Like any beverage, a wine's serving temperature can drastically affect perceived flavor profile and structure. Common knowledge suggests serving white and sparkling wines cold and red wines at room temperature, but what do these terms actually mean? Professionally speaking, "room temperature" refers to the damp, chilly temperature found in the underground wine aging caves of France, generally closer to 55 ̊ F. White wines when served should more approximate a cooled, chill 45 ̊ F rather than the customary 38-40 ̊ F found in most refrigerators.
A good wine fridge, ideally with two temperature zones for reds and whites, can keep your wines at a perfect serving temperature reducing the guesswork and, sometimes, the headache.
Temperature Affects Taste
The temperature that you serve the wine can drastically affect the way it tastes. When red wines are served too warm they tend to taste unbalanced and dull with a prevailing alcohol flavor . White wines taste especially flat and low-acid when sipped overly warm. Sparkling wine reflects its temperature the most, with the bubbly mousse becoming more volatile and astringent when served a touch too warm.
If the wines are served too cold then aromas and flavors will be suppressed and muted and, for reds, the tannins may seem harsh and bitter. Too often, white wines are served straight out of a fridge while reds are opened at toasty room temperature, neither situation is ideal.
Best Temperatures for Serving Wine
To serve your wines just right, take a look at the following wine serving temperature guidelines.
|Crisp Whites||45 ̊ to 50 ̊ F||7 ̊ to 10 ̊ C||Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc|
|Rich Whites||50 ̊ to 55 ̊ F||10 ̊ to 13 ̊ C||Chardonnay, Viognier|
|Light Reds||55 ̊ to 60 ̊ F||13 ̊ to 16 ̊ C||Pinot Noir, Gamay, Barbera|
|Bold Wines||55 ̊ to 65 ̊ F||13 ̊ to 18 ̊ C||Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon|
|Rosé Wines||45 ̊ to 55 ̊ F||7 ̊ to 13 ̊ F||Tavel, Pinot Noir Rosé|
|Sparkling Wines||42 ̊ to 52 ̊ F||6 ̊ to 11 ̊ C||Champagne, Cava, Prosecco|
|Fortified Wines||55 ̊ to 68 ̊ F||13 ̊ to 20 ̊ C||Port, Sherry, Madeira|
How to Take the Wine's Temperature
Usually, instant digital thermometers can take a wine’s temperature through the bottle. There are some thermometers that you can stick in the mouth of an open bottle.
If you do not have a thermometer, then it is easy enough to touch the bottle and make a rough guess. The bottle should at least be cool to the touch. You will eventually understand when a bottle feels "right" to the touch.
Ways to Fix the Temperature
If your wines have been sitting out at room temperature, keep in mind that it can take an hour or two in a fridge to chill a white or sparkling wine to the right temperature. If your red is warm, it can't hurt to put your red in the refrigerator to cool down a little, too. The easiest rule of thumb to remember is to pull your white wines out of the fridge 20 minutes before service and place your red wines in the fridge 20 minutes before service to aim for optimal temperature.
On the other hand, a red taken out of a too-cool cellar or fridge may need up to a half-hour sitting out at room temperature.
If a wine is too warm, fill a bucket with half ice and half water and submerge the bottle. This chills a bottle more quickly than ice alone. It may take about 10 minutes for a red to get to an ideal temperature and about 30 minutes for a sparkling wine. This process may be sped up by gently agitating or spinning the bottle in the ice water solution to expose more of the wine inside the bottle to the cold glass surface. You may put a bottle in the freezer for 20 minutes, but do not forget to set a timer! If left to freeze, the cork may explode or the wine bottle may break.
If the wine is too cold, decant it into a container rinsed in hot water or immerse it briefly in a bucket of warm water. Or, pour it into glasses and cup your hands around the base of the glass to warm it up.
Keep in mind that a wine served cool will warm up in the glass, while a wine served warm will only get warmer. It’s always better to serve wine a little lower than the target temperature.