What is the best temperature to serve wine is a question I get asked (a lot!), and the answer is not as obvious as you may think – for instance, don’t always assume if it is a red wine you don’t chill it, or if it’s white wine it must be chilled to within an inch of its life.
Well, some lighter style red wines with low tannins are more than able to take a few mins in the fridge (think Beaujolais), similarly some bigger, full bodied whites (oaky Chardonnay for example) don’t need to be chilled as much as a lighter white (think Vinho Verde or Muscadet).
I remember once many years ago (ie when I was young and knew absolutely zilch about wine), having brought round (a then) cherished bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – to set the scene and give context: this was at a time when you couldn’t just pop down your local Majestic to buy one, in the UK it was as rare as hen’s teeth – to enjoy with my parents for Christmas dinner.
I decided to pop it in the garage to keep it cool – which in hindsight was a bit of a mistake as Christmas Eve proved to be a very cold night! On the big day we opened it with great excitement and to my huge disappointment, I couldn’t taste anything.…nothing, it was muted and dull. I was gutted. Putting the bottle to one side we opened up something else but I vowed to go back to it a bit later.
On our return, wow, what a difference – the wine was now full of vibrancy and all that typical grab-you-round-the-throat intensity of a Kiwi Sauvignon had returned. What was the cause of this turnaround? Quite simply it had warmed up a bit, so the moral of the story is don’t overchill your wine!
Below is a snapshot of serving temperatures – you don’t need to rigidly keep to this, but it should help serve as a bit of a guide:
Well Chilled (6-8 °C) – Sweet/Dessert wines (ie Sauternes, Muscats etc)
Chilled (7-10 °C) – Rosés and white wines which are light – medium bodied and unoaked (NZ Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio etc), White Ports sit here too, and at the cooler end of the range, Sparkling wines (Champagne, Cremant, Cava etc) and Fino sherries.
Lightly Chilled (10- 13°C) – Medium/Full bodied oaked whites (White Burgundy for example). At the warmer end of this scale (13°C) you can also include light bodied reds (such as Beaujolais, Valpolicella etc). I’d include Tawny Port here as I like to chill it slightly before serving.
Room Temperature (15-18 °C) – Medium to full bodied reds (ie Bordeaux, Rioja, Chianti, Southern Rhone reds like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas) as well as LBV Ports, Vintage Ports.
Top Tip –
In an emergency you can stick a bottle in the freezer but only do it for a few minutes and whatever you do, DO NOT forget it’s there!