When it comes to serving and enjoying wine at its optimal taste, the temperature in which the wine is to be served is one of the simplest and yet one of the most important steps you can take. But a lot of people miss this very common rule, and there are a lot of people who actually miss out on optimal flavors and qualities in great wine, just because the wine was opened and served either too warm or too cold. To answer some of these wine temperature questions, let’s first take a look at the very basics of serving, pouring, tasting and enjoying a glass of wine.
Why chill wine?
Much like storing your wine, keeping your wine at a constant, cool temperature will help to bring out and enhance the wine’s unique flavors and aromas, when opened. But it is very important that your wine is served at the right temperature! It is a common misconception that red wine should always be served at room temperature – this idea is actually misunderstood. When wine was first created, it was stored in underground cellars, which are always slightly cooler than room temperature. But, that being said, when a wine is served too cold, you are going to miss out on all those important flavors and aromas, because they have been too muted by the cool temperature.
What does chilling actually do to the wine?
As the temperatures rise from a pour of chilled wine into a glass, the character of wine will develop into its full potential, where the taster will be able to enjoy the full spectrum of aromas and flavors. When the wine is chilled, the optimal flavors and aromas of the wine are put into a dormant state, which slows down the aging and oxygenating process in the bottle.
What temperature should I serve my wine at?
It depends. Whether your wine is a sparkly French Champagne or a lush and bold California Cabernet Sauvignon, the optimal serving temperature varies by a few factors, including the color of the wine, the body or texture of the wine, and more. Here are a few quick guides:
Full Body Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chianti, Sangiovese, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Merlot
Full-bodied reds should be stored at below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, but no lower than 45 degrees. The optimum temperature for storing full-bodied reds is between 60 – 65 degrees F. When serving a glass of full-bodied red wine, it should be served on the cool side. This is contrary to the popular belief that red wine should be served at room temperature. Think about it! As we said above, when wine was first created, it was stored in underground cellars and brought up to serve at slightly cooler than room temperature. So when you are drinking a glass of red wine with your dinner, be sure to pop it into the fridge for anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes while you’re cooking.
Store and serve full-bodied white wines cold, ideally around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. When serving cold white wine such as these and light-bodied white wines, be sure to serve it in a glass with a stem. The glass should be held by the stem, so as not to let the hands warm up the wine, if they are holding the glass by the bowl. Storing full-bodied white wines in the refrigerator right up until the moment of serving is perfectly acceptable – in fact, once you have poured, you should really stick a wine stopper in the bottle and put the wine back into the refrigerator, if you can. If you are unable to do this, an ice bucket is another great alternative.
Light Body Reds: Pinot Noir, Cinsault, Gamay, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Zweigelt, Lambrusco, Some Rosé
Served at a slightly cooler temperature than red wines with medium or full bodies, light bodied reds like the ever popular Pinot Noir optimally should be stored around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and served cool. So if you choose to store a light bodied red wine in your fridge (which is acceptable, but you should probably store it in the door so it doesn’t get packed into the cold, say in the back of the fridge or the crisper drawers – storing in the door gives it a rush of warmer air every time the door is opened), be sure to take it out of your fridge about 30 minutes before you open it.
Light Body Whites: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Vinho Verde, Pinot Gris, Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Some Rosé, Moscato, Pink Moscato
Serve light-bodied white wines cold, and store them in the refrigerator or in your basement, if you live in a colder climate. Served cold in a glass with a stem, light bodied white wines should form a nice fog of condensation on the glass when they are poured. And much to the chagrin of wine snobs around the world, an ice cube or two in a glass of very light-bodied white wine never hurt anyone – try it in the summertime, it’ll change your life! An ice bucket is optimal for an opened bottle of light bodied white wine, but if you don’t have one available, pop a wine stopper in and put it back in the fridge until you’re ready for the next glass.
Sparkling Wines: Brut Champagne, Brut Rosé, Sparkling Wine (USA), Cava (Spain), Prosecco (Italy), Moscato D’Asti
Sparkling wines such as Champagne and Cava should be stored and served at the coldest possible temperature, definitely the coldest of the bunch. 42 degrees Fahrenheit is a perfect temperature to store Champagne and sparkling wine. In other words, keep it in your fridge at all times! This is another wine that does best with an ice bucket after the wine bottle has been opened, as well.
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