Serving Temperatures

Serving Temperatures

Everyone knows that, as a rule, white wines should be served chilled and red wines at room temperature. Alas, adhering to this rule probably means that, most of the time, we serve reds too warm and whites too cold. Once upon a time, before central heat became common, “room temperature” (especially in the winter) was a bracing 14 – 16C.

This is not a bad temperature for red wines, but many of us now keep our rooms at 20-22(C (often more during the summer). At this temperature, most red wines taste heavily of alcohol and some are decidedly astringent. Once upon a time, when refrigerators were ice boxes, or white wine was chilled in water and ice just before serving, it was likely to be served at a user-friendly temperature.

Today, the white wine chilled in the refrigerator is almost certainly too cold to taste at its best. Most refrigerators run at about 7C, which is fine for sparkling wines but much too cold for anything else.

What to do, you ask, if rooms are too warm and fridges too cold? Consider the humble ice bucket, ideally deep enough to swallow a wine bottle (if not, immerse the bottle neck down first for a few minutes, then reverse it). Use ice with lots of water and time your chilling based on 3 minutes in the bucket for every 2(C of temperature drop. So if you have wine at a room temperature of 22(C and want to cool the wine to 16(C (about right for a robust red) you need to keep the wine in the bucket for about 18 minutes before serving.

Most wine writers would agree on an ideal wine serving temperature list more or less as follows: Sparkling wine 7(C Simple whites / rosés / dessert wines 10-14(C Fine whites / light, fruity reds 14-16(C Serious reds / ports 16-18(C These are, of course, only rough guidelines. Your palate and preferences (and your willingness to heft a thermometer when you could be quaffing wine) will determine how closely you want to follow them.

But try reds a little cooler and whites a little less chilled and taste the difference. Cheers!