Monday, June 01, 2009

Response to Question on Chilling Red vrs White Zin

Mr. Will said...

Should I chill this wine (or any other red Zin for that matter)? I do chill white Zin, but what of the red? I have always been confused as to the proper temperatures for specific wines.

Brian Mitchell said...

That's a good question Mr. Will. I do run across folks on a regular basis who are not so familiar with the differences between White Zin and and Red Zinfandel.

Red Zinfandel, or just Zinfandel, has been a mainstay of California winemaking since the 1800s, and today there are quite a number of producers making this varietal. The style of the wine will typically run from medium-bodied to full-bodied red wine. The more medium-bodied wines will be juicy and have a good amount of berry fruit flavors and spice, while the more full-bodied wines can be a mouthful with much more flavor intensity, alcohol and tannin structure (ie: the dry stuff).

The White Zins (pink wines) are lighter, fruitier and usually a bit sweet - perfect for chilling and having with a picnic or some lighter foods. The Red Zinfandel typically is not chilled, especially if it is fuller-bodied and has been aged in wood for some time (like the Summers Estate). The medium-bodied Zins could be put in the fridge or an ice bucket for half-an-hour before serving - this would work especially well if you were eating bar-b-que on the patio (warm weather, sweet and spicy food - perfect).

Generally speaking, lighter whites (unoaked Chard, Chenin, Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, etc.) and sparkling wines should be served fairly cool - about 40-50 degrees, while medium and fuller bodied wines can show well at slightly higher temps - say 50-60 degrees. Lighter and some medium-bodies reds will work well in the 50-60 degree zones, while fuller reds should be in the 58-68 degree zone, for best results.

Colder temps will decrease the fruit aromas and intensify the tannins and wood flavors, while warmer temps will bring out more fruit flavors but also more alcohol. It's a bit of a balancing act, but certainly not an exact science. The real answer of course is to drink/serve the wine the way you like it. In fact, I have had customers order glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon (full-bodied red), with two ice cubes, please. To each his own.

Hope this helps...

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