It’s a sweaty 3 day travel from Cape Town to Jakarta, Indonesia. After 4 flights we arrived at Lampung and crossed through the lush, Sumatran jungle in bemo’s. Bemo’s are primitive 4X2 taxis; with drivers that seem convinced that it’s the equivalent of a Toyota 4×4. Two days after we arrived at Karang Nymbor, a remote surf destination on the Tsunami stricken island of Sumatra Indonesia, I was taking shelter underneath a huge tree which hangs over the beach.
It was almost forty degrees Celsius and the relative humidity just short of 100%. A tropical storm just broke out and the peaceful island was suddenly transformed into scary conditions of strong winds, and heavy rains. Taking cover from the rain, I saw my friend running towards me with…. Lo and behold! A bottle of BLANKbottle™ 3-43 Shiraz 2005. This, being the only bottle we brought with us from SA. So, there we sat, in the midst of a tropical storm, pushing the cork into the bottle and “enjoying”(????) HOT (40 degrees) South African Red wine by the very unsophisticated but effective method of drinking from the bottle. An experience never to be repeated?
The obvious opposite of the above scenario: Sitting in a chalet on a snow covered mountain, next to a nice cozy fire in the middle of a typical European winter in the French Alps. Your beautiful wife in your one arm and a nice glass of red in the other hand. There is just no comparison.
The result: The alcohol seemed to jump out of the bottle and hit you smack bang on the forehead. The flavour compounds were so prominent that you couldn’t keep them in control. Everything (alcohol, wood, tannin, berry etc) seemed to be on steroids, attacking each taste bud with a vengeance, setting them on fire one by one. The bottom line: It’s just not the same. The wine tends to burn every taste bud to death, the alcohol seemed to clear my sinuses and I felt that wine at such a temperature and humidity seemed to be more effective as a medicine than an enjoyable alcoholic beverage. Needless to say, we gave the rest of the wine to some of the ossies who (in my experience) always appreciate a free drink.
Wine is all about temperature! From the moment you plant the vine to produce grapes, temperature is critical. Everything “boils” (no pun intended) down to the fact that the speed and outcome of all biological processes and reactions are influenced by temperature. I really first began to understand the influence of temperature on the vast amounts of processes in the Biochemistry class at varsity. The production, composition, quality and quantity of all separate flavour compounds are influenced by temperature. The sum of all the separate compounds, their reaction towards each other and relative quantities give us the flavour profile of a wine. To enjoy the wine and have a full blown experience of the flavour profile you need to enjoy the wine at the right temperature.
Nice and cold for the whites – but not near freezing – and according to tradition, room temperature for the reds!!?? The French enjoy their reds at room temperature, therefore we do the same?! The only problem, as we all know ,is that our room temperatures differ tremendously from Europe’s. Hence, it’s not a bad idea at all, to chill your bottle of red wine ever so slightly (see my tips below) on a warm summer’s day. Besides the fact that it will improve the wine somewhat, it will simultaneously serve to cool your palate and refresh you.
The main objective when drinking wine is to enjoy the wine as a balanced alcoholic beverage. You want the alcohol, fruit, wood and all flavour compounds to be in perfect balance. Every flavour in a flavour profile has an optimum temperature. The ultimate goal: you don’t want one aspect of the wine to overpower the other. When a wine is too hot, the alcohol will become volatile and overpower you on the nose, giving you a burning sensation. On the palate, it tends to overpower all the other flavours. At the same time all other nuances will be released and the wine tends to lose its subtlety, as though on steroids. The result – No BALANCE, defeating the key to a good wine!
Let’s look at a few tips when enjoying wine:
(REMEMBER: wine appreciation is not about the wine, it’s all about you, the one drinking it! You can drink wine the way you like, as long as you drink wine and enjoy it!)
So, how do we deal with these factors?
Putting 3 blocks of ice in your wine? Personally, I feel that, when the ice melts, you have in fact not only diluted the wine, but also incidentally added chlorine to the flavour profile and therefore will not be able to enjoy the full potential the wine offers. In a restaurant I will normally ask for an ice bucket, for both red and white wine. I will then pour small amounts of wine into my glass at a time and quaff it before the temperature rises.Reds in the fridge: In summer I’ll put all my reds in the fridge for a half an hour before drinking.
Rule of thumb: All reds and port: 16 – 18 degrees. All other wines: 8 – 10 degrees.