“White should be chilled and red served at room temperature” – sounds simple, right?
Like anything to do with food and wine, it’s never that simple. The rule to drink what you enjoy still holds true, and in this case, drink it however you most enjoy it is perfectly acceptable as well. Having said that, I would not encourage sparkling wine at cellar temperature (about 55° - not cold enough), nor do I think red wine should be served off the wine rack you keep on your kitchen counter (too hot). I know, I know... there is already so much to know about wine, how can I expect you to serve it at a specific temperature as well?
Ok, i’ll make a confession... I too used to store my wine in a little wine rack in the kitchen. I mean, where else would you store wine...the bed- room? of course not. And I too have consumed red wines that were probably at a temperature of 80° or more. That Zinfandel at the BBQ last summer was definitely left out in the sun a bit too long, and come to think of it, it seemed a little alcoholic, right?
So, just as you are not always going to have access to the best wine glasses, you probably aren’t going to always be able to serve wine at the optimal temperature. But for those of you who want to try your wine at what some might say is a more optimal temperature I’ll give you five quick rules for 5 different styles of wine (two red and three white/rose’).
1 Robust Red Wine. This is the wine that we pull off our wine rack and serve at room temperature, right? Well, this “room temperature” rule seems to have come from the old country when it meant 60-65°, not the 70-75° of today’s centrally heated/cooled homes. Feel free to pop that Cab into the fridge for 15 minutes or so before opening. You may find you like it better. And as it warms up with the actual temperature of the room you will see the difference and can decide which way you prefer it.
2 Light Red Wine. This might be a Pinot noir or a Chianti. These lighter-bodied wines often have a more pronounced acidity to them and the lighter style makes them much more thirst quenching than their more robust brethren. Feel free to pop it into the fridge for half an hour and see if the alcohol is a bit less harsh and it seems more refreshing.
3 Full Bodied/Oak Aged White Wine. These wines should be chilled in a refrigerator and can be served straight from the fridge (at about 45°), but some of their aromas might be hidden. There are also those who believe these wines should be served closer to the 60-65° temperature.
4 Light Bodied, crisp/dry white/Rose’ wines. These wines should also be served well-chilled as that allows them to be at their most refreshing. But keep in mind that what you gain in crisp, refreshing acidity you may lose in aromas. If you feel the wine should be more aromatic feel free to let it warm up a bit – something you can do by holding the bowl of your glass and allowing the warmth of your hands (hopefully about 98.6°) to warm the wine up. As it warms up it should become more aromatic.
5 Sparkling and Dessert wines. I tend to like these wines most when they are very cold. Rich dessert wines can taste cloying or overly heavy when they become warm, but served ice cold they should have a nice balancing acidity and are refreshing and lighter. sparkling wines (such as cham- pagne) should also be served ice cold as this prevents bub- bles both from exploding out of the bottle when you open it, and from becoming too aggressive in your mouth as you sip, and the acidity helps it stay refreshing as well.
I hope this helps more than confuses you as you enjoy wines with your meals. Remember, wine should enhance your experience and make you feel good, not overwhelm you or make you feel intimidated. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions about serving temperature or any other wine-related issue.
By Gary Landsman