Wine can be intimidating but in order to appreciate them properly, the first step is that drinking them should be enjoyable. That being said, good wines do indeed need the right temperature to bring out their full flavor. In general, white wines should be served cooler and reds drunk just slightly less than room temperature. With that, there is also a variation based on type and the grape varietal.
As a general measure, it’s best to keep in mind how temperature effects the flavor. Overly warm wines can taste too alcoholic rather than flavorful and a wine that is too chilled, if white, can dull the nuances of flavors or if red, bring out a harsher tannin flavor.
Rule of Thumb
A simplified rule of thumb is that casual drinking, light whites should be served at 42-50 degrees F. Full bodied red wines should be drunk at 58-65 degrees, just under room temperature. In the middle is an intermediate point where the two meet. Strong bodied whites and light bodied reds can range at a temperature of 50-59 degrees.
Sparkling wines should be served very cold, in the range of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the bottle cold maintains the small bubbles rather than a froth when pouring. It should be kept on ice throughout the meal or event to keep it chilled. If the budget allows, you should invest in a wine fridge to keep it chilled at ideal temperature. This guide will help you buy the right one for your needs.
White dessert wines should also be served cold. Heat can additionally bring out the sugars in wine, making them too syrupy and muting the intricacies of flavor notes. Keeping them cold keeps the sweetness in check so that the fruitiness of the grape can be tasted.
Roses also fall in the middling crossover between the extremes of light whites and heavy reds. Roses have different expression also and can be cooled as low as a light white or at a slightly higher temperature in the range of a stronger white.
Red wines are not meant to be warm, but in fact, should be slightly under room temperature. In addition if they start at the lower end of the cool range, wines will warm up slightly in the glass leading to different taste experiences as the meal wears on. Ports also fall into this category, being apt to taste tannin-like or even bitter if overly warm.
In addition, sommeliers consider the varietal and region of growing when judging proper serving temperature. It’s not necessary to become a vineyard expert to choose the correct temperature range but understanding the vintner’s purpose in creating the wine helps to judge nuances that might be helped by a temperature variation.
Whether the vintner was planning a fun and fruity wine or the drinker was intending it for a light hearted party, both purposes impact the way wine should be served.