Don't settle for wines served way too warm in hot weather ...restaurant mark-ups make it your right to lose your cool.

I have spent the last couple of weeks visiting family in Canada and eating out in restaurants that have ranged from friendly local bistros to fine dining. The weather was warm to hot and while I have enjoyed slapping on the sunscreen and eating outdoors I have been less impressed by the efforts of restaurateurs to serve their wines at the right temperature. Now we all know that the price of a wine on a restaurant list is several multiples of what it would cost in a shop. This is to allow the restaurant to add value to the wine by providing a glass, table and someone to open the bottle and pour it. But if all they do is pull the bottle out of a box kept at the back of the kitchen in warm weather temperatures then they are not earning their mark-up.

With fabulous AAA quality rib-eye steaks on the menu my eye was drawn to the list of red wines each evening and I allowed the bottle to be brought to the table, opened and tasted before making a bit of a fuss. ‘Could I have an ice-bucket please?’

Already eyebrows had been raised because just two of us were sharing a bottle of wine. In the continent of North America this is almost akin to admitting you are an alcoholic.

I have observed whole restaurants where bottles of wine are as rare as lifeboats on the Titanic. Some people have a glass of wine, to sip through the meal. Others make a cocktail last all night. Soft drinks, beer and even coffee were being drunk alongside the food. This may be great for the state of the population’s livers, but it does mean that many waiting staff are not used to serving wine properly, even at high-end restaurants.

I would have thought that if a customer came along, wanting to buy a whole bottle of over-priced wine, then the restaurant might just train the staff to look after it correctly.

So once I had navigated around the smirk of the waiter after requesting an ice bucket I then had to gently indicate how to use it. The bucket was no problem but it usually arrived with an inch or two of ice in it.

Five minutes in ice and water makes a huge difference to drinkability

Ice on its own in the bottom of a bucket has no effect on the temperature of the wine inside the bottle. The bottle needs to be up to its neck in a mixture of ice and water, so it actually chills down. Turning the bottle occasionally helps the chilling process, which if done without smirks from the waiter, and with plenty of ice, should take no more than 5 minutes.

The difference is enormous. A Quail’s Gate Merlot from Okanagan went from soupy and alcoholic to a vibrant, lively, cherry and cassis-filled wine that accompanied a steak perfectly. Tantalus Pinot Noir was boring at ambient, but a few minutes in an ice bucket gave it zest and layers of flavour.

The moral of this story is that wherever you are, you should never accept red wine that is just too warm. Even if it is just tolerable when it first arrives, if you are eating out in evening sunshine then it will warm up and lose its charm.

If you are at home then there are many red wines that appreciate half an hour in the fridge to bring out their flavours. This is especially true if you normally keep your wines in a warm kitchen. If you are eating outside then don’t overfill wine glasses, keep the bottle out of the sun, or even better, use an ice bucket.

 

Here are my favourite reds for summer chilling.

 

The Takeout Sangiovese 2016, Italy, Sainsbury £5.00

Easy-drinking juicy, cherry-filled flavours in this great-value wine that really needs 30 minutes in a fridge to add some life and vivacity. As the name suggests this is great with a take-away pizza, but goes well with pasta too.

Recchia Bardolino 2016, Italy, Waitrose normally £7.99 down to £5.99 until 8 August

This wine is made to be served cellar-chilled with a sunshine lunch. Packed with light cherry fruit and easy-drinking style it is fantastic value, even at its full price.

Morande Reserva One to One País 2016, Chile, Majestic £8.99, down to £6.99 on a mix six deal

The País grape was brought to South America hundreds of years ago but was almost forgotten in the rush to Cabernet Sauvignon. Now rediscovered it has light, fresh, almost Beaujolais flavours, edged with spice. Good with cold meats or tomato-based dishes.

Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2016, Chile, widely available including Tesco and Asda around £7

This is one of the best introductions to Pinot Noir on the planet. Soft, cherry fruit, a mere hint of spice and soft tannins make this a perfect wine to pour at any summer gathering. But don’t let it get too warm. Keep it chilled to keep those flavours fresh.

 

The Saviour Cinsault 2016, South Africa, Morrisons £7

A terrific blend of juicy raspberry fruit, red cherries and a light dusting of cinnamon spice makes this an appealing wine, but if you chill it down below 18 degrees it seems to gather more enthusiasm and flavour. Team it with sausages and spiced chicken.

 

The Best Pinot Noir 2015, Otago, New Zealand, Morrisons £9.75

Almost all Pinots deserve to be served just slightly below ambient temperature but this one can work both ways. Chill it in summer to bring out the dark cherry and plum fruit or serve it at room temperature in winter to let it show its full flavours and silky style. Great with grilled duck breast, whatever the weather.

Plessis-Duval Saumur-Champigny 2015, Loire, France, Marks and Spencer £10

Made from 100% Cabernet Franc this wine oozes freshly picked raspberry flavours. It is light enough to pour alongside grilled salmon, but can cope with lamb.

Henry Fessy Brouilly 2015, Waitrose £12.99

Almost all Beaujolais wine is best served lightly chilled, and even the bigger, ripe-berry flavours of Brouilly shine out after just 30 minutes in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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