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FW: Why are Reds Served at the Wrong Temperature?

Thank you for visiting the Eater Complaints Department, your unedited platform for voicing poor dining experiences, gross restaurant trends, and general underhandedness. Have grievances? Operators are standing by.

From: [an eater]
Date: Friday, September 23, 2011
To: Eater Complaints Department
Subject: Why are Reds Served at the Wrong Temperature?

What's the deal with red wine at most restaurants, including many upscale restaurants?

You don't need a degree to know that red wine is best served anywhere from 55 to 65 degrees depending on the varietal. Let's just settle at 60 degrees for the sake of simplicity. Also, I believe we can all agree that 70 degrees and higher is too warm.

Restaurants like Ai Fiori, Lincoln, and Scarpetta serve both their bottles and their reds by the glass at the proper temperature. For wines by the glass they store bottles in wine refrigerators behind the bar. I commend these restaurants for serving red wine properly no matter how it's ordered.

Other restaurants serve only bottles at the proper temperature -- Aureole and Boulud Sud are two of many examples. If you order by the glass you're
out of luck as you'll get a pour from a bottle sitting on the bar whose temperature is 70 degrees or higher. You will pay the same price as the restaurants listed above. As Ryan Sutton would say, that's a bad deal.

Ironically, some of these restaurants are siblings of those that treat bottle and glass orders the same. For example, Michael White does it right by the glass at Ai Fiori but not at Osteria Morini -- different customers and price points true but how much does a wine refrigerator cost?

Many restaurants don't even serve their bottles at the proper temperature let alone their glasses. TriBeCa Grill is a good example of a high-end restaurant with an award-winning wine list that serves bottles of red wine too warm. Who cares about the depth of a wine list if the wine is not served properly?

Perhaps even more perplexing, many wine bars don't serve reds properly. For example, while Vintry Wine & Whiskey does, nearby Terroir doesn't.

I asked a bartender at Vintry about this issue one night. He said it had to do with space. But Vintry has much less space behind its bar than Terroir yet it manages to house several wine refrigerators as well as wine dispensers for its pricier wines. Also, I can't believe it's a cost issue, at least for upscale restaurants like TriBeCa Grill. We're talking a few thousand dollars.

So restaurant industry, can you enlighten those of us who care about wine? Is it simply because most customers don't know anything about red wine so restaurants can get away with serving it too warm? Or is there another explanation? Thank you.