Serving (and Drinking) Wine at the Right Temperature

five rules for drinking wines at the right temperature

Posted: Jun. 06, 2018

White wine should be served chilled; red wine can be warmer. While most people know these two laws of wine drinking, few know the reasons why or what temperature is best for a certain wine. Worse still, too many wine drinkers don’t know how bad a great wine can taste if served at the wrong temperature.

Next time you’re hosting a wine tasting at your winery or bar, explain the right drinking temperatures for your wines. Only then can your customers appreciate the flavors fully once at home.  

Below, we break down the five rules for drinking wines at the right temperature and even include some temperature hacks.

WINE TEMPERATURES: Perfect serving temperatures for white, red, and rosé wines.

Temperature is often overlooked, when in fact, temperature makes up a significant part of how a wine tastes. Being too warm or too cold impacts the overall enjoyment. Additionally, the drinking temperature varies between the different types of wines. The perfect temperature for one might not be a great match for another.

The Rules for Determining the Correct Wine Temperature

For the utmost perfect drinking pleasure, there are a few rules to follow.

Did you know that temperature affects the taste? With our tongues, we taste up to six flavors (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami, and fat). The first four are influenced by temperature.

The way different degrees of coldness and hotness affect them are fundamental to determining the right temperature:

  1. The colder the temperature, the more sensitive the tongue is to acid—and the fresher the wine tastes.
  2. The more the temperature rises, the more the tongue perceives sweeteners and tastes a wine that is heavier and fuller. What can be a negative side effect to this is that the taste of the alcohol comes to the forefront, overshadowing the more delicious flavors.
  3. If the tongue cools faster on its sides, then the bitter notes are more pronounced (namely the tannins.)

Depending on the temperature of the tongue and the wine, the taste impression of any wine can be enhanced or ruined. As a sommelier, winery or bar owner, or manager, you know the right temperatures to serve wine during a tasting. Customers might have no idea that considerable thought was put into serving the wine at the right coolness. When a guest buys a case of wine, include how to store the bottle and which temperature to serve the wine so they can continue the same experience at home.  

The Right Temperature for White Wine and Rosé

Freshness is the hallmark of white wine. A low wine temperature reduces the taste sensation. Even an acidic white wine tastes less sour when it’s served very cold. Instead, it’s perceived as refreshing.

Naturally, the temperature of white wines depends on the age and body of the wine. The perfect range is between 46 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit:

  • Rule #1: 46 to 50 degrees—Light and young wines should be drunk at this temperature, including Riesling, Grüner Veltiner, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and sparkling wines. To achieve this temperature, the wine should be stored in the refrigerator for about three to five hours before serving.
  • Rule #2: 51 to 57 degrees—Strong white wines, like a Chardonnay, and rosé wines are ideal at this temperature range. Since they tend to have less acidity than other white wines, they don’t need to be chilled down so much to halt the acid flavor. To achieve the right temperature, just two or three hours in the refrigerator are needed.
  • Rule #3: Cool—not cold! Wines drunk below 43 degrees Fahrenheit will take on an extremely sour taste and won’t be drinkable.

The Right Drinking Temperature for Red Wine

The perfect drinking temperature for red wine is a few degrees cooler than room temperature. In order for the aromas to develop in red wine, higher temperatures are necessary. This is most important for heavier wines, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, that contain a high level of tannins. If it’s served too cold, then it develops a bitter taste and becomes undrinkable.

When talking with your wine tasting group, emphasize that red wine should never be served too warm either, otherwise the alcohol taste dominates the taste. When served at too high a temperature, the red wine gets overloaded and all the elegance of the flavors are lost.

In former times, the rule of thumb used to be red wine was served at room temperature; however, today’s houses and apartments tend to be warmer than the homes of earlier times. (What’s the average temperature nowadays? About 75 degrees Fahrenheit.) That’s why it’s suggested to serve wine a few degrees cooler than room temperature.

Lavu Pro Tip: When the ambient temperature of the room is high or wine is being drunk outside in a hot climate, advise guests to pour less and keep the bottle cool. Otherwise, the wine heats up faster than it can be drunk.

  • Rule #4: 58 degrees Fahrenheit—Merlot or Pinot Noir are best suited at this temperature. To reach the perfect temperature, suggest putting the wine in the fridge two hours before serving time, and removing it one hour later. Sit it on the counter and, according to the average room temperature, the temperature of the wine will rise to its ideal temperature.
  • Rule #5: 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit—Rich and powerful red wines like Chianti, Bordeaux, or Cabernet Sauvignon are best served warmer. If the red wines are stored in a room temperature space, then they just need a shot in the refrigerator to cool down a few degrees from room temperature.

Merlots, although rich in flavor, are light enough that they can unfold at cooler temperatures. Deeper red wines like a Chianti are more complex, and only with a higher temperature can the multi-layered flavors, textures, and aromas come out.

How can you take the temperature of wine?

Don’t be surprised when customers ask you how to find out precise degrees. Recommend purchasing a wine thermometer. If you have high foot traffic, this would be a great item to add to your shop or to give as a gift to special customers. Add the final touch and put your vineyard’s logo on the wine thermometer as a reminder.

Know the Temperature Hacks

For your less precise customers, share with them these easy hacks for achieving the perfect temperature for wine:

  1. Raise the temperature by submerging the cool wine bottle into warm water, but only for a brief period.
  2. Lower the temperature by submerging the warm wine bottle in a bucket half filled with cold water and ice. Then add some salt. The salt thaws ice quickly and cools the bottle down faster.
  3. Keep a cooling cuff in the freezer and then put it over the wine bottle 10 to 15 before serving.

How much detail you decide to give will depend on your wine tasting group. At the very least, aim to have every customer leave knowing that wine is better served too cool than too warm, that white wines are chilled, and red wines are served cooler than room temperature.

Enrich your wine tasting tour by educating customers on the science of tasting wine. They won’t forget how much you helped them to enjoy a glass of wine. Cin cin!

Fact: A Winery POS System improves productivity, streamlines complex operations, and boosts sales. See how a winery point of sale can help your business.




Posted: Jun. 06, 2018 | Written By: Emma Alois

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