Taking your Wines Temperature

I found this interesting little tidbit the other day about the best serving temperature for wine on a site called the Wine Experience. The info given has some credibility, but mean-while back at the whole story about "proper" serving temperature, I've rounded up a bit more information on the subject that should address subject a bit more thoroughly about serving wine at the correct temperature.

The gist of the article, which you can read here gives you a quick twenty-minute rule, for a red wine to achieve what they call the "proper" serving temperature just drop it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. If it's a white wine, take the bottle from the refrigerator twenty minutes before you plan on drinking it. Sounds so simple doesn't it? While it may be a simple rule of thumb, I think it's far too simplistic and rather incomplete. Depending on the time of the year, that simple rule of thumb probably won't work and will need to be adjusted for cooler temps either inside or out.

But the bigger and to me most important point of drinking wine at the correct temperature comes into play when a wine becomes too warm. Whether it's white/red, rose or bubbly, when a wine warms up past recommended temp range, then you quickly lose the acidity [the part of the wine that helps it pair with food] and then the wine is no longer crisp enough to cut through the fats produced by the food. When this happens your meal won't taste as good as it should or could and when a wine gets to warm it loses its ability to wash out the fats, greatly reducing the ability to enjoy the second, third and fourth bites of the fab pairing you may have prepared.

The Court of Master Sommeliers recommends the following serving temperatures for maximum enjoyment of wines:
Medium Bodied Reds: 55° F, 13° C
Full Bodied and Aged Reds: 59-64° F, 15-18° C

Heavy Whites and Light Reds: 50-55° F, 10-13° C

Champagne and Sparkling Wines: 43-50° F, 6-10° C
Light White Wines and Rose: 45-50° F, 7-10° C

But now here's my own take on the issue; one that will surely fly-in-the-face of the conventional wisdom on the subject, but hell that has never stopped me before. Now that said; may I also point out here, that my recommendations below are based upon living in San Diego, where the average daily temps range from 70.5° F [21.4 degrees Celsius] to 88° inland. But if drinking red, full bodied wines just above cellar temperature is the recommendation from the experts, then I'm glad to be doing it wrong, because to me, that is just plain foolish.

When the weather does turn cooler; I adjust the time needed for a wine to reach the desired drinking temp. Many times in the month of December, I have to pull heavy red wines out in the morning, so they'll be ready to go right around supper time. So in general with a meal, if I pull the white out at 45 degrees or the red at 57 degrees, I find it will warm up 10 degrees over the time it takes to get the food plated and then the wine is ready to be enjoyed.
REDS: I keep all my red wines in a wine storage device that looks like a refrigerator, keeping them chilled at the recommended 57 degrees and vibration free. When I want to drink a red wine from my cellar, I will pull said bottle from its stasis-chamber at least one hour before preparing dinner. Even on hot summer days, the temperature in my home rarely exceeds 76 degrees. So by the time, I'm ready to have my first slurp of wine, the wine has warmed to 67-70 degrees and is now ready to go. I've sampled many red medium bodied and full-bodied red wines from my own cellar at the so-called recommended temperatures; the wines are very closed and inexpressive.

So maybe I'm completely wrong on the issue, but not being a member of the anti-flavor league, I like to be able to taste each and every layer of these wines I spend so much coin on. To taste these as cold as the recommended temps seen above, just seems silly to me. I could see drinking wines like Beaujolais a bit chilled, but that style of wine is one few exceptions for serving red wines chilled.

WHITES: Like my red wines, I keep white-wines in the same device. I like to drink my white wines a bit warmer than the chilly recommended temps you see above. I find when white wines are consumed at too cool of a temperature, that you'll undoubtedly miss out of many of wonderful flavors and aromas just waiting to be unleashed as the wine warms up a bit.
When it comes to wines like, Sauvignon Blanc, Italian Pinot Grigio, Albarino or even a Sancerre, I will bust out what I call a cool-sleeve, which I slip on over the bottle on a warm day to keep these wines at a cooler, yet tastier temperature. I've found if these wines get too warm, than they start to close down and become monolithic. But for me, a California style Chardonnay, will continue to do just fine, even on reasonably warm days, but of course if it's a cooker out-side, then it may be time to bust that cool-sleeve out.
Here's my unconventional recommendation for the optimum white-wine drinking. If you keep the wine in a device like the one I have pull out the desired wine about 10 minutes before you plan to start slurping. If you keep these wines in an everyday [37 degrees] refrigerator, something most folks do, then this where the 20 minute rule will come into play. As a general rule of thumb, depending on how many folks you're serving, pulling the wine out of the 57 degree wine storage device right before plating takes the guess work out of finding that right serving temp. If you don't have one of those cooling-sleeves, I'd recommend buying one, they are fantastic on warm days, especially if you're eating outside.

ROSES: I pretty much treat these wines in the same manner as I do white wines I've described above; but of course you should adjust the methods based upon your taste and weather conditions. That of course is true in all situations. Drinking a rosé wine too warm is not recommended; as many of the wonderful flavors and aromas will start to shut down and you'll miss out on what's for many the ideal summer wine.

BUBBLY: When it comes time to uncork the bubbly, whether it's Champagne or other sparkling wines, they should be served chilled and not at room temperature. Most folks can keep these wines in their refrigerator, but if you just have it sitting in your pantry, you can from room-temp to the correct temperature (43-48 degrees F) by placing the bottle in a bucket of ice for 20 minutes. If you don't happen to have a bucket, a twenty minute rest in the ice-maker will also do the trick nicely. Drinking bubbly warm will really kill the experience and remind you of taking a swig from a can on warm-beer on a hot day, definitely not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon.


Wine Harlots said…
I like to drinks my red at cellar temp. Warm reds? Blech.
Will Eyer said…
"Warm" is a relative term my dear, one persons concept of warmth does not make a universally shared truth. Thus if you had read the article, you would have seen, that I recommend drinking red wines at about 67-70 degrees.

This is the temperature; the wine finally arrives at after being pulled from my 57 degree cellar, just before dinner.

Do you decant your wine in an "ice-bucket" to maintain the desired cellar temp that you so adore?? I really doubt that you do.

When I was judging wines, none of wine we encountered was 57 degrees, hmmm I wonder why not?? Tasting rooms across the country, don't serve samples at 57 degrees, so hmmmm why not??? When I buy wine by the glass at a restaurant it's no where near 57 degrees, so hmmm why not? Sheesh, I guess all those people have it wrong, then.

Why is white wine different from red wines in terms of serving temp? It's recommended by many to let white wines warm up, saying many folks serve them to cold.

Why, because it shuts down the wines flavors and aromas, thus it's exactly the same with red wines, drink it too cold an you lose all the many layers waiting to be unfolded, after the wine has emerged from the cellar.

It has been my observation that far too many folks stick with the standard party line; "it's best to drink red wines at cellar temps or 57 degrees. Not because they actually enjoy their red wines cold, but instead because that's what they've been told to believe. I call BS on that whole idea, but that is my opinion and I'm sticking to it, while recommending others follow suit.


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