programmed to expect it chilled that room temp. doesn’t seem to work for us…we’ve gotta get passed it. In fact, many times, in a blind test, some people can’t even tell if the wine they are drinking is white or red if served at the same temp!!

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11 Anthony November 10, 2008

Will do! Certainly I will try that test
Thanks

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12 Linsey November 11, 2008

in a Linsey taste test – I find that diet coca cola tastes much nicer with ice diluting the heck out of it than at room temperature – and with a slice of lemon added makes it just perfect 🙂

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