If you are to really begin to enjoy wine and learn more about it, or at least by means of your palate, then you must know how to serve it properly, or have it served to you properly. Every beverage has its very own optimal temperature range it is meant to be consumed at. When this is done, you enjoy it that much more. As for wine, what temperature should it be served?
Before you jump the gun and abide by this rule on a hot summer day, let’s delve into its history. The term ‘room temperature’ came about in a time when royalty were the only people really allowed to drink the stuff. (Not fair – right?) They lived in castles, back behind the time of central cooling. Castles were quite cold. Ah…it’s all making sense now. But seeing as though most of us don’t live in castles anymore (unless you do…then rock on with your bad self), that terminology may be a bit out of touch. So, let’s throw that rule out the window and talk modern day.
I am not going to throw a bunch of temperature ranges out there for each style, because that is just too hard to remember and most of us would not know the difference between a 13ºC service temperature or a 10ºC (whether in Celcius or in Fahrenheit).
If the wine frosts your glass (hopefully not a red wine), it is too cold. Period. You might get away with starting it off that way if you are consuming it outside on an extra hot day as it will warm up fast and get at the right temperature fairly quickly. But that’s a rare occurrence. So why don’t you want your wine too cold? Here’s the skinny: if the wine is too cold the acidity will be much more prevalent, so you are not really consuming the wine in its best manner. Also, it numbs your palate (have you ever noticed that you really can’t taste wine when it’s served very cold?) The only wine which can be served and frost your glass is a sparkling wine. If it is Vintage Champagne for example, this wine can be served a touch warmer.
Ok, so in hindsight, there is really only one rule. The rest are suggestions for you to know if your wine is at the right temperature or not:
If it is a white that has been elaborated in oak, or is a medium bodied wine, it can be served warmer than say, a Sauvignon Blanc. If an oaked wine is too cold, the oak nuances can overpower a wine and create a ‘drier’ (more tannin) palate.
Wines which are oaked can range anywhere from medium- to full-bodied wine. So if we were to start off with a light-bodied chilled Sauvignon Blanc, then the oaked whites can progressively warm up from there.
It is quite simple, actually. Refer to Rule #1. Your red wine can be served in the same manner as the white. The lighter bodied reds can start off slightly cool - imagine that ‘castle’-like room temperature - and go up from there. For example, you can serve a Burgundy, Pinot Noir a little cool. The same temperature to perceived acidity ratio applies with reds as well. The colder they are, the more acidity you will perceive – and if it is a big red wine, you will perceive more oak as well.
I will give you one specific temperature mark you need to know of. Do not serve your wine warmer than about 64ºF (18ºC). The alcohol will seem high and out of balance in the wine in this manner.
There you have it every one. No degree charts to remember; just a simple way to learn if your wine is served at the correct temperature. And don’t forget: figuring it all out simply takes practice! So what are you waiting for? Grab your glass and “start learning!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christie Kiley, International Sommelier and Chef, has over a decade of experience in both restaurants and wineries. She began working kitchens under talented chefs. Nights off from the kitchen, she would work at the same restaurant as a server. Her passion for food grew into the wine industry. She has worked wine harvests in Napa, learning the nature of the product from soil to bottling. Working the back- and front-of-the-house in restaurants and wineries in sales, and as a food and wine educator, has given Christie an in-depth knowledge in both food and wine throughout many aspects. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, where she has just received her International Sommelier Certificate from the Escuela de Argentina Sommeliers (EAS) after two years of study. She works as a wine and food writer and Sommelier at a boutique hotel in Palermo where you can catch her most nights of the week entertaining guests with her unique wine tastings.