Few drinks are more refreshing on a hot afternoon than a glass of chilled white wine. Sauvignon Blanc or a steely Chardonnay are my go-to varietals when the warm waters of San Pablo Bay send anabatic summer winds racing over the Carneros. They blow past Wine Adventure base camp like a freight train on fire, creating conditions that make it easy to sip through a well-chilled bottle, maybe two. If friends are over, maybe three. Or four. As I make the rounds refilling my guest’s glasses, their hopeful eyes look up at me and plead like Oliver Twist, “Please sir, I want some more.” Alas, it is for their own good that I pour just a small glass of chilled white wine.
I have nothing against a tall glass of wine. In my favorite glass (right), pouring up to DRIZZLE, SLOSH or ON VACATION is my usual preference. So, why on hot summer days would I limit the ration to SPLASH or maybe even SMIDGEN? It’s a matter of quality control based on the critical factors of ambient temperature, sip rate and the preferred serving range of the beverage at hand.
Simply put, wine tastes better when sipped at the proper temperature. Far too often, especially in hot weather, wine sits in the glass and rises above the acceptable drinking temperature before it reaches our palate. This can lead to mistakenly judging a wine to be full of faults or to soft mutterings of “why is John serving the cheap stuff?”
We can determine how long it takes wine to warm beyond proper drinking range in two ways. For sheer giggles, we can apply the the simple differential equation that we all remember from Liquid Thermodynamics 101:
Or we can skip the math and grab a thermometer like the Wine Mate pictured below. Pour yourself a glass of wine chilled as you like it. Fill the glass to a normal level, which is usually where the bowl of the glass is widest. Note the temperature of the wine.
Sip at your normal rate. When down to the last 50% or so of wine in the glass, measure again. Is the wine still within acceptable drinking range? When the day is hot, I’ll bet it’s not. Concerned that your sip rate will be influenced by participation in the experiment? Try the procedure on a friend’s glass without telling them what you’re up to. They may think you’re a kook, but don’t worry, the Wine Mate measures with an infrared light beam and won’t touch or harm the wine. Note: The Wine Mate may be hard to find, a very good equivalent product is the AllTemp Select, see more information below.
Here are a few suggestions for maintaining proper serving temperatures on hot days.
- Pour a small glass of chilled white wine that can be enjoyed before it warms
- Chill the bottle to the bottom of the serving temperature range
- Chill glasses to within the proper serving range of the wine
- Between sips, place your wine glass in the refrigerator for a few minutes
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You can purchase the AllTemp Select on Amazon.com, click on the link (Amazon account required):