The wine serving temperature can greatly influence the aromatics, taste and enjoyment of a wine. Serving a wine cool can help mask the flaws seen in young or cheap wines, whereas serving wine warmer can allow the bouquet and complexity inside a wine to be expressed, which is ideal for aged or rich, full-bodied wines. Lower temperatures also repress the 'bite' that alcohol can give in lighter bodied wines.
Have you ever tasted a full-bodied / oaked Chardonnay at room temperature? If so, it probably tasted mostly of dry oak and the fruit was missing. If you've had it too cold, you've probably tasted nothing but acidity, and again no fruit. *(Here are some guide-lines).
Wine Serving Temperature Guidelines:
°C - Wine Style:
19° - Brandy, Cognac
18° - Full-bodied red wines - Cabernet Sauvignon, Brunello di Montalcino, Vintage Port
17° - Syrah/ Shiraz, Chianti Classico & Rioja (Riserva), Tawny Port
15°- 16° - Medium bodied red wines - Rioja, G.S.M, Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir
14° - Amontillado Sherry & Oloroso Sherry, *Aged Tawny Ports - lighter style Pinot Noir
13° - Light bodied red wines - 'Beaujolais', Ruby Port
10°- 12° - Full bodied white wines - 'Barrel Fermented' Chardonnay
9°- 11° - Medium bodied white wines - 'Oak Aged' Chardonnay
8°- 10° - Rosé, light-medium bodied white wines (Pinot Gris, Viognier...), Botrytis dessert wines
8°- 10° - Cuvée & Vintage Champagnes & 'Unoaked' Chardonnay
7°- 9° - Fino Sherry, White Port & High acidity white wines - (Chablis, Sauvignon, Riesling...)
7°- 8° - NV Champagne / Méthodes / Late Harvest dessert wines
6°- 7° - Simple 'tank-fermented' sparkling wines - Prosecco NV, Asti, Sekt
In both cases, extreme temperature caused components to overpower or mask the natural fruit, and the wine was experienced out of balance. To experience a wine's varietal aroma, flavour and character, it needs to be served at the correct temperature.
• Most White Wines will chill down to a good drinking temperature after one and a half hours in a normal home refridgerator. If you need to cool it faster, an ice bucket half-filled with ice and water will do the trick in about 30 minutes (NB: to aid in the speed of chilling, place the bottle upside down, neck first into the ice-bucket).
• Most Red Wines - if cellared at 13°-14°C, will need to be brought back up to serving temperature. Ideally, you want your rich, full-bodied red wines served at 18°C. Remember the average room temperature is about 21°- 23°C even warmer in the summer months. Standing a bottle of red wine at room temperature for one to two hours, well away from hot ovens, heaters and direct sunlight will warm them sufficiently.
If time is of the essence, you can stand a bottle of red wine in a basin with 1-2 cm of tepid / warm water for 5-10 minutes.
*(I am definitely not a fan of the microwave, especially now that wines have a metal screw-cap closure).
NB: When decanting wine - be aware of the ambient temperature during the breathing time.
When your favourite white wines are served too cold, their unique and specific aromas and flavours are reduced, inhibited and even shut-down - making the wine seem less expressive, shy, thin and short on the palate and being described as not very interesting or pleasing.
It is agreed by those in the know that serving a white wine too cold is like putting a filter over the top of your wine. You cover up the wines natural fruit aromas, along with its more subtle herb or mineral notes. And at extremely low temperatures, it is like serving alcoholic water. But there is the other side - when white wines are served too warm, they lose their structure and the fruit in the wine becomes flat, tired and even flabby in character, losing their freshness and lively personality.
Having any influence on the serving temperature in a café, restaurant is not so simple - but we can do a few simple things at home to better enjoy wine. Many of your favourite cafes and restaurants have their fridges supplied by the breweries or designed with a serving temperature for all products stored inside at around 4ºC. This is far too cold for all of your favourite white wines. Many of you have experienced your glass of wine with a thin film on condensation around the glass. This is typically (except in very humid environments) a very good signal that your white wine of very cold and below the ideal serving temperature of 8ºC - 10ºC for the majority of quality white wines.
But is should also be noted that your domestic - home refrigerator maintains an internal environment of around 4 - 6ºC, which is also far too cold for most white wines. As quality Champagne and varied white wines, and quality oaked white wines are best served at a temperature between 8ºC - 10ºC (sometimes even a little higher for specific wines). For examples some rich, fuller style barrel fermented Chardonnays are best served straight from a cool cellar which can be down to 13ºC. But for many homes who do not have a cellar or temperature controlled storage unit. 45-60mins or so (depending upon starting temperature) in the main home fridge will be fine. Inexpensive white wines, cheaper sparkling wines and sweet white wines can be served in the coolest temperature range of between 6ºC - 8ºC, so around 90 minutes should bring these bottles down to an ideal temperature.
If out for dinner and you are served a bottle of white wine that is very cold, (a thick film of condensation on the sides of the bottle) don’t be shy to ask that it be left standing on the table, rather than placed in an ice bucket. If you are outside in a very warm environment, you might ask for a bucket just filled with 2-3 cm of ice and a small amount of cold water, for the wine to sit in to hold the ideal temperature (note: the front label, should not be under the level of ice and water). Though be aware that you might need to defend your bottle against an overzealous waiter determined to place it in a bucket covered full of ice.
Though it must be said, it is much easier to bring your extra-cold white wine back up to a more favourable drinking temperature. As all it takes is a little patience while watching the bottle sweat condensation. But what if friends are coming over and you have accidently forgotten to chill the white wines. You can use an ice-bucket filled 2/3 with ice and cold water (plus add a heaped table-spoon of salt - helps with the temperature exchange) and place the sparkling and white wines bottles upside down, neck-foil first into the ice and water for 20 minutes. Please note - do not place them bottom, base first, as the process will take nearly twice as long to cool them down to the ideal drinking temperature - plus by placing them in neck-foil first you won’t damage the labels when serving.
The reason why some more simple sparkling wines can be served around 6 - 7ºC - is this sharp chilling keeps their bubbles fine (smaller in size) rather than larger and feeling slightly frothy on the palate. 7 - 8ºC can be an ideal range for some dessert wines; as the level of sweetness is accentuated at warmer temperatures. So chilling them preserves their balance without masking their vibrant and inviting aromas and generous flavours.
White wines which are crisp, having naturally high levels of acidity and lifted citrus flavours can be / should be served at the colder end of the spectrum (towards 7 - 9ºC), while richer, more fuller style white wines should / can be served and enjoyed at the warmer end of the spectrum *(towards 10 - 12ºC).
Scientific research has shown that our taste buds function and respond differently with changing temperatures. For example, the perception of sweetness in a solution within a white wine is strongly affected by the temperature of that solution - (e.g. a white wine tastes sweeter as it warms up).
If you have been storing a white wine in your home refrigerator for a few days or longer. I recommend you remove the first bottle to be served (depending upon the room temperature) about 20-30 minutes before serving - to bring it up to an ideal temperature, so you and your guests can enjoy all the personality and character in the wine you have chosen.
When pouring and ultimately enjoying a particular red wine - the 'serving temperature' is not always a matter of personal preference. As red wines and in particular, specific red varietals and winemaking techniques need to be served and expressed at the ideal temperature to best enjoy and appreciate the unique nuances, characteristic, flavours and qualities of the wine in question.
Unintentionally and unaware many people tend to drink red wines too warm. Typically because most people serve their reds at the ambient room temperature (which can be on the warm side, depending on the time of year and your definition of room temperature). For red wines, you typically want them warmer than a cellar or wine-cabinet temperature.
Which can be between 13°-15°C, but cooler than most room temperatures which can be 22° to 23°C. Also keep in mind that a wine served cool will warm up in your glass, while a wine served warm will only get warmer. A good range for serving red wines is 13°-18°C. Lighter and more lifted fruit style red wines (e.g. Beaujolais and lighter style Pinot Noirs) should be served towards the low-end of the range. More full bodied and higher tannin red wines (e.g. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon) should be served at the warmer end of the range.
When you hear or use the old saying (adage) - red wine is best served at room temperature. What you are actually referring to is the room temperature as it was in Europe pre 1920’s - as this was before insulation and central heating, so most homes were at 15°-18°C.
Today many home dining rooms can easily be at around 23°C - and when the temperature gets up to 25°C, red wine will start to lose its finesse and freshness - and move towards an overpowering sensation of alcohol. This is why I suggest you give your red wines some time to cool down in the home fridge before opening and serving. Depending upon the starting temperature but from 25°C you can work with 15-20 min - (note: I would not suggest the freezer, as accidents can happen when forgotten). Of course, if you store your wine in a wine cabinet at a cellaring temperature (13-14°C), this is not necessary: just take it out 20-30 minutes prior to opening and serving. If you are in doubt of the wines actual temperature, it is always better to serve your reds slightly cooler, as you can always warm up the glass in the palms of your hand. If you don’t have a wine cabinet - I would encourage you to invest in a thermometer/ humidity gauge for the room, cupboard or wine rack where you store your wines.
Don’t feel bad if you regularly purchase a bottle of red wine on the way home and you open it straight away with friends or family - many wine drinkers have been doing this for their entire wine drinking existence. Almost everyone has served a red wine too warm.
At the ideal serving temperatures for different red grape varietals and styles of wines, the wine will be more aromatic, the fruit and palate flavours will be bright and fresh, and the wine’s texture will be full and engaging and the wine will appear in balance - as all the components in a light, medium of full-bodied style wine will be in harmony.
The problem with serving a red wine that is too warm is that the influence of the alcohol will be over emphasized which ultimately makes the wine seem flat and dull. Serving red wine too cold, on the other hand, inhibits the aromas and flavours to the extent where the tannins in the wine become overwhelming. This will result in the wine seeming more astringent and aggressive on the palate.
Not serving your favourite red wine at the ideal temperature is such a waste - as you spend good money on a quality red wine - but not enjoying it simply because it was served at the wrong temperature. This is why it is so important to get the serving temperature just right for the wine in question.
The best temperature to drink your wine at will always depend on the style of red wine. Full bodied red wines will generally have a higher tannin content (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon) should generally be served warmer than light to medium-bodied wines that have a less tannins. A wine with higher tannins should be served slightly warmer (e.g. 16-18°C). This will ensure that the varietal aromas and flavours can be released which will have a significant positive impression and will improve your taste experience. Conversely, wines with less tannins should be served slightly cooler because there is less risk for the tannins to become overwhelming. A slightly lower temperature will also soften the alcohol component allowing you to more thoroughly enjoy the subtle, more delicate characters in the wine.