Did you know that wine has an ideal serving temperature for optimal drinkability? Wine can be a bit finicky, not unlike those of us who like to drink it. But by following these very simple suggestions, you will be rewarded with good flavors and aromas in each and every bottle.
White wines are best served chilled and red wines taste best at slightly warmer temperatures.
Ideal serving temperatures
Bubbles: Sparkling wines, Champagne, Prosecco and Cava all like to be very well chilled at about 45ºF/6ºC. To put this into perspective, most refrigerators are set between 35-38ºF/1.7-3.3ºC. Plan on taking your bubbles out of the fridge a few minutes before serving to allow them to warm up to the optimum 45ºF.
A note on stemware
To get the biggest bang for your bubble buck, serve your sparkling wine in taller, champagne flutes. The drinker can then watch the bubbles rise to the surface from the base of the glass, adding some visual stimulation to the wine experience. Riedel, the famous Austrian stemware producer, cleverly places a very small imperfection in the base of each glass that creates a dramatic stream of bubbles up through the center. If you pop open bubbles on a regular basis, you should consider purchasing a set of fine Riedel flutes.
White wines: Chardonnay, Pinot gris/Pinot grigio, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chablis, Vinho verde and Viognier (not a complete list of all white wines) are best served at temperatures between 48-52ºF/9-11ºC.
Rosé wines: Since these are very light red wines, it’s best to serve them at about 50-55ºF/10-13ºC.
Red wines: Pinot noir, Cabernet sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec, Cabernet franc, Grenache, Syrah and Zinfandel (not a complete list of all red wines) really shine when served between 55-63ºF/13-17ºC.
If you’re taking any wine right out of the refrigerator, a good rule of thumb is to allow a minute or two on your counter for every degree of heat. For example, if your refrigerator is set to 35ºF and you want your wine to be 52ºF when served, it will take at least 17 minutes in a comfortable environment of about 70ºF to heat up to the desired temperature.
Sadly most people still believe that red wine should be served at room temperature and that it would be sinful to slightly chill a bottle before opening it. Before homes were built with central heat, the room temperatures were cooler. Serving a red wine in a room that wasn’t likely to be heated above 55-60ºF/13-15.5ºC was perfect. Nowadays, most homes are kept at nearly 70ºF/21ºC so if you pull a bottle of red wine from your pantry and don’t chill it first, it’s much too warm.
The easiest way to cool a bottle down is to put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. It generally takes about the same amount of time to chill as it does to warm up so 10 minutes in the refrigerator will bring the wine temperature down almost 10ºF. If you’re in a hurry, you can stick it in the freezer but don’t forget about it– eventually the wine will freeze and blow the cork!
For a faster chill, try making an ice bath (cold water + ice), then add some salt and stir the mix. The salt causes a chemical reaction that instantly reduces the temperature. Dunk your bottle for a few minutes and it should be well chilled.
Another suggestion is to toss some plastic ice cubes into your glass of wine. Plain old ice cubes will dilute your wine, not what the winemaker intended for his or her finished product, so many wine drinkers turn their noses up at this idea. But with plastic ice cubes your wine won’t end up diluted since there's no ice to melt.
Following expert advice and serving wines at the ideal temperature, wine lovers can better smell the aromas and taste the complex flavors. When a wine is much too cold, the aromatic bouquet will be inhibited and the drinker won’t be able to appreciate all the lovely smells. With our sense of smell so deeply connected to our sense of taste, if one cannot detect many aromas, the wine just won’t taste that flavorful either. Conversely, if a red wine is served too warm, the drinker will find the alcohol more accentuated, stifling the other smells and flavors.
However, since everyone has different preferences, please step outside your comfort zone and try drinking a wine slightly colder or warmer than you usually do. You may find you prefer wine at suggested serving temperatures or outside those recommended by experts. Happily these are only guidelines so experiment to discover how you best like your wine since you're the one drinking it!