Thanks to Bryan, one of our Scottish readers for sending me this article. Georg Riedel, the Austrian at the helm of Riedel, the wine glass company which specialises in decanters and glasses tailored to bringing out the best in individual grape varietals, here tells his Australian audience that they're drinking their Champagne from the wrong glasses and their red wines at the wrong temperatures.
Back in the 70s, it was all the rage to drink your fizz from the saucer shaped glasses - remember those cheesy pyramids of glasses? Turns out they were exactly the wrong way to serve Champagne since the bubbles are exposed to quickly and there is nowhere for the mousse to rise to, leading to your fizz going flat in double quick time. So the trend towards serving champagne in flutes begun. Despite selling a few types of Champagne glass himself, Mr Riedel now tells us that we ought to be drinking it out of our Burgundy glasses so that there is a bit more surface area allowing the flavours of the Champagne to fully develop. While I'm sure this is sage advice to those of you drinking vintage Dom Perignon, I'm not sure it makes a great deal of difference if you're gulping down a glass or two of whatever is the cheapest fizz in your local supermarket.
Mr Riedel doesn't sell a wine thermometer, but those nice chaps at WineWare have a fine range from £3.95 for the amateur to a £24.95 infrared model which reads the temperature through the bottle for the serious wine snob who has everything. So, you know what temperature your wine is, but how do you know what's the right temperature to serve it at?
A quick guide to the optimum temperatures for your favourite wines
- Sparkling wine such as Champagne, Cava, Asti or Prosecco should be served well chilled (eg 6-10C). Above this you're liable to find yourself wearing half of the bottle as chilling greatly reduces the pressure inside.
- Light or medium bodied whites, such as Fino Sherry, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and all those crisp, dry quaffable whites should be served chilled - that's between 7-10C
- More full-bodied whites and those with a lot of oak such as white Burgundy, or anything with a creamy mouthfeel should be only be lightly chilled. Serving them anywhere from 10-13C will ensure that you can taste the subtleties of flavour which can be squashed by over chilling. Really good white Burgundy (such as Puligny Montrachet) can stand to be served even warmer, so think about taking it out of the fridge for a short time before you serve it, as it's likely your fridge is set to cool to 5C...
- Light-bodied reds such as Beaujolais, Bardolino or Valpolicella (the basic kind) should actually be served lightly chilled around 13C to be enjoyed at their best.
- Medium to full-bodied reds such as Claret, Burgundy, Rioja, Shiraz, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Amarone, or other big wines should be served at "room temperature". It's worth noting here that the guide for this is 15-18C and as most of you won't have your own wine cellar, and probably do have your central heating thermostat set to around 21C, think about how to keep your reds slightly cooler before serving them, even in winter, by ensuring they are stored well away from any sources of heat such as cookers, radiators, the backs of fridges or freezers, central heating boilers and even windows with direct sunlight.
- Sweet wines generally are best enjoyed well chilled at around 6-8C to prevent them from feeling too sticky and sickly.
I do think a decent crystal glass is worth investing in if you're going to be drinking anything more than your basic plonk and there are cheaper varieties widely available if like me, you'd rather spend your money on the contents rather than the vessel. If you feel like splashing out, Wineware often have special offers on Riedel glasses, which awidely regarded as the best and used in most of the world's top rated Michelin starred restaurants). Here at Chateau Purple Teeth, the glass has become an all important part of the experience of enjoying the wine. It did surprise me to see a health warning about lead crystal glasses in a Californian tasting room some years ago. Luckily enough we haven't descended into such levels of litigiousness in the UK so I've not heard any more about this. Ultimately, if you're drinking wine, I'd like to think the risk to health from the glassware is probably the least of your worries, but feel free to make up your own mind and leave me any comments you might have on this. Meanwhile, as summer fades, make the most of those light bodied whites and drink them up before you have to put your central heating back on!