Reader question: so what IS the proper temperature for serving red wine?
In my review of Row 14, I had very little to gripe about, since the restaurant served me one of the best meals I've had in a long time. But I did take issue with the temperature of a glass of pinot noir, which hit my table a few degrees too warm.
This problem isn't unique to Row 14. In fact, it's rare that I receive a properly temped glass of red when I'm out. But my comment inspired this question from Carey:
I am a kiwi and love Pinot Noir and the Marlborough selections. How cold is ideal?
Temperature is important in wine service, because there's a point at which the palate can capture all of the nuances of a selection. You can test this easily with a white wine, which is frequently served too cold: Taste it at the 35-degree fridge temperature -- the temperature at which it's likely served, and then sip it again once you've let it warm up five or ten degrees. I can almost guarantee you that the second time around, you'll detect layers of flavor that you didn't notice at first sip.
I wish reds were also served too cold, like cellar temperature or colder. Allowing a glass of red to warm up for a few minutes before you drink it is much easier than figuring out how to cool it down without resorting to atrocities, like plunking cubes of ice into the glass.
But, Carey, to answer your question, a red should really be served a few degrees above cellar temperature, ideally somewhere between 55 and 65 degrees. Bigger wines, like cabernet sauvignon, can fall at the high end of that spectrum. Pinot noirs, which are usually lighter and more delicate, taste better near the low end. Too warm, and the wine tastes jammier, more alcoholic and over extracted. You miss the intricacies because riper notes totally overpower them.
Plus, it's summer. Who wants to drink hot, juicy wine in the heat? Ick.