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Fatal Flaw: Red Wines Served At Room Temperature


DonRocks
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PS: when you are saying "icy cold beer", you are speaking figuratively, while I'm speaking literally.

yeah. i think most of the planet knows what i'm talking about when i say "ice cold beer" and "frosty mug". sorry for the confusion.

I have nothing against a good, cold bud at the right time and place. That has nothing to do with the original topic of discussion. My rant that started this was against ice crystals in beer. If somehow your use of the phrase "ice cold beer" was intended to either change the topic under discussion or the nature or acceptability of ice crystals in beer, sorry I missed that.

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Anytime you want to borrow my instant-read infared thermometer, Rocks, just let me know. Much more discreet and quick taking a reading than sitting there with a metal rod sticking out of the glass.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Latest guilty party -- Lebanese Taverna Woodley Park.

A mid range Oregon Pinot Noir more than room temp warm with a lovely nose of grain alcohol :sad:

I should have taken my own advice to look how they store, but I really wanted some red. The bar is right inside the front door, with wine storage on the back bar under bright lights with a Friday night crowd and the HVAC really pushing the temps up high. Other wine racks located around dining room include one that is on the far side of a half wall that is about 3 feet from their brick oven! Sorry I didn't pull a bottle just to see what it was.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Maybe you can ask to see the bottle before it is served. When you "look" at it, you're handling it, so you can tell if it's warmer than it should be. This will give you the opportunity to pass, or ask if they have any that's not so warm.

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Don, go to the Tabard Inn. They have installed cooling units in the long term wine storage area and wine refrigerators set at 63 degrees at the bar to enable them to serve red wine at cellar, not room, temperature. Whites still come out of a regular refrigerator.

I take full credit for this - the person who runs that restaurant (actually the entire hotel) is a friend of mine and looks to me for wine guidance - and one of the first things I drilled into his head is that restaurants serve white wine too cold and red wine too warm in this country. Then I had him do a little experiment with a lovely 93 Amiot Chassagne Chaumes (rouge) they had in half bottles for $18. I said, open two bottles - one that's at "room temp" and the other that's been in the regular refrigerator for about 20 minutes. He called me immediately after and said he was convinced - and he acted on it.

A very nice wine list there too (not like Mark's but it's not trying to compete at that level).

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Don, go to the Tabard Inn. They have installed cooling units in the long term wine storage area and wine refrigerators set at 63 degrees at the bar to enable them to serve red wine at cellar, not room, temperature. Whites still come out of a regular refrigerator.

I take full credit for this - the person who runs that restaurant (actually the entire hotel) is a friend of mine and looks to me for wine guidance - and one of the first things I drilled into his head is that restaurants serve white wine too cold and red wine too warm in this country. Then I had him do a little experiment with a lovely 93 Amiot Chassagne Chaumes (rouge) they had in half bottles for $18. I said, open two bottles - one that's at "room temp" and the other that's been in the regular refrigerator for about 20 minutes. He called me immediately after and said he was convinced - and he acted on it.

A very nice wine list there too (not like Mark's but it's not trying to compete at that level).

Maureen,

We have those fridges, too. The problem is that ALL THE CUSTOMERS ARE AMERICANS. Frozen white wine and warm red wine is what they expect. Red wines come from my cellar at 66°. Most customers are not used to that. This is a tough nut to crack. Of course, really cheap whites and really cheap reds should both be drunk extra cold.

Mark

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Mark, I never for a moment doubted that you serve wine at the proper temperature - and I'm sure you are right that many diners here expect their reds to be served too warm. Jeremiah (the Tabard guy) did tell me that he had a customer send back a CNP because it was too cold (but I think he had set the cooler too cold then too) but I think it's been working for them since.

And of course you are right about the need to freeze the taste right out of bad wine - I have a neighbor who always wants to put ice cubes in her glasses of white wine - I tell her she must do that with the plonk she pours for herself but it isn't necessary with what I'm serving!

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Don, go to the Tabard Inn.

I just did, and I want to second your enthusiastic recommendation for their terrific wine service.

Andale also deserves a mention in this thread as another restaurant that gets it right.

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Don,

Couldn't read every reply, but why not ask for a bucket of ice if a bottle of red is served too warm? I put the bottle on top of the ice, but of course in the ice itself would speed cooling. Seems to do the trick. Actually, I have more of a problem with white wine being served too cold, it takes forever for it to warm up, even in the glass, and don't get me started with servers continually putting the ice cold wine bottle BACK into the frozen slush, I just keep taking it out! Of course, if you're ordering by the glass...well, maybe they can chill the bottle before pouring? Of course, buying wine by the glass is tricky at best, truly a whole new forum...

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Don,

Couldn't read every reply, but why not ask for a bucket of ice if a bottle of red is served too warm? I put the bottle on top of the ice, but of course in the ice itself would speed cooling. Seems to do the trick.

I was going to suggest the same, but I got the sense from Don's original post that he was drinking wine by the glass.

Once, in some mid-level restaurant in Modesto, California, a friend and I were served a lukewarm bottle of something red (Gallo would have been appropriate, but I think it was something a little further up the food chain). I asked the waiter to bring a bucket of ice to the table and my companion was so unnerved at being seen icing down red wine in public ("you just don't do that") that he couldn't eat or stop twitching until I had the bottle pulled out after 10 minutes or so. The tyranny of the "correct."

I've asked to have white wines chilled, too, and won some frowny looks from waiters and sommeliers. But I've found that I prefer something a little cooler than cellar temperature and that, worse, cellar temperature can become room temperature pretty quick. A couple of minutes on ice does the trick nicely, without turning the wine into a chardonnay slurpee.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I asked the waiter to bring a bucket of ice to the table and my companion was so unnerved at being seen icing down red wine in public ("you just don't do that") that he couldn't eat or stop twitching until I had the bottle pulled out after 10 minutes or so.  The tyranny of the "correct."

i had a waiter say "but it's red" when i asked for ice or a chill. just another symptom of the horrible wine service and training that most restaurants provide at just about all price-points.

Edited by tommy (log)
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  • 7 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Was at a certain bustling small plates restaurant last week and ordered two glasses of not cheap red. The wine must have been at least 75 degrees. Glasses of wine can't really be chilled down and would have to be pitched. So feeling wrong about sending it back, I waited until mine came down to room temperature :blink: and tried drinking it. Even if I was able to communicate to the server that "yes, I know red wine is supposed to be served 'warm', but this is too warm", I'm not sure what can constructively come of saying this, unless they're going to decide to build a new space to store the wine (which is highly doubtful). I'm wondering what those here in the restaurant industry think is the appropriate diner response to the warm red wine problem. Is refusing glasses of wine that are too warm acceptable? (if it was a bottle, I'd try the suggested ice bucket trick).

Chris Sadler

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unless they're going to decide to build a new space to store the wine (which is highly doubtful). I'm wondering what those here in the restaurant industry think is the appropriate diner response to the warm red wine problem. Is refusing glasses of wine that are too warm acceptable?

I'm in the restaurant industry, though I don't think it's up to the restaurant industry to determine what's appropriate here--reasonable and aware diners, like those we have here at eG, will determine what action restaurateurs take.

I think each establishment will then determine what their response will be--the red wine too warm issue is just like the perfunctory desserts that are an afterthought issue: until a sufficient number of core diners at a given restaurant speak up and say--"it's really to bad you don't take a little better care of your red wines" or "we love your food, but it's really too bad you don't make more of an effort with dessert"--and go elsewhere--the situation won't change because you haven't given said restaurateur enough incentive to change.

Why would you doubt that new spaces or new wine cooling mechanisms would be installed by concerned chef/owners around town? They're in the customer service business--and if they hear from their loyal customers (and from reasonable outspoken public advocates like Don) that their red wines are too warm, guess what, most will take corrective action. You think, say, a Michael Landrumm, who puts together a very good very reasonably-priced list likes reading little jabs about his red wines sitting out a room temperature and will ignore that? No, he won't--and if more of his customers ordered a good red and then asked for a bucket of ice to chill it down a bit--you think he wouldn't figure out that just maybe he should do something about it? He would, because he cares.

I think you'll see more owners try to store their wines better and serve their reds slightly cooler--and I think here in DC you're already seeing the effects of this--you're seeing more chef/owners try, they're building separate, cool storage rooms, they're putting in adjustable temperature controlled storage units at the bar, etc. They're making an effort. It's up to us to support that.

As a diner, why not ask before you actually order a red by the glass whether those reds are just sitting out on the counter or whether they'll be poured at 66 or so? Then make a decision whether to order by the glass or try the chilling a bottle down on some ice. Though if red wines are cooked sitting in a back room which is way too warm anyway, the ice bucket trick isn't going to help much. I should say, though, I've enjoyed many good wines with food that were not at the supposed "ideal" temperature--just like restaurants are organic things, so too are food and wine interactions not so clear, with set rules. It's always going to be personal and it's always going to be subjective, and its still going to have to work on your palate. Temperature is but one factor of many.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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