Wine 101 – Serving Temperatures

At one point or another, we have all heard the conventional line, “Drink red wines at room temperature and whites should be kept in the fridge.” In reality, however, when it comes to both drinking and storage this couldn’t be further from the truth.Any seasoned foodie or wine drinker knows that aroma is one of the most important elements of taste. The aroma, or “nose”, of a wine is produced when chemicals and molecules in the wine are released into the air above the liquid. The rate at which these molecules are released as well as which of these are released is highly dependent upon the temperature of the wine itself. Too warm and you will have a wine that tastes strongly of the sharpness and astringency of  alcohol. Too cool and the wine will often end up devoid of any flavor or richness at all.

Unfortunately, this means that the majority of wines consumed every day are drunk either too warm or too cool, and most likely under appreciated.

Each wine varietal has a temperature that is ideal for its particular set of aromatics. Here is a quick reference chart that gives you the best drinking temperature for many of the most common varietals.

Wine Serving Temperature Guidelines

Temp °F Temp °C Varietal
66°
19°
Vintage Port
64°
18°
Bordeaux, Shiraz
63°
17°
Red Burgundy, Cabernet
61°
16°
Rioja, Pinot Noir
59°
15°
Chianti, Zinfandel
57°
14°
Tawny/NV Port, Madeira
55°
13°
Ideal storage temperature
for ALL wines
54°
12°
Beaujolais, rose
52°
11°
Viognier
47°
Chardonnay, Riesling
45°
Champagne
43°
Ice Wines, Spumanti

Keep in mind that all wines ought to be stored at around 55 F (13 C) so you will usually need to plan ahead to get your wines ready to drink. In most cases this means 30-90 minutes in the fridge for a white or 20-40 minutes sitting out for a red. But the wait will be worth it.

Don’t have that much time? If the wine is too warm, immerse the bottle in a mix of ice and cold water—this chills a bottle more quickly than ice alone because more of the glass is in contact with the cold source. It may take about 10 minutes for a red to 30 minutes for a Champagne.

If the wine is too cold, decant it into a container rinsed in hot water or immerse it briefly in a bucket of lukewarm water. If the wine is only a little cold, just pour it into glasses and cup your hands around the bowl to warm it up.

Keep in mind that a wine served cool will warm up in the glass, while a wine served warm will only get warmer. It’s always better to start out a little lower than the ideal temperature.

I hope that this information is helpful, and I know that if you aren’t already paying attention to the temperatures at which you serve your wine you will be surprised at the difference it makes!

As always, don’t hesitate to call me with any questions at 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com And, remember to always drink good wine!

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