Serving Wine at the Right Temperature – Let’s Get Medieval…

November 12, 2018 1:10 pm


There’s an old rule of thumb when it comes to the serving of wine that says – serve white wines cold and red wines at room temperature. When you investigate the origins of the saying, it’s worth noting that this advice comes from chilly French medieval rooms, where the temperatures ranged between 14°C to 16°C.

In essence, taking providence into account, the rule of thumb is generally correct. But it got me thinking – how does the rule of thumb translate, here, in the (increasing) heat of the Australian climate.  During summer, the average room temperature in Australia sits between 22°C and 26°C. And I’d say that on some days, it gets closer to, or over 30°C. (Let alone outside at a BBQ.)

Think about it, would you consider serving a glass of red or in fact another other wine at 22°C and 26°C? The short answer of course, is no. Any red wine served too warm will lose its finesse and freshness to an overpowering sensation of alcohol. In short, temperature dramatically impacts the nose and taste of wines.

So what is the right temperature to serve your wine at I hear you asking? (There’s that voice in my head again…) The answer to this depends on the type and style of wine being served.

Light bodied white wines such as a cool climate Chardonnay, Pinot Gris etc. should be served cold, nothing below 5°C. Ideally, you should chill your white wine in the fridge for 2 to 3 hrs only and serve it between 6°C to 12°C depending on the varietal. If you served a white wine directly out of the fridge (where the average temperature is 2°C to 3°C) the only thing the taste buds would register is the acidity of the wine.
The ideal way to drink white wine is to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to serving and put it on ice. This way you are ensuring you enjoy a chilled glass of white wine and the temperature will bring out the distinctive nose and characteristics of the wine.

While chilling white wine is recommended across the board (and is refreshing on a hot summer’s day) it turns out that some reds actually make for perfect drinking as the weather heats up. These tend to be lighter styles of red wine such as Pinot Noir or Gamay, which you should serve slightly chilled during warmer months (and can be enjoyed at room temperature in winter). Yes, you read it correctly, slightly chilled! In fact, serving light red wine cooled is a great way to enjoy the work of the winemaker and the fruit that went into the wine.

Ideally, red wines are best served between 12°C to 18°C depending on the variety. To cool lighter red wines when it’s warm outside, put them in the fridge for 30 minutes before drinking. This small time in the fridge makes a huge difference in the taste of the wine. When the wine is chilled slightly, the flavours become more focused, alcohol content becomes less apparent and the wine is more refreshing to drink.

Red wines tend to taste best at temperatures close to room temperature – but remember that ‘room temperature’ from the rule of thumb related to France, potentially in a castle, (think 14°C to 16°C – note to self, I should investigate this in person in France) and without our Australian climate (closer to 22°C to 26°C). Take the temperature of the room you will serve your wine in and either store your red wine somewhere substantially cooler, or pop the bottle in the fridge for a smidge.

In the end, serving your wine at the correct temperature does more for the wine than the shape of the glass or letting it breathe. If red wine is too warm, the alcohol dominates and masks the subtle flavours of the wine. Chill a white wine too far and the distinctive flavours are suppressed, tannins become harsher and acidity dominates.

While it might seem like overthinking and can be seen as a little pedantic, serving wine at its ideal temperature will reward you by revealing the unique flavour of the wine, the way the winemaker intended.

Hope you have a great day and see you soon at the cellar door or our next Members’ Lunch.

Now, where’s the thermometer?


This post was written by St Maur Wines

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