Presenting Wine Sense Table of Contents

I have basically finished Wine Sense and in the next few weeks Wine Sense will be in the hands of approximately ten reviewers to critique it and provide ways to make it better.  I finished the content of the book two months ago, but (1) wanted to let it rest for a while to be able to read it as a typical reader (to the best of the ability of any author to read the material they wrote!), and (2) there is a lot of work in terms of providing proper citation to other references, adding 40 images and inclusion of Top Tips and Fun Facts insets for most chapters.  Then it is onto final layout and publication.

Steve sniffing 2But the content of Wine Sense is close to complete, so I wanted to provide a deeper sense of what the book is about and why Wine Sense may be of interest to you.  Over the next few months, I will be presenting excerpts and helpful tips from the book.  First I wanted to share the Table of Contents (TOC) with you.  Just reading the TOC should provide a good overview and sense of what is in the book.

Table of Contents


Part One: Wine and the Senses

Chapter 1: Wine Enjoyment
Chapter 2: Role of Our Senses for Wine Enjoyment
Chapter 3: Philosophy of Primary and Secondary Senses
Chapter 4: Wine as an Aesthetic Experience
Chapter 5: Role of Language in Wine Appreciation

Part Two: How Wine Interacts with the Senses

Chapter 6: Overview of Wine and Sense Interaction
Chapter 7: Wine and Sight
Chapter 8: Wine and Smell
Chapter 9: Wine and Taste
Chapter 10: Wine and Feel
Chapter 11: Wine and Sound

Part Three: Enhancing Your Wine Drinking Experiences

Chapter 12: Improving Smell and Taste Sensations
Chapter 13: Improving Sight Sensations
Chapter 14: Improving Feel Sensations
Chapter 15: Improving Sound Sensations
Chapter 16: Other Ideas for Improving Your Wine Drinking Experience
Chapter 17: Buying and Storing Wine
Chapter 18: Wine Drinking Practice and Experience

Part Four: Where to Next?

Chapter 19: Tools and Systems for Managing Your Wine Inventory
Chapter 20: Further Wine Education
Chapter 21: Other References
Chapter 22: Final Thoughts


Appendix A: Castro’s Ten Descriptors of Odors
Appendix B: Robinson’s Wine Color Chart
Appendix C: Wine Database Format and Field Listing


I originally was going to write a blog post last year on why our senses were so important in appreciating wine, how they work, and how to improve using our senses to enjoy wine more.  Once the post got to 2,500 words, I decided I was going to make it a multi-part post, but by the time I got to 12,000 words, I knew it had to be a book!  The book is currently 112,000 words so it was probably a good idea to go the book route!  I am very excited to tell you more over the next few months and to get the book into your hands as soon as possible.  More posts to follow.

Please let me know what you think about the content and structure.  Any feedback is appreciated.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley.  All rights reserved.
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Paymasters Cafe – without Peer?

It may be a bit of a stretch to say any restaurant is without peer, but Paymasters Cafe would be close, and I did like the play on words!  We had a most delightful Christmas in July meal there recently and the food was outstanding.  Rodney Scales is the head chef.  What I really like about Rodney (in addition to being a great chef) is his passion, his absolute need and personal attention to make sure his customers are having a great time, and his sociability.  Rodney likes to engage with his customers and is also very active on social media.  Rodney took the time to show us his kitchen, his dining rooms, and even the surrounding area, while explaining the Newcastle history behind the building that ultimately become Paymasters Cafe.

Paymaster Venue

We had four great meals in July around the Hunter Valley and surrounding cities such as Newcastle and Singleton.  It would be a toss-up as to which one was the best.  Our Christmas in July meal at Paymasters Cafe would have been number one or two along with the meal we had at Two Naughty Chooks considering the food, the ambiance, and the overall experience.  I felt though that the food at Paymasters Cafe was the most approachable though in terms of a good family outing.  I identified with the food and style of cooking and want to go back again and again.

Our Christmas in July meal was special.  We started with several ‘beyond’ canapes including the Tourtiere Quebecois Meat Pie and the Gravalax Salmon with Toasted Saffron Brioche.  These were complimented by the McLeish 2012 Dwyer Rose which was a great match.  The entree was a Brined Pork Loin with Molasses Mustard Glaze, Sour Mash Sce and Apple Butter matched by the 2013 McLeish Semillon and McLeish 2011 Chardonnay.  We then had a main meal assortment which included Pineapple Chipotle and Coca Cola Glazed Ham, Roast Turkey with Cranberry Sauce, and Braised Red Cabbage with Bacon.  The mains were served with a 2011 McLeish Tri Moir.  Dessert was Baked Walnut Stuffed Apple with McLeish Semillon Chardonnay and Polish Bowtie Fritters and Eggnog, served with the 2009 McLeish Jessica Botrytis Semillon.

The food was outstanding and I admire the adventurousness that Rodney and Jessica had in matching up the wines with the food.  They bucked traditional match-ups, but the pairings worked very, very well.  The meal was international with the recipes representing Europe and the Americas.  What I really enjoyed though was how approachable the food and wine were.  Neither required any thinking – they were just enjoyed.  As my wife, DAZ in the Kitchen says, “you know it is good food and wine when it goes down before you even think about it.”  And that was the case this evening.

Rodney Scales, like a few other chefs I greatly admire, is passionate about his food, his service and his experience.  He started cooking early in life and worked his way up through a variety of different experiences gaining expertise and knowledge.  Some of his opportunities required that he drive or train two hours each way, just for the pleasure of cooking for us!    But for the last decade, he has been at Paymasters Cafe, having built a great reputation.  Next time we are in Newcastle, we will be eating at Paymasters Cafe again, enjoying the great food and learning more from Rodney.  If you get Newcastle way, you need to try this place and make it a regular experience.   We certainly plan on it!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
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Wine and soapy glassware do not mix!

I have learned a great deal about wine over the last fifteen years and take my wine drinking seriously.  But from time to time, I make a stupid mistake.  In my upcoming book, Wine Sense(s), I discuss the importance of rinsing glassware thoroughly so as to not leave any food odors or soap films on the glasses or decanters.  Unfortunately, I did just that and poured a $200 bottle of wine into a decanter which I did not realize had a leftover soap film from the last time I cleaned it!  Ugh!  What a waste and what to do?

I was leaving the wine to decant, then poured a glass for me to have.  I returned the rest of the wine into its original bottle and stoppered it to keep it fresh for the rest of tonight and tomorrow.  It was not until I was rinsing out (without any soap) the decanter that I realized it had a soap film from the last time I cleaned it.  Such a shame and such a waste.  I went to give the decanter a good rinse with plain hot water and all of a sudden, I was pouring out soap bubbles!  There was not much soap, but it did have a number of bubbles and I had to give it a really good rinse to get it clean.  Unfortunately by then, the damage had been done.


The brick purple color was dulled slightly from the soap and it appeared to have just a touch of grey to it.  More importantly, I could taste that the wine was a bit off, even though the underlying flavors were still evident and huge.  Still since I am having it with a spicy, hot red Thai beef curry, I am going to drink this wine (or some of it).  And I feel I need to do that as penance for my mistake and to cement the lesson learned.  I want to never, ever make this mistake again!  It is still an excellent wine, if not a bit soapy.  Interestingly enough, the tactile sensation via  mouth feel is the same or possibly even slightly enhanced by the soap!  But the aftertaste and finish is not what it should be.

I continue to learn and want to pass those learnings onto others.  More and more in talking to the people at Riedel and others, I have heard them tell us that (1) do not clean glasses with soap between courses of a meal; there is nothing better than alcohol (from the previous glass of wine) for cleaning your glasses followed by a rinse of water, and (2) glasses and decanters are dishwater safe.  I am now going to follow their advice.  I have been washing all of my glasses and decanters by hand and also using too much soap.  From now on, I will look to clean them with no or very little soap and then rinse them or use an alcohol spray to disinfect and clean them (this is what most restaurants do), and for larger gatherings, will now use the dishwasher to clean and THOROUGHLY rinse my glasses and decanters.

I made a large mistake this evening and hope to never repeat it.  Feeling bad as SAZ in the Cellar!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
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Tasting, not Drinking – Intoxication, not Drunkenness

Many people drink for the sheer ‘pleasure’ of getting drunk.  I don’t understand that, or why becoming drunk would even be an objective for anyone, but I have seen it occur many times.  I gave up hard alcohol by the time I was 30 because I could not handle it, nor did I enjoy it.  I still drink the occasional beer, especially on a hot summer day, but beer bloats me if I have more than a few.

Wine is my drink of choice for many reasons, and I almost exclusively drink wine now.  I have never been drunk from wine, nor would I want to be.  I enjoy drinking wine for the taste and flavor and for its diversity of grapes and styles.  I can drink multiple wines in an evening, and sharing time and food along with the wine with friends for a great experience.

But I ‘taste’ my wine, not indiscriminately drink it.  I take the time to swirl it to open the bouquet and increase the pleasure of nosing it, fulfilling my sense of smell.  I then pour it onto my palate and experience the taste as it impacts my taste buds – but I do not swallow immediately!  I enjoy the wine as it warms up further in my mouth, releasing more new flavors and sensory (if not sensual!) perceptions.  I let my tongue and taste buds pick up on the sweetness, bitterness, or whatever flavors it finds.  I might keep the wine in my mouth for 1 – 3 minutes before actually swallowing it!

I also love to match up wine with foods, or just chocolates or cheeses, and having some food nourishment along the way helps to reduce the impact of alcohol also.

This process and experience intoxicates me, and it constrains me from getting drunk.  I drink less because I get more flavor and satisfaction out of each sip of wine and I slow down the amount I drink over any period.  This is similar to the advice of chewing your food 25 times before swallowing.  You pick out much more flavor and nourishment from your food, become more satisfied and ultimately, eat less.

Drunkenness is not a state I enjoy during or after drinking, and I avoid it.  Avoiding drunkenness comes easily for me since I taste my wine while drinking and before swallowing, combine it with food which further absorbs and disperses the alcohol content, and enjoy it and let it satiate me along the way.

I recommend you do the same.  You will enjoy your wine far more and treat your body far better along the journey!  Remember to taste, not drink (or guzzle) your wine to become intoxicated, not drunk!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
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Wine education – Lesson 1

There are a lot of ways to learn how to appreciate wine drinking more, but there is one lesson that stands above all others, and that is to keep on tasting different wines.  I could have you read books, attend courses, read wine reviews and participate in a number of other activities, but there is no better means to learning about wine than by trying a number of different wines.

I have a lot of author friends and they sometimes get distracted focusing on marketing, social media, taking classes on creative writing and participating in a number of other activities that seem like writing, but are not really writing.  They have to keep reminding themselves that there is no other activity that makes you a writer than to just sit down and actually write!

Therefore, wine education Lesson 1 is to taste a variety of different wines and understand what you like and what you don’t.  And Lesson 2 will be on the difference between tasting and drinking.  I want you to taste wine, not just drink it.  That would be an incredible waste.

Having said that and gotten Lesson 1 out of the way, there are a variety of different things that comprise a simple wine education that should increase your pleasure of drinking wine.  These include:

  • Reading a variety of different books on wine
  • Attending tastings with other people and sharing your tasting experiences
  • Trying different wines with different foods, including different wines with cheese and chocolate
  • Writing down tasting notes
  • Participating in vertical and horizontal wine tastings
  • Attending some specialty sessions on glassware, decanters and other wine paraphernalia
  • Learning a bit about how to make wine
  • Experiencing and thinking about what wine does to your senses

I have written over 125 blog posts in the last year and plan to write plenty more.  Many of my posts have been about reviewing specific wines, matching wine with food, and enjoying the wine lifestyle more.  Some have been educational.  Therefore, I am not going to label any of my future posts as ‘educational.’  many will be, but hopefully many of those already written have been also.

The key thing is that with a little more understanding of wine, you are likely to enjoy tasting and drinking wine a lot more.  And it makes it easier to share the experience and talk about it with others who enjoy drinking wine also.  I have certainly found that to be the case for me and many of my friends.  Let’s learn a bit more together.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
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Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub


Do you suffer from palate fatigue?

Is is possible to have ruined your palate and not be able to discern the taste and quality of the wines you are tasting?  The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

Several years ago, we spent ten straight days at The Hunter Valley and we tasted a lot of wine.  I was quite enamored by the 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz’ (and I still am) and we tasted a lot of them, in addition to expanding our search for some more aged Semillons and some good Australian Verdelhos.  We were relentless in our pursuit.

However, by Day 7 onwards, I really was not liking much of what I was drinking, and thought some of the wines were down-right tainted.  The combination of sampling wines every morning and afternoon and having wine with all dinners and most lunches, I had simply overloaded and ruined my palate!  We may have sampled over 300 wines during that trip!

It was only two to four months later that when trying some of the same wines, that I realized how great a few of them I thought tainted were.  In particular, I had passed over the 2006 Seppelts St Peters Shiraz (not all wines we were tasting were Hunter Valley Shiraz BTW!) as not being suitable, but when I tasted it again several months later, I realized how spectacular a wine this is.  I could not believe this and several other wines I had rated as insufferable only a few months earlier.

Not that I need to worry about this, but people who exercise regularly find they still need to take at least a day off every week to allow their muscles to recover and build.  And the same is true with wine tasting.  During our ten day trip to the Hunter, I had accumulated so much tannin on the inside of my cheeks and had saturated my palate so thoroughly that I could not discern readily one taste from another.  My palate had been ruined from excessive tasting.  Fortunately, it came right once again.

I drink a glass or two of wine almost daily.  I love drinking wine for several reasons, including that I love the taste, I love the experience of drinking a good glass of wine with a good meal and sharing a glass with friends, and I also find it lifts my spirits and attitude and helps me think, write and do other mental and emotional activities better.  But if I do not take a break of a day or two every now and then, I get to the point where I notice my palate is not working at 100%.  And this will diminish your wine tasting experience.

This is a rare situation where I am writing this blog without having a glass of wine to inspire me!  And I am planning to be wine-free for a couple more days.  By doing this over the last few weeks, I have noticed my palate is functioning better and I have been able to discern far better the characteristics and quality of the wines I have been drinking.  Last night, I attended a members dinner for one of the wineries in The Hunter Valley.  They had 55 wines to sample, but I only tried about a dozen.  By not having any wine the day before and by limiting my selection, I was able to better taste and appreciate the differences and quality of each of the wines I sampled, and was far more confident in my selections (I actually did not buy any, but was confident in my assessment in passing in on them.)

Wine judges have the (enviable!) task of having to judge many wines in a given session.  However, even with spitting out all the wine, they still can suffer palate fatigue which is why they don’t judge more than a maximum of 60 – 80 wines for session.  And they keep their palates in shape and prepare for each judging by ensuring their palate is in optimal shape.  (They also make sure no mint toothpaste, lipstick or other impediments curtail their ability to taste.)

I have found my wine drinking experiences have benefited from following a few rules:

  • Take off a day or two per week from drinking any wine or other alcohol to rest and detox your palate
  • Every month or two, take a break of at least three to five days without drinking anything (or limit it to a glass during that time if you feel the need to imbibe)
  • If you are going to enjoy a great bottle or two of wine, make sure to not drink for a day or two beforehand, so your palate is in optimal shape to enjoy that truly great bottle
  • If you are going to taste or drink four to five glasses or more in any day, mix it up by having some whites and some reds and of different grapes, and follow that with a day of not drinking

I never get drunk while drinking wine.  I drink wine in a controlled manner for the taste and enjoyment and to be able to share the experience with others.  Yet, I still control my approach to wine drinking to get the most out of the experience.  If you are suffering from palate fatigue, give it a rest for a day or two!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley
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Tune in tomorrow to find out wine topic on Food in Focus!

I am privileged to once again participate in Natascha Moy’s great radio talk and music show tomorrow called Food in Focus.  It airs at 4 pm until 6 pm Saturday, Sydney time. Just follow the link for Food in Focus and you can log into the digital channel (or 89.7 FM in Sydney if listening over the air waves) to listen in from anywhere in the world (make sure to adjust time to 4 pm Sydney time though!)  I was a guest last November and look forward to being one again tomorrow.  In November we discussed ‘party wines’ and it was great fun.

Natascha airs this show every Saturday and has been doing it for a while, so it takes great creativity to constantly come up with new and exciting ideas.  There are food topics and wine / spirits topics every week.  When Natascha asked me again, we started to discuss what topic we should focus on.

I suggested 2007 Hunter Shiraz and what a great vintage it was, reviewing the very best from that vintage.  She said it was going to be too hot to drink Shiraz throughout the show in its entirety and I agreed (of course I need to bring wine and we need to taste it – otherwise, how could we discuss it ‘intelligently?’).  She counter suggested I pick out and discuss three wines to match to a menu of:

  • Fish say a lightly grilled Kingfish with a simple lemon butter sauce
  • Pork terrine
  • Lamb backstrap

I thought it a good idea, but if we did not have the food there, we would have to speculate a bit, so I countered and suggested comparing three Hunter Semillons – a young, medium, and vintage version to show how they mature over time.  Natascha mentioned she has done Hunter Semillons ‘to the death’ and did not want to repeat, and then she made a great suggestion that I thought was perfect!

Of course, I am not going to tell you before the show, so dial in to listen to us tomorrow at 4 – 6 pm Sydney time on Food in Focus with Natascha Moy and guests.  We will have a great time, you will be entertained and hopefully learn a little bit more about wine.  Hope you join us and are listening in tomorrow!

1977 Dow Vintage Port and 2004 Dow Vintage Port

I am sitting with a glass of each of these glorious Port wines in front of me as I write this.  These are some fine Ports!

1977 Dow Vintage Port (left) and 2004 Dow Vintage Port (right)

I would have to give the nod to the 1977 Dow Vintage Port being superior, both in terms of wine quality and also since it holds a special memory for me.  I had two bottles for a very long time that I purchased while in Graduate School a long, long time ago.  However, through misfortune, I was only able to drink only one glass of this brilliant Port wine.  As a very special treat for my 60th birthday, my wife found and surprised me with two bottles of the 1977 Dow Vintage Port.

The picture above shows the 1977 Dow to be slighter browner, but that is not the case.  This is still in its optimal drinking period.  Being high in alcohol, most Port wines will last a very long time.  When I opened the 1977 Dow Vintage Port, the cork crumbled (even when using the Ah So – that’s how saturated and weak the 35 year old cork was!)  The cork split and the bottom went into the bottle.  I had to filter the wine to remove the cork and the sediment.  Fortunately, being a high alcohol wine, it was still in good condition and improved after decanting.

The 2004 Dow Vintage Port is an excellent wine and I paid $30 per bottle for this.  But the wine is a child yet – so tight and with the grape fibers still interlocking (that is why is looks darker around the edges compared to the 1977 which is looser and therefore smoother)!  While drinkable today, it will last another ten years and soften over that period of time and even longer.  However, once I work my way through my two bottles of the 1977 Dow Vintage Port, my last 1967 Lindeman’s Vintage Port, and two bottles of the 1980 Lindeman’s Vintage Port, then I will seriously start work my way through the 14 bottles of the 2004 Dow Vintage Port I have.   I expect this will not occur for another 2 – 3 years.

The 2004 Dow Vintage Port tastes of blackberry and boysenberry.  It has a sharp smell when you nose it, but is smoother to the palate.  It is thick, a bit sweeter and and does not have the complexity of the 1977.  It starts full, but has a weak finish.  The 2004 Dow Vintage Port is still trying to figure out what type of wine it wants to be and is almost combative with your palate.  I expect this Port has a lot of potential though and will benefit from more years in the bottle. 

By comparison, the 1977 Dow Port is elegant.  The nose is softer and more subtle, but once the wine hits your palate, you can taste the intensity and concentrated plum and blackberry flavors.  This wine is sharp to the taste and lasts a very long time.  But then the 1977 Dow Vintage Port does benefit from 35 years of aging!  It is beautifully balanced and sits in perfect harmony on your tongue and against your cheeks.  And the 1977 is certainly a more expensive wine (than the 2004) today, even though it went at a reasonable price when first available. 

The very best vintage in a long, long time of Dow Vintage Port is the 2007.  This wine was so popular, it never made its way to Australia.  I was fortunate to pick up two bottles of this in the US about 18 months ago.  This wine is rated by many to be a rare 100/100.  However, I definitely need to let this wine mature in the cellar for a long, long time.  The trick is to determine when is the best time to drink them.  I want to make sure I still have a good enough palate to be able to discern the quality, yet not drink it before its time.  I just hope its time comes before my time!

Impact of temperature on wine taste is larger than you think! Part 2 – White Wine

In Part 1, we discussed the impact of temperature on red wines.  We will now do the same for white wines.  The effect of temperature is even more profound than it is for reds.

In general whites are stored in quite cool temperatures.  My long-term whites like my long-term reds are stored at 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit).  But then I have usually about 6 – 8 ‘ready-to-serve’ whites in my kitchen refrigerator which are stored at 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit).  This is too cold a temperature to serve most white wines.  In general, excellent white wines (Montrachets and other aged Chardonnays and Semillons) should be served at 10 – 14 degrees Celsius (50 – 57 degrees Fahrenheit) to really release their great flavors and bouquet.  Typically good white wines (Most other Chardonnays, Rieslings, Pinot Grigios, etc.) served at 7 – 10 degrees Celsius (45 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and bad white wines as chilled as you like!

Boxed white wines and lower quality white wines are usually served very cold as they are lacking flavor anyway.  What most ‘bad’ white wine drinkers are looking for a a refreshing, cool drink and lots of alcohol!  But if you want to get the most flavor out of a white wine that it has to offer, then you should warm it up a few degrees.

In the past, I made the mistake of storing and serving my white wines too cold, especially if I took an excellent white wine directly from the fridge.  Now I tend to take the wine out of the fridge for about 15 minutes to let it rise in temperature a few degrees and become more flavorful.  This is often accomplished by putting the bottle in a carrying case to bring to a restaurant and the time it takes to get to the restaurant is perfect in terms of the wine being a few degrees warmer.  Or if I am going to serve it at home, I let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes before serving it.

For an excellent white wine, especially a great and aged Chardonnay, I now let the wine warm up to about 12 degrees or so.  (Note that I do not actually take the temperature of the wine, but rather just feel the bottle and compare the bottle to room temperature.)  A bottle such as a great Montrachet or the Penfolds Yatarnna deserve this type of treatment and you will definitely notice the improved bouquet of wine in your nose and taste of the wine on your palate.

I love taking a sip when it is still ‘too cold’ and swirling an excellent white wine around my mouth.  The body temperature of my mouth warms the wine almost immediately and over several minutes, you can pick up a variety of different tastes that keep changing over time.  It is an amazing experience and worth savoring!

Champagnes and sparkling wines are usually served even more chilled than while wines.  For low-end sparklings, you can serve them at 4 – 6 degrees Celsius, but good Champagnes should be served at a somewhat higher temperature.

While difficult to discern by other than expert tasters, Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy relates the different experiences he has had with the 1996 Moet and Chandon Dom Perignon Champagne:
  • at 8°C, mineral and a little closed, perfect with an oyster tartare
  • at 9°C, moderately open, to be matched with crayfish
  • at 10°, complements wild salmon magnificently
  • at 11°, chardonnay’s butter notes appear, volume amplifies
  • at 12°, delicate mushroom aromas appear
  • at 13°, pinot noir aromas, tannins! serve with a lamb tajine
  • at 14°, smoky flavours and yoghurt aromas are revealed
  • at 16°, aromas of meringue and walnuts, amazing intensity – magical with a tarte Tatin with candied violets

Most of us could not discern such differences in flavor, but some can.  However, we can all learn from this and be appreciative of the difference a few degrees makes!  BTW, if you want to do this experiment with a bottle at each degree between 8 and 16, it will cost you about $2,400 at $300 per bottle!

You deserve the enhanced flavor of letting a great white wine warm up a few degrees towards room temperature to enhance the taste.  A number of people will take a great white wine directly out of their long-term cellar at 14 degrees Celsius (by now you should know this is 57 degrees Fahrenheit!) and serving it.

Right way – no ice

If you have removed white wine from the fridge or a Vintec where it has been stored ‘cold,’ and once it has warmed up a couple of degrees to release the flavors, you should place the white wine in wine storage container without ice (like in the photo to the left).  This ensures the wine stays at the right temperature for a long time (hopefully long enough to finish the bottle!).  If you put it in an ice bucket, it will return the wine to close to freezing, choking off the flavor.  Therefore, I never use ice in any manner with good white wine.  (Or you may consider just using a few cubes to counterbalance the room temperature.) If you are drinking bad white wine, then use all the ice you want, as you want to hide the poor flavor!

Wrong! Do not use ice!

We may not all have the discerning palate of Richard Geoffroy, but we can still greatly enhance our white wine tasting experience by making sure we are storing and serving the wine at the right temperatures.I have learned that there is great benefit in warming an excellent white wine up a few degrees before tasting it.  Do some comparison testing and see if you do not agree!

And if this all seems just too hard, then for white wine, take it out of the fridge for 20 minutes before serving it and leave it at that.  That is as good a rule of thumb as any.

Impact of temperature on wine taste is larger than you think! Part 1 – Red Wine

Some simple knowledge of wine storage and drinking can greatly enhance most people’s wine drinking experience.  One such area that is easy to understand and can significantly increase pleasure is the temperature at which to serve various wines.  The general rule is to serve red wine at room temperature and white wine chilled.  And sparkling wine, even more chilled!  But what is chilled?  And in fact, what actually is a suitable room temperature?

This will be a two-part blog on the impact of temperature on wine.  The first and simplest post is for red wine.  This will be followed by the impact of temperature on white wine, which is even more profound and important (but no more complicated to understand).

Hopefully, your red wines have been stored suitably at a consistent temperature that is somewhat cooler than room temperature.  I store my reds long-term at 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) and in my apartment Vintec wine fridge at 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit).  My room temperature is usually between 20 – 22 degrees Celsius (68 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit).  Therefore, if I am planning ahead, I take my bottles of red wine out of the Vintec at least several hours up to a day before serving them.  This (1) allows the wine to reach room temperature and (2) to by standing it straight up, draw any loose sediment to the bottom of the bottle.

By raising the temperature 4 – 5 degrees (Celsius), you really release the flavor.  The wine goes from being a dormant, tight, flat wine to a more open and interactive one.  The flavors become fuller and more robust.  It is always a good idea to drink red at room temperature if the room temperature is between 18 – 25 degrees Celsius (65 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit).  But what do you do if room temperature is above that or you are outside on a hot day?  If the temperature is only a few degrees higher, then you can still drink the wine well enough.  However, as the temperature starts to approach or go beyond 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), drinking red wine at room temperature becomes less enjoyable.  This is because it becomes a bit stickier and may even taste a bit cooked.  Additionally, at those temperatures, you are probably looking for something cooler and more refreshing to drink, like a cold beer or a chilled white wine.

Reusable ice cubes – store in freezer

Therefore, if you are outside and it is 30 degrees Celsius or higher, you may want to chill your red wine slightly.  To do this, I would not recommend putting ice cubes into your wine!  This will water down and flatten the flavors. You may however want to put in one or two reusable ice cubes which are plastic encased ice cubes.  Therefore, you can reduce the temperature of the red wine a few degrees without watering it down.

I am currently drinking a very nice 2005 Bannockburn Pinot Noir at room temperature of 23.5 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and this temperature is working well.  However, if it was a few degrees warmer, I may consider putting a reusable ice cube into my wine!

My next blog will focus on the right temperatures to serve white wine.  The temperature setting has a far more important impact on white wine than it does for red, and this is true to get the most out of both bad and good white wine!