To Chill or Not to Chill: Avoid This Wine-Serving Faux Pas
By Rai Cornell
Behind closed doors, we all have our unique preferences for the ideal temperature of wine. But when it’s time to throw on your best face and serve up an elegant evening for your friends, you’d better know the rules.
If you’re scratching your head over how to serve red wine or white wine, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know to serve up wine at just the right temperature and avoid an embarrassing wine faux pas.
Depending on where you first began your exploration of wines, you likely heard different recommendations for wine temperatures.
In Europe where wine cellars or dedicated wine cabinets are common, oenophiles drink their wine at whatever temperature the cellar happens to be. In most cases - and ideally - this is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 degrees Celsius.
In the United States, however, wine drinkers tend toward whatever’s convenient if they’re not blessed with a wine cellar. White wines are often kept in the refrigerator while red wines are stored on the countertop at room temperature.
Since most of us start sipping our wine soon after it has been poured (who can wait?), this means our whites are usually too cold and our reds are too warm. Now, if this is how you prefer your wine, more power to you. But we’d like you to try a little experiment.
The reason die-hard wine drinkers are up in arms about wine serving temperature is because the temperature of the liquid and the glass both dramatically affect the taste and experience of the wine.
When a wine is too cold, many of its precious notes, flavors, and scents are muted. On the other hand, a wine that is too warm can accentuate certain flavors that will overpower the sip. Now for the scoop on “to chill, or not to chill.”
Red wines are perhaps the trickiest to get to the optimal temperature. Drinking a red when it’s too warm can leave you with a thick taste of oak on your tongue. And all you’re likely to smell is alcohol.
But serve up your red at the perfect 65 to 68 degree Fahrenheit range and you’ll get to experience all the complex layers of flavor hidden in that dark beauty. Rather than leaving your red wines out on the counter, put them in the refrigerator for 40 minutes or in the freezer for 6 minutes before popping the cork.
Do you prefer dry whites or sweet, rich whites? Surprisingly, there’s a different temperature protocol for each.
With a dry white, you’ll want to serve it at about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the aromatics and flavors can come through while the acidity gives a crispness to the finish without becoming overpowering.
Sweet, rich wines should be served slightly warmer at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Any warmer and the sweetness of the wine will overshadow the mineral qualities.
You can chill white wine in the refrigerator for about two hours or in the freezer for 20 minutes. To make sure your white is perfectly ready for your enjoyment, we love this wine thermometer that doubles as a gorgeous bottle opener.
Traditionally delivered and served from an ice bucket, sparkling wines are often served colder than their non-bubbly siblings. However, you don’t want your sparkling too cold or you won’t be able to experience the unique nutty crispness hidden in many great sparkling varieties.
The ideal temperature for sparkling wines is between 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. To get it there, toss a room temperature bottle in your refrigerator for about two and a half hours or in the freezer for about 25 minutes. Then set the bottle on the table for just a couple minutes before opening.
In most cases, your wine glasses are going to be warmer than you want to serve your wine. A dramatic temperature difference can quickly change the temperature - and therefore the experience - of your wine.
If you’re serving a sparkling or white wine, chill your glasses for about 10 minutes before serving. Use glasses with stems so the person enjoying the wine can hold the glass without his or her hand warming the cup.
While reds can be served in stemless glasses, using a stemmed glass will keep your red from becoming too warm. Chill them in the fridge for 2 to 5 minutes - just enough to maintain that perfect red temperature.
What’s your ideal wine temperature? Have you noticed different flavors come through at different temperatures? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!