By Betty Kaufman, Independent Wine Consultant
The best temperature to serve any wine is the temperature where the wine tastes the best to you. Pretty simple. But if you want to be a savvy sipper, here are some helpful guidelines.
White Wines Get the Big Chill
White wines should be served cold, but not ice cold — between 45 and 50 degrees. When you serve a white wine at too cold a temperature, especially a complex wine like a Chardonnay, some of the core aromas are hidden. Because aromas account for at least 80 percent of the tasting experience, by serving your white wine too cold, you end up missing out on many wonderful flavors.
I recommend taking most white wines out of the refrigerator 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
If you want to taste the difference, you can try this fun experiment. Pour two glasses of ice-cold Chardonnay. Put one of the glasses back in the refrigerator and put the other on the counter. Wait 20 minutes and try the two side by side. You are likely to find the warmer wine to be much more flavorful to the palette than the cooler wine.
Bottom line, if you’ve always served your white wines directly from the refrigerator, try serving them just a few degrees warmer and see if you notice a difference.
Red Wines and the Room Temperature Myth
Most of us learned to serve white wines chilled and red wines at room temperature. Now we’ve learned that there’s a caveat to the word chilled ~ chilled but not too chilled. Likewise there’s a caveat to the words room temperature ~ room temperature but not too room temperature.
Here is the background. When they taught us to serve red wine at room temperature, they didn’t tell us that they were referring to the room temperature in France before central heating. In other words, a cool room temperature, perhaps 60 to 65 degrees.
Red wine served at room temperature is likely to taste dull, flabby and hot (hot is the term used when alcohol dominates the taste and smell), while the same wine served at 60 to 65 degrees is likely to taste lighter, livelier, and fruitier.
The best way to achieve this cooler room temperature is to put the wine in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
When dining out and ordering a red wine, place your hand on the bottle to make sure it’s slightly cool to the touch before the waitperson pours the glass. If it’s not, ask the waitperson to store the bottle in an ice bucket for 10 to 15 minutes. Just in case anyone loses track of time, an over-chilled red wine is by no means a disaster. The wine will warm up quickly in the glass just by leaving it alone. You can also speed up the warming of the wine by rolling the glass in your hands.
Here is a guide for ideal serving temperatures for a number of varietals:
Riesling – 45°
Sauvignon Blanc – 45°
Pinot Grigio – 45°
Chardonnay – 55-60°
Pinot Noir – 55-60°
Merlot – 60°
Syrah/Shiraz – 65°
Cabernet Sauvignon – 65°
If you have a preference for extra cold or extra warm wine, honor your preference. But do some experimenting to see if you notice differences at different temperatures.
Cheers to finding the wine serving temperatures that make you the happiest!
Betty’s Wine Musings
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If you need help with temperature, contact Cold Craft, Inc.
408.374.7292 or [email protected]