The reasons for doing this experiment were many. But first and foremost is the massive spike in traffic for the Lab website the last time we used "Cold Play" in the title of a post. I'm thinking the next 5 posts will be called "Britney".
But it's also true that after we tested the preservative qualities of inert gas and bottle pumps, we were left with a few unanswered questions. Most notably the one asked by my buddy Gary who wanted to know whether an open bottle of red holds up better in the fridge or on the kitchen counter.
In theory, cold is a useful preservative. Leave some chicken out on the counter for a couple days if you don't believe me. But there's also a persistent belief in some oenological corners that too much cold will deaden the fruit in red wine.
So we went back to the Bodegas Olivares, Altos de la Hoya, Jumilla Monastrell, 2006. It's terrific wine from ungrafted vines and costs as little as a gallon of organic milk, which makes it perfect for experimentation.
We replicated our prior protocols, pouring off 300 ml from each of two bottles. The first we gassed, recorked and left on the counter. The second, we gassed, recorked and put in the fridge. The temperature on the bottom shelf measured a crisp 38°. We let both sit for 5 days. We let both bottles come back to room temperature before tasting.
It was no contest.
The fridged bottle was the best showing of this wine so far (and we've had a fair few at the lab recently). Black cherry, ripe fig and cardamom spice. It was equally impressive in the mouth, energetic, gripping tannins and that ungrafted hallmark: inextricably intertwined fruit and rocks.
Meanwhile, the countered bottle was showing a lot of alcohol volatility and overripe, approaching rancid, fruit. The complexity in the palate had vanished. Whatever excitement this bottle once held had set sail for other ports.
Clearly, much more testing needs to be done. This effort is merely anecdotal. Please feel free to further our cause with your own refrigeration anecdotes.
If we get a big pile of them I can have one of the research assistants compile all of them into a shiny binder. They love making binders.