[From Ladies Who Launch Weekly Wine Tip]
Many people make the mistake of serving white wines too cold and red wines too warm. The temperature at which you serve and drink wine is more important to the experience than you might suspect. When served too cold or too warm, wines can lose their true personality — pleasing aromas and flavors can be masked and disagreeable characteristics exaggerated. When wine is served over 68°F alcohol aromas are so pronounced that they may be the only thing you can smell, while wines served at less than 45°F will have no discernable aromas at all. Some of these temperature recommendations are going to sound cooler than what you are used to, but if you stick to our guidelines, you should be happily drinking refreshing wine in no time.
White wines stored in your average refrigerator (~40°F) are too cold to drink. Assuming that you do not have a wine refrigerator or wine cellar set to the appropriate serving temperature, your best bet is to chill your room temperature whites in the fridge for between 45 - 90 minutes before serving and drinking. This will enable the aromas and flavors in the wine to shine. On the other hand, if you are serving a very simple (ok, cheap) white it is best to serve the wine a bit colder to disguise the off flavors or faults. One caveat, many restaurants serve whites too cold and insist on jamming your bottle back in the ice bucket every time you turn your back. If you can’t hold your wine glass without a mitten, ask the waiter to rescue the wine from the ice and leave it on your table.
Red wines, on the other hand, are often served too warm. The golden rule that we all hear is to serve red wines at “room temperature” but as we all know room temperature varies greatly depending on the room and the season. On top of those variations, the idea of what room temperature is has changed greatly over time and now is generally considered to be about 72°F which is far too warm to serve wine properly. Again, unless your wines are stored in a wine refrigerator, wine cellar, or other consistently cool place, they will probably benefit from 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving and drinking. Generally speaking, lighter reds such as Beajoulais, young Burgundy and Pinot Noir from Oregon and California should be served cooler than Bordeaux, Barolo, Rhone wines and Cabernet and Merlot from Washington and California. If your wine is served too warm in a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask the waiter to chill it down for you. If you get an exaggerated eye roll in response, chances are your waiter probably knows less than you do about wine. Hand them the bottle and roll your eyes right back.
While we are not suggesting you over-think the serving temperature of the wines you drink, we guarantee that your experience will be enhanced if you keep these simple tips in mind. Just remember that if you are in doubt, cooler is better.
Here is a simple primer that includes serving temperatures and the length of time you should chill a wine in the refrigerator if the bottle has been stored at room temperature:
Champagne and Sparkling Wines - 45-50°F (2-3 Hours)
Inexpensive White Wines and Sweet Wines-50-55°F (90 Minutes- 2 Hours)
Good Dry White Wines- 55-60°F (45 Minutes- 90 Minutes)
Lighter Red Wines- 60-65°F (30-45 Minutes)
Bigger Red Wines- 65-68°F (20-30 Minutes)