29 Jun 2013

Wine - what's hot and what's not?

Your non-wine geek friend is over for a drink, you reach for a bottle of red from the fridge, and they laugh.

You can't blame them. Putting a red wine in the fridge probably looks a bit daft.

When wine isn't an obsession, you don't tend to do it. Wine's a rare treat you have on a Friday or Saturday night for a cosy night in, just one or two glasses, treating it in the same way as a brandy in front of the fire. A big, deep, rich and oaky red is perhaps what you fancy more often than not.

But then you get more fascinated by wine, and you drink it more often. And gradually, you don't mind your red wines served slightly cooler.

At least I think that's what I've found. Just lately - maybe it's the warmer weather - when I've opened a red wine it's tasted a bit soupy. It has a certain effect on the feel of a red wine in the mouth when it's too warm - a bit like taking a clothes hanger from out of a shirt and letting it crumple to the floor. Putting it in the fridge for even just 10 minutes seems to freshen it up again, gets the shape back.

Obviously as always it depends on the wine, the mood, the weather and the occasion and there are definitely no set rules. Each to their own; no two people will have exactly the same preferences in anything.

But it made me wonder - has my taste/palate evolved as I've got more into wine, or is it simply that when you drink the stuff a bit more often, refreshment becomes more important? As wine is more of an everyday drink, you want it to refresh you?

It also made me wonder about wine tastings, wine scores and wine awards.

Wine writers, rightly, are always telling us about the importance of serving wine in the right way to get it at its best - not just the right temperature, but also the right glass, letting it breathe, and so on. All of these variables are different for different wines. After all, it's the main selling point for wine glass makers and retailers - certain wines seem better in certain glasses. Different wines also taste better at different temperatures and some need more exposure to air than others.

I've never judged at a wine awards, so I don't know the ins and outs. But I gather that generally every wine is served in the same glass as all the others, and presumably at the same temperature. I don't know whether they're all given the same amount of time to breathe.

At first glance that might look fair, as you're treating them all the same. But equal opportunities isn't about taking a uniform approach. Think about an office building - to give everyone the same opportunities you need to provide different options. A ramp at the entrance; the chance to adjust our chairs to different heights, and so on.

Think about the best drama you've ever seen on the telly. For me, maybe The Killing or Six Feet Under. Amazing TV, but we all need the volume turned up to different levels to appreciate it equally.

Different wines, even within the same category, might taste at their best when given different treatment.

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