cool merlots before drinking - Printable Version

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- keggy - 10-03-1999 10:19 AM

Should you chill a bottle of merlot prior to drinking and then can it be rechilled if not finished. Also do some wines become better if let sitting in the glass for a while before drinking, and why?

- Tabby - 10-03-1999 10:38 AM

Chilling most red wines before serving will do you no favours at all. The fuller bodied, more tannic reds will just taste bitter. Having said that, a red that is low in tannin, for example, a Pinot Noir, or a Beaujolais, can benefit from refrigeration for a short time. The fruitier the wine the better. I wouldn't really recommend chilling a bottle of Merlot....correct me anyone if I'm misled in believing this.

Most wines benefit from the opportunity to "breathe" in the glass. You will find that a wine will smell and taste quite different after 15 minutes in glass; it's all down to exposure to the air.

- Jerry D Mead - 10-03-1999 12:06 PM

A lot depends on what one means by chilling, and which Merlot you're talking about.

If by chilling, you mean leaving in the fridge over night or icing down for 30 minutes in an icewater bath...then I wouldn't recommend it either (hastening to add that if that's the way you like it, you should always drink what you like and our opinions be damned...but better not to inflict your personal taste on other people if it isn't the majority view).

But if you're talking about dropping room temp on a warm summer day (or even in a 70 degree house or restaurant) to something closer to cellar temperature (say 60 degrees F)...then I'm all for it.

The idea of room temp was developed when rooms were in old castles without central heating, and when people had real cellars from which to bring up the wine.

So chilled, yes...iced/refrigerated

Does breathing help wine? Sometimes...some of the tech types may try to explain why.

But once again I have to qualify. If you're talking about a waiter pulling the cork out of the bottle and leaving it set on the table for 15 minutes...that won't do a thing. Not much aeration is going to take place through that little hole in top and that tiny exposed wine surface.

If you mean splashing the wine into a decanter, or pouring it out into your glass and swirling it for 15 minutes while waiting for your entree...then there can definitely be an impact. Usually a softening of harshness and tannin in reds...a blowing off of sulfur dioxide should any be present...and an expanding and enhancing of elements of the bouquet.

If you want to impress your friends...learn how to fill your glass half full and swirl the wine fairly rapidly without wearing it on your necktie or blouse...sniffing it periodically...and when they ask why you're swirling your wine...tell them..."I'm volatilizing my esters." (Esters being aromatic compounds in wine). Sounds pretty sexy, what?

Another factor in chilling Merlot is the style of the Merlot...the soft fruity style will handle more chilling than will a big extractive style that's closer to what we expect from Cabernet Sauvignon.

- Randy Caparoso - 10-03-1999 05:37 PM

There are definite temperature zones where wine types seem to display more flavor as well as fruitier, fresher aromas.

We've run a number of blind tasting tests over the years involving the same wine at different temperatures. Often, the differences are so dramatic that unsuspecting tasters actually believe that they are tasting different wines. In any case, we've found that moderately tannic reds like Merlot has been shown to taste "better" to most people at slightly lower than normal room temperature -- somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees Farenheit. If your room is around 75, you'll definitely need to stick it in the fridge for at least half an hour. After that (as Curmudgeon points out), it's personal taste. I, for instance, don't mind a bit more of a chill; and so I like a red in the fridge for at least an hour.

And of course, as previously noted, super high tannin reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, and many Zinfandels and Syrahs, need a tad less chill, yet still are preferred somewhere between 62 and 68. Many Pinot Noirs, as well as a many "country" reds from various countries, seem to be preferred somewhere between 50 and 60. Beaujolais and Gamay types, right down to close to the fully chilled level of 45 to 50.

Finally, once you find the optimal temperature for yourself, you should also consider the "warming" factor as bottles sit out -- which is the reason why I always slightly over-chill. You see, I live in Paradise (Hawaii, where it's always warm), and so it's a common thing for us to just open up the freezer and grab some ice cubes to throw into our glasses of favorite reds.

[This message has been edited by Randy Caparoso (edited 10-03-99).]