Possibly one of the most misconceived facts about wine is the proper temperature to serve or drink it. You’ve probably heard some people snobbishly proclaim that wine should only be served at room temperature, while others insist that wine is undrinkable unless it’s ice cold. So who’s right and who’s misinformed?
Well… both. How so? Read on.
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First, find out what style of wine you’re dealing with.
To start off, each style of wine demands different treatment, meaning that not all wines should be served at the same temperature. The more informed among you will say, “yes, yes – room temperature for reds, and the freezer for whites.” Well, no, not really. Style of wine goes beyond the color of a wine. It relates to whether the wine is: 1) red, white, or rosé; 2) still or sparkling; 3) dry or sweet; 4) light, medium, or full-bodied; and 5) aged in oak or not.
But, what does the style really matter? Well…
Think back to the times you tried a wine you were told was amazing and ended up disappointed. Or the times you had to stick a wine in the freezer to even stomach swallowing it. Now, while that specific wine may have been poor to start with (plonk is plonk no matter what) a perfectly drinkable wine can be destroyed by serving it at the wrong temperature.
In a nutshell, here’s how temperature affects the taste of the wine.
The fragrant molecules in wine need some heat to start evaporating and giving off the aromas and flavors that represent a wine. But too much cold will mask them making the wine tasteless, and too much heat will cause fast evaporation of all the aromas making the wine muddled. Also, keep in mind that no wine, no matter its style, should be served below 5ºC or above 18ºC.
Red wines tend to be higher in alcohol and fuller in body than whites or rosés. They also include tannins, which whites lack and rosés barely have. Both of these are affected by the temperature.
– At high temperatures, the alcohol taste dominates the wine’s profile, hiding its freshness and special aromas.
– At cold temperatures, the wine will taste thin and hard because of the emphasized tannins.
White wines and rosés are easily affected by temperature, so finding the right serving temperature is important.
– Too much heat will overpower their soft and delicate flavors, making them flat and tasteless.
– Too much cold can also ruin the taste by accentuating the acidity of a wine, making it seem too sour.
So then, what temperature should your wine be served at?
Now, your basics weren’t that far off: red wines are generally served at slightly higher temperatures than whites. However, let’s factor the other elements of a wine’s style into the equation and see the proper serving temperatures.
Medium to full-bodied red wines, such as a Red Bordeaux, Rioja, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or Malbec, or a Vintage Port, are the wines you’re told to serve at room temperature. But considering how much that varies between Lebanon and, say, Germany, I think it’s safe to say “room temperature” is as imprecise as astrology. The actual serving temperature for these wines is between 15ºC and 18ºC.
Light-bodied red wines, like a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir, should be – surprise! – lightly chilled! Yes, a red wine can be slightly chilled, but never too cold. To best bring out the characteristics of these light and delicate reds, serve them at around 13ºC.
Medium to full-bodied and oaked white wines, like Chardonnay, Viognier, or Sémillon, are best served lightly chilled, too, though they can stand a slightly lower temperature than the reds, from 10ºC to 13ºC.
Light to medium-bodied white wines and rosés, like Pinto Grigio, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, Gewurtzraminer, or Muscadet, must be chilled to between 7ºC and 10ºC, to make them properly refreshing and zesty, but not too cold as to be sour and flavorless.
Sparkling wines, like Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, or Asti, are best served well chilled between 6ºC and 10ºC. But you probably knew that, right? Sparkling wines lose their bubbles fast when they are heated. Also, opening a hot bottle of sparkling wine is quite dangerous because it builds up pressure. So the cold keeps it flavorful, refreshing, deliciously frothy, and safe to open.
Sweet wines, like Sauternes, sweet muscats, Tokaji, or ice wine, are also best served well chilled, but at a slightly lower range, from 6ºC to 8ºC. Serving them warm will reduce the feeling of acidity and make the wine taste too sweet, cloying, and tooth rotting.
Sweet and sparkling wines are your “drink’em frozen” buddies. Mind you though, as I mentioned before, no wine should ever be served at below 5ºC, even these.
Finally, getting the right temperature isn’t rocket science.
If you don’t have a wine thermometer – which, you know, most people don’t – you’re going to have to improvise in order to get your wine as close to the right temperature as possible.
Keeping a red wine in the fridge might make it too cold to serve. So you’ll want to warm it up a little. Just leave the bottle out in the room for a while or hold the bowl of the glass in your palms a bit. However, never ever warm your wine on a heater. The sudden exposure to extreme heat could damage it. On the other hand, if your wine is too warm, pop it into the freezer for 15 minutes only. Don’t forget it in there, though, as the cork will get pushed out. Also, you could always chill it down in an ice bucket, filling it with equal amount ice and water.
There you go. Now you know at what temperature to serve and drink your wine for the best expression possible. Go ahead, brag about it! And enjoy each and every glass you drink from now on. And don’t forget to hit like on Facebook and follow on Instagram – I’m trying to reach 1,000 on Facebook, so help!
See you soon with another glass of red!