More Chill for Whites, Please!
So, I take my precious Frontera and offer a sip to a friend and he goes:
“Yeah! It’s ok.” – Okey? Just okey? It is great for me and why is he not enjoying it more???-
“But I would prefer it cold!” – He finishes saying.
Red ones are fine at room temperature, but why would white wines be just better if they are cold? Why?
Time for the chu chu twirling train of science. Let’s discover some wine chemistry.
Ok! So, wines are made from the fermentation of grapes and sometimes, of some other fruits and plants. In short words, if it is a RED one, the grapes are crushed with the skin, which provides the color and the tannin. And if it is a WHITE one, the juice is extracted from the fruits. For ROSE ones, the juice is allowed to stay with the crushed skins and it is removed afterwards.
Either the case, some bacteria are added at this point and after 1 or 2 weeks, the carbohydrates and some of the sugars are transformed into alcohol and acids.
Wonderful! Now we have our wine. It is delicious and a real piece of art. A few weeks later we want to share it with friends. But instead of a pleasant wine night, it turns into a disaster; the wine had changed color and it smells like rotten nuts and tastes like vinegar.
The wine did not fully become vinegar, as it did not contain the right type of bacteria for that. But what happened?
If you are wondering what is Oxidation , it is what happens when you leave an apple half bitten on your table. It turns brown
- This is mostly the reason of the change of color into a darker brownish one, and it is also partially responsible for the smell.
- Because there is enough oxygen, the bacteria in the wine proliferated and continued the fermentation process, releasing not only alcohol but molecular sulfur. Which is the main responsible for putrid odor.
How to controlling this problem?
YES! More sulfur! Not in the molecular style, but in its SO3– form
In case you want to know, here is the reaction:
No, it isn’t not harmful!
They are preservatives, used in many types of food. As the matter of fact, most the goods the consume contain more sulfides than wine.
Basically, sulfites join all the molecules that could oxidize, thus preventing oxidation. But there is one more thing, sulfites can cross the bacteria’s cell wall and damage it from inside.
This is how you prevent the wine going bad.
A little of history!
The romans discovered that they could burn sulfur candle in the wine barrels and thus and thus the fermentation odor cause by the bacteria was reduced. Sulfites have been used in wine ever since then.
How Sulfides do their job
Let’s not get into nerdy stuff, but it is important to mention that Sulfides will join all the available molecules that can oxidize. ALL OF THEM! Therefore, the sweeter the wine, the more sulfites it needs. I am looking at you Moscato!!! You sweet, delicious, heavenly thing!
Red wines are normally less sweet and because they have tanning, their own natural antioxidizing they have less sulfites than white ones.
Now, let’s go back to our original question.
Why white wines are better when cold?
As I mentioned sulfites will join all the available molecules that may oxidize. Let’s imagine sulfite as an annoying child that requires attention.
Wines have esters, phenols and aldehydes. These three guys give the wine its taste, the body, the consistency. These three are the main musicians of the orchestra.
And they will not perform well with a crying baby next to them.
Luckily, a child is not allowed to out when the weather is cold. The colder it gets, the less children are allowed to go out. So, when the wine is chilled, sulfites stay at home and the musicians are left alone to perform their best.
The alcohol is, of course, the director. If the musicians aren’t performing well, he will come out too strong and be all over the place. As a result you will end up with a disappointment and a possible headache.
The answer to our question
Because there are more sulfites in white wine, it will require a lower temperature (around 5-8°C) to control the bonding with other compounds. While reds are best at around 14-18°C. Not really at room temperature (usually 20° C), but a little colder.
Don’t worry! Lower temperatures will also stop bacteria proliferation and with the appropriate sealing, a cork or a screw cap, just a little oxygen will be in contact with the wine.
I think I will talk about wine sealing, next time.
Thank you for reading!
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While my next post is ready, why don’t you go check some of my wines reviews.