Where’s the beer, and other thirst-provoking questions

Going through my email bag to answer some of your questions about kosher wines and spirits. If you have a question, from the simple to the seriously technical, feel free to email me at lchaimQs@gmail.com and I will endeavor to answer you — directly or here in this space.

Is there a proper temperature for serving wine?

Depends on what you mean by proper. The popular convention is that whites should be chilled and reds should be served at “room temperature” — this phrase predates central heat and air conditioning. Wine lovers all over the world tend to conform to this tradition, as do wine service professionals.

That said, wine serving temperatures are more properly a matter of personal preference. It’s your dime, so it ought to be your choice. It’s like asking about the proper amount of salt and pepper in each dish — adjusted to taste is usually the best approach.

My own rule of thumb is — whatever the weather or room’s ambient temperature — to always serve wines on the cooler side as they will warm up in your hands, but when served warm can only get warmer in your glass.

When it comes to white wines, in general, chilling helps make white wines more refreshing, and to my palate white wines show their best anywhere between 40 and 50 degrees, though some fuller bodied dry whites can do better closer to 60 degrees. Chilling does mask flavor, so the finer the wine, the less it will need chilling.

When it comes to red wines, the tannin level will help dictate the ideal serving temperature. The more tannic a wine, the warmer you should probably drink it. To my palate, the appropriate range on red wines is 55 to 65 degrees.

Why don’t you ever write about beer?

While I do drink and thoroughly enjoy beer, I’m no expert. So when it comes to beer, I tend to drink whatever is on offer, or when forced to choose I tend to stick to tried and true favorites —Guinness Stout, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Stella Artois Pilsner and other conventional offerings.

Can I cook with any wine? Does it make a difference?

Yes, and yes.  If you plan to use wine in a recipe, the conventional wisdom is to only cook with a wine you enjoy drinking. Which is to say, avoid “cooking wines” which are terrible shelf-stable products that tend to be gross, and instead use table wines meant for drinking.

Once boiled, flamed or reduced, the general qualities that made the wine a pleasurable table beverage dissipate leaving only the primary characteristics — general fruitiness, sweetness, color and acidity. In general, a wine’s sweetness and acidity are concentrated when the volume is reduced, and so will seem increased — so use a sweet wine only if you want sweetness in the final dish, otherwise use a dry wine.

Likewise, be mindful of the wine’s perceived acidity because it will only seem to intensify. If a recipe specifies sweet or dry wine, I find it best to follow that guidance at least the first time you make the dish. After that, experiment at will.

What’s good this week?

I’m revisiting an old favorite: WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey (50 percent abv; $70+): Offers interesting, lively spice notes of mint, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, with dried orange peel, vanilla, toffee, hot chili peppers, caramel, and butterscotch, with a long, dry spicy and creamy finish. Rich, full, and delicious, this is one of the world’s great whiskies. L’chaim!

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