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What is the Best Temperature to Serve Wine?

White wine should be cold, and red wine at room temp, right?

Well, sort of. But there’s a bit more to it.

As wine warms up, it gives off more fragrance and aroma, which we know (when wine is good), is just as important as taste. If wine is too cold, you can’t pick up on any of this. As you can imagine, serving wine at the right temperature can make a big difference in how enjoyable your drink is.

Serving wine at the right temperature allows you to really experience that wine’s optimal quality

Here’s a few general basics on temperature and wine:

  • Lighter bodied white wines, such as Riesling or Pinot Grigio (i.e. lower in alcohol) can afford to be chilled quite a bit
  • Fuller bodied white wines, or less aromatic varieties such as Chardonnay so should be just slightly chilled
  • Red wines shouldn’t be as cool as whites, but that doesn’t meant they should never be chilled – the same rule applies to as above: fuller bodied reds (like Shiraz) should be served at room temp, but lighter bodied reds like Gamay or Pinot Noir can actually be much more enjoyable with a slight chill
  • Bear in mind tannins: they are more pronounced when wine is cooler – all the most reason to avoid chilling big tannic wines like Cab Sav or Shiraz; this also means that if you have a young wine that’s quite chewy (very tannic), allowing it to warm up a bit can take away some of its bite

There is no need to be too nitpicky with temperature, but understanding some of  these basic principles will help you fully appreciate a wine. Conversely, it can even make bad wines taste pretty good – a couple of hours in the fridge, or even (dare I say) an ice cube, can do wonders for a cheap white wine. Disclaimer: no amount of chill will help with the subsequent headache.

Light bodied whites, like Riesling, do well with an hour or so in the fridge – allow them to sit for 10 minutes or so at room temp before pouring.

In a perfect world, these are the general temps I aim to serve wine at:

  • Light whites: 10ºC
  • Big whites: 14ºC
  • Light reds: 18ºC
  • Big reds: 20ºC

Another approach is as follows (in an average-temperature home):

  • Chill light white wines an hour before serving (leaving it at room temp for 10 mins before pouring)
  • Chill big white wines a half an hour before serving (leaving it at room temp for 10 mins before pouring)
  • Chill light bodied reds 15-20 minutes before serving (leaving it at room temp for 10 mins before pouring)

Fore more info on how to serve wines, check out our thoughts on which wine glasses to use and when to decant.

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