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Why you need to get your red wine degrees right

Why does all wine, white or red, have to served chilled in a city like Mumbai?

This is not just any question about wine because on the answer, might hinge the fate of thousands of future wine experiences! Sadly, the answer also reveals why many more thousands of bad wine experiences in Mumbai at least, have already happened. Serving temperature is that last and most critical mile of delivering wine in its finest form. Get it right and the wine has served its divine purpose of being appreciated fully. Get the temperature wrong and it doesn’t matter how great or expensive the wine is, you’re unlikely to go beyond the first sip.

To understand why serving temperature is crucial for enjoying wine, consider what wine contains — fruit, sugar, alcohol and acid. Red wines also have tannins. The fine balance of these elements translates into what we taste on the palate. The right serving temperature is vital to keep that balance intact. Now, if the white wine is too warm, it will just taste of alcohol and none of the floral and fruity aromas. But we all know that white wine needs to well chilled in order to lift its delicate aromas and acidity. What most people and even some so called experts tend to forget when it comes to serving red wine in cities like Mumbai is that the label advice of room temperature doesn’t apply because we’re not in Europe! We’re in a city that almost never gets cold and is frequently humid – yes, as far away from European room temperature as can be.

So, in such climes, serving red wine at room temperature would be unforgivable because the wine wouldn’t stand a chance – it will taste soupy and flat. The acidity of the wine is its backbone of freshness and without it, forget about all the fruity flavours, all you get is a rush of alcohol and a flabby texture on the palate. It would be quite unpleasant and simply because the wine wasn’t adequately cooled.

For the record, light, approachable reds which are quite popular with the Indian palate need to be chilled to 12 degrees Celsius while reds with a little more weight, tannins and oak maturity can be poured at around 17 degrees C. And while it’s entirely true that over-chilling any wine, white or red, closes off its aromas and flavours almost entirely, remember that wine in the glass around here can only get warmer. So even if the wine is served too cold, you can warm the bowl with the your palm of your hands. But if the wine was served warm to begin with, well, there’s no going back. Perhaps, reading this bit of well-intentioned advice, fewer may go back to needlessly suffering the evil of warm red wine ever again.

Professor Plonk: Created by Antoine Lewis.