It’s hard not to notice the stifling temperatures this time of year despite occasional cooling rain showers. Fortunately the vast majority of us who live and work in Bangkok do so in the luxury of air conditioned offices and homes, not to mention dining out in temperature controlled restaurants. For those who enjoy wine as part of their daily fare it’s also likely they have a wine refrigerator at home to keep their liquid treasures from the vagaries of fluctuating temperatures. Contrary to once valid advice that wine turns to vinegar if not stored at cellar temps, meaning approximately 13C to 16C, it primarily ages faster losing its characteristic flavors. Research has shown that wine stored at 23C ages twice as fast as that stored at 14C. While of little concern for everyday table wines which are usually consumed within days of being purchase it is a major factor for say a vintage bottle of Penfolds Grange or Chateau Mouton-Rothschild costing in the range of Bt40,000 each. More to the point in this case is that the cost of a reliable wine refrigerator at major local department stores starts at about half the price of either of the aforementioned wines. Of course if money is of no concern it’s easy to splurge on units costing ten times that amount but practicality suggests buying the former and spending the latter on more wine.

Beyond properly storing wine is the frequently vexing problem of the optimal temperature at which wine should be served. White wines including sparklers are best between 5C to 8C which is relatively easy to control with an insulated ice bucket filled 50-50 with ice cubes and water. All whites should be chilled for about an hour in a regular refrigerator before opening while sparkling wines cooled even further with about 20 to 25 minutes in the freezer compartment.

Red wines are more finicky about temps but still require chilling, particularly in Thailand, to offer their best character. Foremost in serving red wines is to forget the old maxim “red wines at room temp.” The correct advice should be “serve at cellar temp,” meaning between 12C to 16C which is much cooler than most restaurant diners would find comfortable. In a recent article widely respected Decanter magazine reiterated the advice of knowledgeable sommeliers regarding recommended temps for various red wines based on the level of tannins and other compounds in each variety. Wines from Beaujolais, Valpolicella and lighter pinot noirs, 12C to 14C; tempranillos, 12C to 16C; cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz, 16C to 18C. 

The point is that so called “room temp,” usually between 22C to 24C, is substantially warmer than the suggested chill necessary for optimal enjoyment of your wine of choice. Competent sommeliers will congratulate you for insisting on an ice bucket with your red wine so you can periodically chill it for maximum enjoyment throughout your meal. Chokdee! 

Written By: R. James Mullen