The best serving temperature for wine is an ongoing discussion (some might say debate), but it’s safe to say most red wines are served too warm and whites too cold.
When a wine is served warm, the alcohol dominates and when served too cold it loses its refreshing acidity and fruitiness; furthermore the cold can enhance a wine’s bitterness.
To savor a white wine for its complexities and character, the ideal serving temperature should be between 48 and 55 degrees. If served at a frigid temperature, the flavors and aromas are dulled, taking away from the complexities and enjoyment.
White wines that have been aged in wood will have a slight tannic feel in the mouth. These big, bold, full-bodied white wines are best treated as reds. The colder the temperature of the wine, the more noticeable the tannins are on the palate.
The exception is with lowerquality wines, which may benefit from being served cold as the qualities that make them less desirable than more expensive wine are dulled.
In general, serve sweet wines chilled. The higher the serving temperature the sweeter the wine will taste, often making the wine taste too sweet.
However, again the quality rule applies — when considering less expensive sweet wines that may be lacking in acidity, chilled is the best method. For fine sweet wines such as sauternes and ice-wine, they can be treated as fine white wines served between 48 and 52 degrees.
Temperature also changes aromas and taste of sparkling wines and Champagne. Higher temperatures can offer an unpleasantly frothy wine.
The basic advice for serving red wines at “room temperature” may need a few adjustments in today’s modern homes. The rule was based on the “room temperature” of the average European cellar with temperatures around 55 degrees. These cellars were used not only for wine but also food and vegetable storage.
As with white wines, temperature has a profound influence on how red wine will taste, smell and match with food. Here are some guidelines for reds: Rich, intense and spicy wines such as shiraz/syrah and cabernet sauvignon are best served at 55 to 65 degrees. Medium light-bodied reds such as Chianti, pinot noir and young wines are best served at 55 to 60 degrees.
- 2008 Root: 1 Sauvignon Blanc, Chile (about $12 retail)
- NV Roederer Estate Brut (Anderson Valley), California (about $30 retail)