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Inside Knowledge: Temperatures for Serving Wine

What Temperature Should I Serve Wine?

In Short:
Certain bottles of red benefit from being served below room temperature. Avoid over-chilling white wine and sparkling to prevent a loss of flavour.

It used to be so simple: for the everyday drinker, red wine was served at room temperature, white wine fresh from the fridge. But we’ve come to appreciate that the concept of “room temperature” is a deeply personal one. Once you’ve tasted the before and after effects of plunging a bottle of Beaujolais deep into an ice bucket, you will really notice the difference the perfect wine temperature can make.

Overly warm red wine can feel flabby and overripe. The way to get the best out of a bottle of full bodied red wine is to serve it at slightly below room temperature. If you follow best practice from winemakers in hot countries, they often serve even the biggest boldest reds in a chiller. The results are clear: flavours become more focused, the structure of the wine will be clearer and the alcohol will be less dominant.

Naturally those who prefer lower alcohol, lighter styles of red will also find a slight chill is perfect. Pinot Noir in particular benefits immeasurably from a brief spell in the fridge. If you have the time on a warm day, place the bottle in the fridge 20-30 minutes before uncorking: in dramatic cases, you can even add a few ice cubes - before retrieving them from your glass to reduce dilution. Rather than resigning yourself to a summer purely of rose and whites, a properly chilled bottle of red can prove an exciting alternative to accompany food on the hottest days.

White wine shouldn’t be served too cold as this can mute flavours and distort aromas. . As an easy guide the temperature of a bottle goes down by one degree fahrenheit every three minutes. White wine and rosé are best stored in a fridge and once opened, rather than being placed in an ice bucket, left on the table to breathe. Chardonnay has the highest serving temperature but this is no excuse for not properly cooling before serving - it comes into its own between 50-60F, as do dessert wines such as sauternes. Riesling, given its high acidity, tastes best when served 45-50 degrees, as do Italian whites like Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc whether from the Loire, New Zealand, or South Africa. Leave these wines in the fridge for approximately two hours to make sure they’re at their best.

Sparkling wines, champagnes and other light bodied white wines should be served a step lower, just above ice cold between 38-45 degrees. Ensuring that sparkling wine is kept properly cold will mean that the bubbles will remain fine rather than frothy. However make sure you don’t chill them beyond all recognition: you risk obliterating the taste of your vintage Champagne - serving it too cold will rob it of all its subtlety and depth, resulting in a bottle you might as well have left to explode into popsicle in the freezer.

The biggest thing to realise is that there is no shame in asking: speak to our Majestic colleagues or, in a restaurant, the sommelier, who will be happy to advise if the bottle in question would benefit from an invigorating light chill. The best news? If you make a mistake it can be quickly rectified with an icy salt bath - ice cools the water, the salt lowers the freezing temperature of the ice: meaning that you can chill down a bottle of rose (or too warm Pinot Noir) in just 15 minutes.