CELLAR TEMP ISN'T ROOM TEMP!
With the midday sun directly overhead it’s not only appropriate but nearly mandatory that mealtime wines are chilled including reds which constitute over 80% of wines consumed in Thailand. Sounds like heresy to those holding to adages suggesting room temp for reds but even that is an age-old flawed concept. Ideal cellar temperatures range between 13C to 15C which are hallmarks for serving wine as well. Don’t forget that it takes barely five minutes for a glass of wine to rise to the ambient room temp, so don’t feel embarrassed to request an ice bucket for that bottle of red.
As one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of wine Italians are also unabashed when it comes to serving not just white wines chilled but reds as well. Let’s take a look at some of the many wine choices available in most Thai wine shops that offer added pleasure at cellar temps. Nero d’Avola is Sicily’s go-to red wine grape that has risen to international fame through the winemaking skills of the Planeta, Donnafugata and Scurati family wineries. Yielding wines of intense dark color with flavors of plums and dark chocolate Nero d’Avola is often blended with merlot and cabernet which are also heavily planted in Sicily. Usually medium bodied with notable tannins these are wines well suited to pasta dishes and roast lamb. They are at their best served at real cellar temps.
Pulgia is another of Italy’s many wine regions where it’s most distinguished red wine is known as primitivo. A powerhouse red with alcohol levels often higher than most Italian wines due to the compact nature of grape clusters that take longer to ripen which frequently results in more intense levels of sugar. Look for brands Salentino and Manduria. Wine Selection in Thaniya Plaza has several primitivos. The same grape is known as zinfandel in the U.S. where it is a popular companion to a wide selection of grilled meats.
Central Italy is the wine heartland of the country with Tuscany and its diverse soils and multiple clones of sangiovese grapes as the beating heart of the region. This is the home of those raffia wrapped bottles of Chianti once valued more as candle holders than for the wine they contained. And it’s also home to such revered and expensive wines branded Sassicaia, Ornellia and Brunello di Montalcino. Tuscany truly does produce wine to suit nearly anyone’s taste and budget.
Fortunately those vapid Chianti’s of the 1950’s and ‘60’s are long gone replaced by oak aged wines of substantial character and aging potential. Look for riserva Chianti Classico labels from Frescobaldi, Ruffino and Castello di Gabbiano. Soaring to the heavens amid Tuscany’s best wines, many of which are blends of sangiovese, cabernet and merlot, look for the Bolgheri region and Antinori’s Sassicaia and Ornellia, plus Gaja’s Ca’Marcanda. For sangiovese at its best treat yourself to Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalchino. Only a classic Florentine steak or prime rib of beef will do as a complement. Enjoy and don’t forget cellar temps to start!
Written by: R. James Mullen