Why we chill white wine, but not red…
Geeky Posted on June 25th 2015 By Kristina

Why we chill white wine, but not red…

It’s the time of the year when we take the dinner table outside, crank up the BBQ and enjoy our meals Mediterranean style. But we have a dilemma.

We are told to make sure that white wine has been chilled before we drink it. So important is this preparation, there are actual gadgets available that will speed the process up so we can get to the drinking part.

However, red wine is different. Red wine is for the grown-ups, and this doesn’t need chilling at all. Just open the bottle, let it ‘breathe’ and then start quaffing.

But why?

To understand, we have to look into the science of our taste buds and why food and drink taste different at different temperatures. So we did, and it’s quite interesting.

If you’ve ever had a tepid glass of lager, then you’ll know that it’s not a pleasant taste. It’s the same with cider if it’s too warm, it just assaults the mouth. It turns out that the sweetness of a drink is affected by the temperature. The warmer it is, the sweeter it is. You’d think this sweetness would make it taste better, but in fact, the opposite is true and you’re instead left with a sickly flavour.

When you cool wine, it becomes dryer and sharper, and sweetness is taken away. It actually becomes less “flavoursome” and much easier on the pallet.

Red wines are different. You’ve probably heard about the “good” compounds in red wines called tannins. When people tell us that red wines are good for us, they’re referring to the fact it contains these tannins that some studies are suggesting may be good for our heart. However, they also add flavour to many products, including wine.

When we chill a red wine, the tannins are more pronounced, and it can make the drink bitterer. Tannins, in the plant world, act as a defence against predators, hence the taste. When the wine is warmed up, the tannins are less apparent.


Of course, temperature doesn’t just affect beer and wine, it also affects food and a study by The Journal of Sensory Studies found that serving temperature also affected cheese.

Their study showed:

Three serving temperatures were selected (5, 12, 21C). Cheeses were subsequently evaluated in quadruplicate by the panel at each serving temperature. Cheeses were differentiated on their flavor and taste attributes (P < 0.0001). Perception of sour taste intensity increased with serving temperature (P < 0.05). Other flavors and basic tastes did not exhibit a temperature effect or temperature by cheese interaction (P > 0.05). Panelists noted that cheese was more difficult to evaluate at 21C compared with 12 or 5C.

So whatever you drink or eat, it seems its temperature is important to how much we enjoy it!

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