One of the most frequently asked questions in the tasting room at Creation is why our red wines are served slightly chilled. The quick response is that “room temperature” is not a South African concept – it is in fact European, where room temperature is much lower, and thus we should serve our red wines somewhere between 14 and 18 degrees depending on the variety.

Fact is that the temperature at which wine is served has a significant effect on wine aroma, taste and texture and it is fairly obvious to most people that the same things taste different at various temperatures.

     

Water is a perfect example of the effect of temperature on liquid. If water is heated up, the molecules vibrate faster and faster – until the water boils and turns to gas. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if water is cooled down to freezing point the molecules vibrate slower and slower until the water becomes solid (ice). The implications of this for wine with regard to aroma, taste and texture are interesting to note.

The main effect of temperature on a liquid is the volatility of the aromatic compounds. This determines how many aromatic molecules reach our nose and can thus be smelled. The colder, the slower and less volatile they are, the less aromatic a wine will be. At the other end, when too warm, many of the enjoyable molecules are gone before you can smell them and alcohol becomes the dominant smell.

Taste and texture notably affect the perception of tannin in wine – the cooler a wine the more astringent the tannins are perceived to be – hence the serving of white wines (which almost entirely lack tannin) at a cooler temperature than red wines which are rich in tannins. Acidity on the other hand is more noticeable at higher temperatures. High acid whites are thus better served cooler than low acid red wines. The effect of temperature on the perceived balance of tannin, acid and consequently the perception of fruit flavours is thus pivotal in our perception of a wine’s structure.

 

 

 
 

Luckily all wine types are similarly affected by temperature, which means that it is possible to make the following a guideline when determining the best temperature: the heavier the wine’s tannin structure and the lower its acidity, the warmer it should be served. Low tannin, higher acid wines are best served colder to maximise refreshment. The range is generally from about 8° C for the higher acid white wines up to about 18º C for the seriously complex and older reds – which is slightly cooler than the average home or restaurant.

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