One of the biggest factors that impacts the way we experience wine is serving temperature. In fact, many wine professionals believe that getting the temperature right is the single most important factor for optimal enjoyment of wine. Conventional wisdom says to serve white wines chilled and reds at room temperature, but most white wines are served too cold and red wines are often served too warm because homes are kept much warmer than in the past. Here, we take a look at the proper serving temperature for each style of wine; we're also sharing some helpful tips on chilling wine quickly and efficiently.
Most white wines are ideally served at 45-50 degrees—much warmer than the temperature of your refrigerator which typically will be 37-40 degrees. This is because the colder the temperature, the more muted the flavors will be. (There's a reason super cheap beer is served ice cold!) It's really a matter of personal preference but fuller and richer wines should be served warmer than light and crisp wines. Fuller bodied whites like chardonnay can be enjoyed a little warmer, between 50-60 degrees.
If you store a white wine in the refrigerator, try removing it about 20 minutes before you plan on drinking it to let it warm up slightly. If you order a white wine at a restaurant and it comes out ice cold, ask to keep the bottle on the table instead of in an ice bucket, and enjoy how the flavors come alive as the wine gradually warms up throughout your meal. If it gets too warm for your personal preference, put it back on ice for a few minutes. And if the wine is at its optimal temperature, make sure to always hold the glass by the stem to prevent the heat from your hands warming up the wine!
To achieve the best temperature for white wines, you will want to put the bottle in the refrigerator for 2.5 hours, in the freezer for 20-25 minutes, or submerged in ice water for 10 minutes.
Red wines should be served between 55 and 65 degrees, with lighter reds on the cooler end of the range and full bodied reds on the warmer side. If red wine is served at room temperature, it can taste a bit flabby and sometimes the perception of alcohol is emphasized, throwing the wine off balance. To get the right temperature—just slightly cool—put the bottle in the fridge for 20 minutes, in the freezer for 5-6 minutes, or submerged in ice water for 3 minutes.
Tips for Chilling Wine Quickly
There are a few good ways to chill your wine quickly. Your first option is to submerge the wine in ice water. This is the method preferred by sommeliers. One common mistake is to use ice only; you should use a 50/50 ratio of ice and water. Add a handful of kosher salt to even further drop the temperature of your ice bath. And make sure the bottle is completely submerged, otherwise the first glass will be warm while the rest of the bottle is chilled. Use a large stock pot or lobster pot for this and once the wine is chilled, feel free to transfer it to a chic marble chiller or decorative ice bucket.
You could also use your freezer, but make sure to wrap the bottle in a wet tea towel before you put it in. This should chill it a bit faster than freezer alone. Another fast method is to insert a chilling rod into the bottle. Popular devices such as the Corkcicle are stored in your freezer, and can be inserted into the bottle to chill if from the inside.
Last but not least, you can chill your wine by the serving. Since glass bottles can be thick and insulated, the wine will chill faster once it's out of the bottle. Many people swear by pouring a glass of wine into a zip-top bag and chilling it that way. Resist the urge to add ice cubes to your glass; this dilutes the wine. Instead, try keeping frozen grapes in the freezer and popping a few of those into the glass; they will chill the wine without diluting it!