So how do you know at what temperature a wine needs to be served? My philosophy is to keep it simple and do what works for you. There are some rules of thumb but you really don’t need to be too concerned about degrees and numbers. But if you’re a perfectionist (like us Virgos), I know you’ll want to know what the ‘perfect’ temperatures are. Just don’t be too much of a cork dork at your next party, busy fussing about with expensive gadgets taking your wine’s temperature. Open the bottle and enjoy it! And if you think it’s too warm or too cold, here’s the simple way to know what to do.
For those who follow the rules
The rule of thumb is that white wines and rosés are suggested to be served at around 55 degrees and Champagne and bubbly wines at about 45 degrees. Red wines are suggested to be served at a cool room temperature, around 60 degrees. Some people say that “cellar temperature” is best for red wines but that is anywhere from 40 to 65 degrees depending on whose cellar you’re in.
But let’s not get too caught up in the color of the wines and matching the numbers. For those who follow the rules, the rules can be changed!
I don’t have my thermometer with me…how can I tell if my wine is too cold or too warm?
Well, if you’re drinking a wine and you can’t seem to pick up on the flavors and it just tastes like some austere cool liquid, then it’s likely a bit too chilled. You’ve got to coax out the flavors and aromas with a little warming up. You can let the bottle sit out for about a half hour and try again. But for those of us less patient, simply hold the glass in your hands and swirl the wine a bit to warm it up. Then keep trying until the wine is more pleasant to you and the flavors stand out more. Typically, reds fall into this category but it also has a lot to do with body. Heavy-bodied, high tannin wines are usually best when they are just slightly below room temp.
Generally, white wines and lighter-bodied wines are often better when they are chilled. You will know this when you taste the wine and find that certain qualities are overbearing (maybe your mouth is puckering or strong aromas are sort of taking over your sinuses) or the opposite; that it needs that chill to liven up the flavors.
You can put the wine in the fridge or take the short cut and chill your wine in an ice bucket. First, fill it nearly to the top with ice. Then put in enough water to cover the ice. About five minutes for the heavier wines and a bit longer for the lighter bodied. Champagne and sparkling wines really are best at cooler temps so let it chill for fifteen to twenty minutes. (I have also been known to put wine in the freezer to chill for a very brief period, but don’t forget about it. Freezers don’t like funky wine popsicles or exploded bottles…messy!) Keep in mind that if the wine is just plain bad, no amount of chilling may be able to fix it. You just may not like it (warm or cold) and that’s okay!
It’s all about preference
While most people tend to treat a wine’s temperature based on the color of the wine, temperature should really be based on the body of the wine and certainly, how you prefer to enjoy them! Heavy-bodied wines need to mellow out. Lighter bodied wines need to chill.
And there’s no reason to change your wine drinking preferences just because you’re in a restaurant! You’re paying good money for that bottle of wine. You should drink it at the temperature that suits your taste. After you taste the wine, presuming that you like it, you certainly have the right to ask for an ice bucket to chill the wine. A sommelier may recommend the proper temperature which may be different from your tastes and a good sommelier will certainly respond to your request if you prefer the wine to be chilled.
Don’t get stuck in following the red/white rules. Some full-bodied Chardonnays just taste better when they have warmed up a bit and aren’t served cold like a Pinot Grigio. My favorite Pinot Noir and Beaujolais (another red wine) are both much better with a slight chill.
Wine temperature is a matter of personal taste. If you prefer your wines slightly cooler or warmer, go for it. If it is a very warm day and you want that red, chill it to your heart’s content, especially if it’s going to sit out at your next summer bash. It all depends! (Sorry Virgos.)