The temperature at which you serve a wine can drastically change its aromas and flavors. This might seem like an overly geeky piece of wine minutia that you’d rather not pay attention to, but serving temperature can play a big role in how your wine performs in the glass, or how it “drinks,” as the pros say.
Generally speaking, cold temperatures will emphasize a wine’s tannins and acidity, while minimizing the wine’s aromas and fruit flavors. Warm temperatures, on the other hand, will play down a wine’s tannins and acidity while amping up the wine’s aromatics. Warm temperatures can also accentuate a wine’s alcohol content and make the wine appear “hotter” or higher in alcohol than it actually is.
Check out this quick guide on how to determine the optimal serving temperature for a wine depending on its style.
Sparkling wines including champagne, cava, prosecco or any other form of bubbly should be chilled and served at 45°F to 50°F. The warmer a sparkling wine gets, the sweeter and less crisp it will appear in the mouth.
People tend to serve white wines too cold, which can hinder their aromas from being expressed fully. Whites should be chilled and served anywhere from 45°F to 60°F depending on the wine’s style. Lighter, un-oaked whites such as sauvignon blanc and riesling do well on the cooler side of the spectrum, while fuller-bodied, richer whites that tend to be aged in oak like chardonnay and viognier show well on the warmer side of the spectrum.
Rosés are typically consumed in warm weather as an aperitif or as a refreshing accompaniment to lighter foods, and can be treated as white wines when it comes to serving temperature. Anywhere from 45°F to 55°F is perfect.
Just as people tend to serve white wines too cold, they also tend to serve red wines too warm, which can make them appear “cooked” or highly alcoholic. The common inclination is to serve all reds at room temperature, however a bit of a chill can benefit many red wines, particularly those that are lighter in style such as the gamay-based wines of Beaujolais, Loire Valley cabernet franc, frappato from Sicily, and of course pinot noir. Red wines should be served between anywhere from 55°F to 65°F.
Whether you’re drinking a sauternes, a port or a nutty Madeira, most sweet wines taste best when served chilled anywhere between 45 °F and 55 °F.
Etty Lewensztain is the owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, an online shop focused on small-production, artisanal and altogether great cheap wine. The food- and wine- obsessed Los Angeles native cut her teeth in the wine biz running a marketing campaign to promote Chilean wine in the United States, and is certified by the esteemed Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the American Sommelier Association. Plonk Wine Merchants specializes in hidden gems from around the globe and every bottle in the store is priced below $30. Follow Plonk Wine Merchants on Twitter @ PlonkOnline.