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Why you should store (some) red wines in the fridge

Red should be drunk at room temperature and white should be chilled, right? Well, maybe. Photo: ThinkstockA few years ago, a hospitality mate told me about a couple who came into her restaurant for lunch. They ordered a $300 bottle of gamay from France’s Loire Valley. It’s a dry, delicate variety of grape, known for tasting a helluva lot better when chilled.
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The (cold) bottle was duly decanted and served to the couple, who took a sip, baulked at the cold red … and refused to pay for the wine, leaving my friend with an open, barely-drunk bottle of pretty great wine, and a bill for 300 big ones.

While this story is extreme, it shows how we feel about our wine. Red should be drunk at room temperature and white should be chilled, right? Well, maybe.

Jancis Robinson, who is often given the lofty title of the world’s foremost wine expert, believes all wine should be chilled, mainly to avoid the kinds of temperature fluctuation that can kill the good stuff (that is, flavour) in the bottle.

On her blog, she writes that spikes in heat are “the most serious hazard for wine storage”. When you think about the record heatwaves we’ve been experiencing in – and the potential spikes in the temperature of your wine – it’s enough to make you want to, well, drink.

Red wine’s ideal temperature, Robinson says, is between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. When your wine gets above 30 degrees, she says, “its more volatile compounds may be boiled off forever”.

David Murphy, sommelier, One Penny RedHow to keep your wine coolWhen buying from a bottle shop, Robinson says to never buy bottles that have been in the window. These will have been exposed to the sun – and therefore, heat.Don’t fill your glasses to the top – again, this will allow the wine to warm up before you’ve had a chance to drink it. Fill halfway, and take a trip to the fridge when you’re done.Always store open bottles in the fridge, Robinson says. “Low temperatures slow down chemical reactions,” she says, “including oxidation, [which is] the enemy of the open bottle.”

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