If Goldilocks was a wine geek, she’d be going nuts about now. Wine serving temperatures, from barbecues to bodegas, are all over the map. Too hot, too cold, but rarely just right. But did you know that the temperature at which you serve a wine can affect how its aromas, structure and even alcohol are perceived, making the difference between a great glass and a mediocre one a matter of degrees. So why do domestic beer makers take serving temperature more seriously than the average restaurant or wine drinker?
Of course, I’m not suggesting châteaux start slapping on hyper-color labels where the grapes in the vineyard etching turn red at the ideal serving temperature, but following a few rules of thumb can definitely make your wine experience better this summer.
Cooler Reds, Warmer Whites
Yes, you read that right. If it’s 85 degrees out and you’re serving your favorite Syrah at room temperature, you’re serving it too warm. At higher temperatures, the volatile compounds in wine evaporate faster, which is great for emphasizing a red wine’s bouquet, but it also amplifies sweetness and alcohol, making reds come across hot and blousy, even cloying. Instead, try serving your reds cooler. Lighter-bodied, fruitier reds like Beaujolais or a Touraine from the Loire Valley can be served as cool as 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, making them much more refreshing. Fuller-bodied, more tannic reds like Bordeaux or Chianti can be served between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But note, cooler temps will accentuate the tannins and perceived bitterness, so don’t just stick the wine in the fridge and call it good.
Now, knowing that warmth emphasizes aromas, it makes sense that the converse would be true, too. Which is why most wine professionals would suggest drinking your white wines a bit warmer. At refrigerator temperature (35-40 degrees Fahrenheit) the aromatic compounds are practically imperceptible, making your white wine smell and taste like nothing or, worse, bitter. (Ice cold cheap beer makes more sense now, doesn’t it? Ever enjoyed a room temperature cheap beer?) Try serving white wines between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit—cooler for lighter, crisper whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Picpoul de Pinet, warmer for fuller-bodied whites like California Chardonnay.
Serving temperatures for rosé wines tend to fall right between the temperatures for reds and whites. Serve lighter, more mineral and crisp rosés frais, or cool, as the French say, and fuller ones like a lighter-bodied red.
Ever popped a can of warm soda? It tends to foam up a lot and feel particularly prickly on the tongue. Well that’s because the higher the temperature, the more carbon dioxide gas is released. This means, serving your sparkling wines too warm can make a bubbly wine disagreeably foamy and disjointed. So serve your Champagnes, Cremant de Loires and even Vinho Verdes well-chilled (40-50 degrees Fahrenheit).
Fortified Wines and Stickies
As we mentioned earlier, serving a wine warm can amplify perceived sweetness, which, when you’re talking about sweet wines, can mean the difference between the wine tasting luxurious and like Fun Dip. Try serving sweet wines on the cooler side, between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit—cooler for Sauternes or ice wines, warmer for Ports, since you don’t want to the tannins to pop too much either.
Obviously, achieving these varied temperatures is easiest when you have temperature-controlled wine storage. But even if you have a wine fridge or a home cellar, that doesn’t mean you’re able to keep your reds, whites, bubblies and stickies all at different temperatures. To that end, we recommend the Ravi Wine Chiller, an “instant” wine chiller that you leave in your freezer. Just stick the Ravi in the neck of the bottle and place your thumb over their air hole to control the flow, then pour—slower for cooler, faster for warmer. Pour two bottles per chill.