A funny thing happened last night at our monthly VIP wine tasting. I was super excited to introduce an especially esoteric line-up: a White Spanish Tempranillo, a dry Spanish Muscat, a full-bodied Australian Shiraz Blend, and a late harvest Chardonnay. I found the Punctum Vaiven White Tempranillo particularly intriguing. It was round and delicious when I’d tried it a few weeks prior and White Tempranillo is in itself a novelty. While Tempranillo is a red grape most famously used in Rioja, a white version can be created by stripping the skins away immediately. This practice is fairly uncommon though and it’s rare that such a bottle finds its way into New Hampshire.
I pulled the White Tempranillo from the refrigerator, poured the wine for everyone, waited for the reaction, and… nothing. Everyone just looked a little confused. I took a sip myself and the wine kind of fell flat.
Fortunately, I saved some in my glass and went back for another sip later in the evening. It was a brand-new wine! Texture! Fruit! Acid! Secondary flavors of flowers, minerality, and even a hint of nuttiness! What magic was this?
Something I’d overlooked, or at least not thought much of when serving the wine, is that the Punctum Vaiven White Tempranillo is just over 14% alcohol. It’s a weighty white wine with a full body and round mouthfeel as far as white wines go. Allowing it to come up closer to room temperature brought out all of its flavor and nuances. Interaction with oxygen also stirred up its underlying character. This was an important reminder about why temperature is so important when serving wine.
While it’s easy to assume that all white wine should be served ice cold, service temperature actually ranges depending on a wine’s body. This is true of white and red wines. The Wine Spirits and Education Trust (WSET) says that light to medium white wines should be served anywhere from 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit while a full-bodied or oaky white wine should be served 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Oaky Chardonnay is another good example of a wine that could be enjoyed slightly warmer than we typically think.
When speaking to New York-based publication Punch, Zwann Grays, the wine director at Olmsted in Brooklyn, explained. “You can eat a cold piece of chicken, but that’s not how it’s meant to be; you get the juiciness… all the things dancing around on your palate when it’s served warm. With whites, that cold temperature becomes a mask over the wine; the cold steals the soul of what the wine can express, the voluptuousness of what it can be.”
So if you’re white wine isn’t quite speaking to you the way it should be, try raising the temperature a little bit!
Dominio Vaiven White Tempranillo, Spain ($17.99/bottle)– A weighty white with flavors of green apple as well as underlying touches of white florals, chalky stone, and nuttiness. Certified organic and biodynamic. Punctum is family owned and is led by three siblings: Jesus, Ruth, and Christina. Best enjoyed slightly warmer than expected 😉.