If you’ve recently picked up a great-looking bottle of wine, the chances are you’re going to want to get every last bit of enjoyment out of it as possible. You want to experience the bottle as the winemaker intended, to ensure that all those lovely flavors and aromas burst from the glass and explode on the palate, and to guarantee absolute satisfaction from the first sip to the final glug.
You’ve stored your bottle correctly, made sure that you’re not opening it too young or too late, and you’ve got your hi-tech corkscrew at the ready so as not to experience any mishaps when you pop it open. Now all that’s left to do is to figure out the perfect temperature at which to serve it.
Serving temperatures aren’t just another bit of wine pedantry – getting the temperature right really can make a big difference between experiencing the wine at its fullest, and missing out on all those gorgeous subtleties. Cold temperatures really inhibit all of those flavonoids and aroma compounds, and keep all the depth of flavor ‘locked in’ the liquid. Serve your wine too warm… and it’s just not a whole lot of fun to drink, as anyone who has forgotten their glass of Bordeaux on a hot terrace can attest. Get it just right, however, and you’ll be able to enjoy your wine at its best, and apply all your carefully-honed tasting skills and finely-tuned palate. But what is the ideal serving temperature for wine? Let’s take a closer look, and figure this out once and for all.
Chilled or ‘Room’ Temperature?
Ask most people, and they’ll be quick to tell you that white wines should be served ‘chilled’, and red wines should be served at ‘room temperature’. But what does this really mean? At the very least, these descriptors are extremely reductive. At worse, they’re plain wrong, and a recipe for disaster. Serve your lovely Alsatian Pinot Gris at 41°F, and you’ll end up with a mouthful of tasteless, cold fluid. Serve a glass of Merlot at the typical ‘room temperature’ of a Greek villa in summertime (anywhere above 77°F), and you’re not in for the pleasing experience you were hoping for.
‘Room temperature’ is actually a highly misleading description. Before central heating became commonplace, most interior spaces in France – the home of almost every wine rule we can think of – were considerably chillier than they would be today. What is really meant by room temperature is actually cellar temperature; somewhere around 50°F and 55°F, which is ideal for the vast majority of red wines.
Likewise, your white wines shouldn’t be served straight from the fridge, as all you’ll be able to taste would be the acids and little more. Most white wines need to be served above 43°F, and fuller-bodied whites like Chardonnay and Viognier are best served between 50°F and 55°F. Your best bet? Get yourself an ice bucket, and use that in place of a fridge.
Let’s Get Specific
If you really want to get precise about your wine serving temperatures (and have a wrap around thermometer to ensure perfection every time), here’s a quick, basic guide to what the experts would consider to be the optimum level of coolness for different wine styles. Remember that these are guidelines though, so be sure to refer to tasting notes to know the best temperature for each wine you buy on Wine Access.
Full-bodied reds: 63 – 66°F
Medium-bodied reds: 57-61°F
Lighter, fruity reds: 54-57°F
Full-bodied whites: 52 – 55°F
Medium whites: 46-50°F
Dessert wines: 45-46°F
Very dry, light whites and Champagne: 43-46°F