CAN YOU CHILL RED WINE?
Yes. The reason this is even an issue is that the temperature you serve wine at affects how it tastes. Red wine is best served at room temperature, because the warmer temperature encourages all the special flavour smells into the air for you to smell. When it’s cooler, red wine is like a cold muscle — all tight and restrained. The more the smells are released, the more of an experience you can get from the wine. These go up the nose, into the smelling bulb at the back of your nose which then transmits them to the brain telling it things about what you’re smelling.
When red wine is cold the acidic and tannic flavours come out more, while all the fruit flavours kinda get hidden. As tannins and acid are characteristic of most red wines, it’s best you serve it at a temperature that encourages a balance between the amount of fruit you can taste with the amount of tannins and acid you have to deal with.
Now you know why red wine should be served at room temperature, the problem here is that using room temperature as a guide is all well and good if every room in the world hung around the same temperature. But they do not. Serving red wine in a room on the equator may be a sniff warmer than if you were in a wood cabin in Alaska. Bring it home and you’ll find extreme differences here as well.
So, to get a red wine to its ideal serving temperature, you may in fact need to lay it in the fridge for a while. More tannic reds like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz need to be served a little warmer (15-18 degrees) than softer, lighter red wines such as pinot noir and merlot which should be served more for refreshment (10-12 degrees). Also, as wine will usually warm up slightly in your hand, you should serve it at the lower end of this temperature guide.
HOW LONG CAN YOU KEEP LEFTOVER WINE?
This is about the changes that occur over time and start to affect the flavour of the wine, as opposed to when the Wine Storage Police will thunder into your kitchen and charge you with drinking stale wine.
The reason there is a limit on how long you can keep open wine has to do with oxygen. With open wine, oxygen is both friend and foe. Immediately prior to, or soon before drinking, encouraging the wine to come in contact with oxygen is welcomed. This is called aeration and happens in many forms — swirling the glass before tasting, burbling the wine around in the mouth and pouring the contents of a bottle into a decanter. All of these techniques encourage the things that give a wine its smells (and as far as the brain is concerned, much of its flavour).
This is all well and good for a wine that’s about to have your laughing gear wrapped around it. But leave the wine exposed to the oxygen for any length of time and what was once aeration, soon becomes oxidation and damn it, your wine is oxidised. The fruit tastes disappear, it’ll start to taste stale and eventually, will turn to vinegar. It’s this excessive exposure to oxygen that limits how long you can keep a wine.
Here’re some fairly general rules to use as a guide and save your guests from having to drink vinegar.