Wee Shien Loong, the Assistant Manager of Mandarin Grill in Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, may not be a sommelier by profession, but he’s certainly been around wine long enough to know his way around choosing the right bottle for each guest. In our chat to him, he explains the importance and reasons for enjoying wine at the right temperatures.

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Feel free to ask Shien for wine advice when you dine at the Mandarin Grill.

Flowers are delicate things that bloom in the right temperature and wither in the wrong — just like flowers, wines, too, are delicate. Enjoying your favourite bottle of wine at the right temperature will affect its taste and flavours, because the temperature brings out the best balance between tannin-ness and acidity, releasing the intended aromas and flavours beautifully.

Say you’re served a red wine at a temperature that’s too warm, it will have aggressive alcohol aromas and this will kill the other smells of the wine turning it flat and lifeless. If you have it too cold, it will suppress the wine, hiding away its aromas and flavours while becoming increasingly tannic and acidic.

A beautiful bottle of red -- Shiraz, 'Art Series' 2012 Leewin Estate, Margaret River, Australia.
A beautiful bottle of red — Shiraz, ‘Art Series’ 2012 Leewin Estate, Margaret River, Australia.

It’s common perception that red wines should be served at room temperature, but you need to remember that the room temperature of the place of origin of the wine and where you are will most probably differ. This is especially true for warm climate countries such as Malaysia, where you can find restaurants serving red wine at average Malaysian room temperature of 27°C.

When it comes to white and rosé wines, these will lose their structure, and become flat and dull when too warm. If too cold, you will be masking the wine’s full aroma and flavour potential. As for your favourite bottle of bubbly, make sure your champagne is ice cold, otherwise its flavours will most likely come across as less refined.

One of Shien's favourite wines, the Chianti 'Castiglioni' 2014 Frescobaldi from Tuscany, Italy pairs well with full-flavoured dishes like roast chicken and sautéd beef with vegetables.
One of Shien’s favourite wines, the Chianti ‘Castiglioni’ 2014 Frescobaldi from Tuscany, Italy pairs well with full-flavoured dishes like roast chicken and sautéd beef with vegetables.

The ideal temperature for a red wine to be served is between 16°C to 18°C, while a white or rosé wine does well between 8°C to 10°C. A sparkling wine between 6°C to 8°C will bring out the right flavours and aromas for your enjoyment. If you’re one for experiments, open a bottle of wine and try it at different temperatures to see how the drink’s aromas and flavours are affected. A higher temperature allows the wine to release higher intensity of aromas and flavours while also increasing its acidity level.

Wines with high acidity such as a sauvignon blanc is best served chilled to avoid its acidity from becoming too aggressive. Shien also adds that there isn’t a definite temperature to serve any particular wine but the standard temperature guidelines is a good point to get you started. After that, it’s all in your hands to explore the notes and flavours that each bottle has to offer.