I’m often asked if there are wine tasting accessories that Wine Adventurers can carry to improve their wine tasting experiences. In a previous article, Tips For Enjoying A Day In California Wine Country, I reviewed several tips that focused on time management and creature comforts. But there is an item that can greatly improve the taste of the wine you are tasting – a wine thermometer.
On my way out the door to a day of wine tasting, I’ll often grab the Wine Mate pocket thermometer and 4 inch corkscrew (never leave home without one) pictured below. This Wine Mate is widely used, but is sometimes hard to find in stores or online. A nearly-identical product available on Amazon.com for the same price is the Alltemp Select for around $26 (see end of page). Both products are infrared sensors that provide a reasonably accurate temperature reading of whatever the light beam hits – whether it’s the exterior of the wine bottle or the surface of the wine itself.Wine sipped at its proper serving temperature simply tastes better. You can experiment with this concept by tasting two glasses of wine from the same bottle that have been chilled at different temperatures. On a hot day, chill a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to 46 degrees F. This falls within the preferred serving range per the table below, which is based on WSET guidelines. Pour a glass of wine and let it sit out at room temperature until your Wine Mate reads the surface temperature between 60 and 70 degrees F. Pour another glass from the still-chilled bottle and taste them side-by-side. Even with latitude for personal preference, you’ll generally find that the properly chilled wine tastes better. Try the experiment again with slightly chilled red wines, the results should be the same.
So, why take a pocket thermometer (or any other wine tasting accessories) to tasting rooms? When possible, you want to taste wine just as you would serve it at home. Wineries want you to like their wine well enough to take a few bottles (or cases) home with you – perhaps even join their wine club – so they usually put in the effort to serve tasting flights at proper temperature. Sometimes they go overboard and over-chill whites, which would prompt us to let the wine sit for a few minutes to warm up. If the tasting room simply pours all their wines at room temperature, we can calibrate our palates and make assumptions as to how the wine might react at the proper serving temperature.
Does whipping out a wine thermometer in tasting rooms make you look like a wine snob? Maybe. But it’s a tool you can use to improve the wine tasting experience and hopefully make better purchase choices.