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Ever since I first started wine tasting, I have always heard people saying that Champagne, white wine, and rosé should all be served cold. The question for me was, how cold? Some of my white wines seemed to lose flavor after a week or more in the kitchen refrigerator. Plus, what was the reason why red wine couldn’t be cold as well? I set about finding the answers to these questions so that I could enjoy my wine at its best.
Champagne (41 to 45 degrees), white wine (47 to 52 degrees), and rosé (55 to 58 degrees) should all be served cold. Within each of these ranges, dry wines are served colder than sweeter wines. If they are not cold enough, the acidity overpowers the subtle fruity flavors of the wine.
Let’s take a closer look at why some wines taste so much better at lower temperatures while others do so well when they are not quite as cold.
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Is Wine Supposed To Be Served Cold?
Sparkling wine rosé and nearly all white wine is best served chilled. Some cultivars are at their best at really low temperatures.
If you serve white wine too warm, the acidity will overpower all the other flavors and aromas. Chilling your white wine will reduce the impact of the acidity and allow the fruity flavors to come to the fore.
If your white wine is too cold, it will drop below the level where you can detect the fruitiness and sweetness of the wine.
The notable exception to the white wine rule is Californian Chardonnay. These wines are aged in vats of French oak. If Chardonnay is served as cold as other white wine, the oak aroma will overpower the fruitiness, and you will also lose the buttery flavors on the palate.
Champagne and other sparkling wines need to be served really cold. If you open a bottle of warm fizzy drink such as sparkling water, it will be dominated by energetic gassiness. The colder the temperature, the less energetic the gassiness becomes.
The champagne experience is all about the mousse. The bubbles should be fine and consistent as they carry much of the flavor. Champagne bubbles can only form properly when it is very well chilled.
Even though red wine does not get served cold, it can still be served too warm. When red wine is too warm, the alcohol vapors overpower the wine, and it will taste bitter. Red wine can’t be served cold as the tannins and oak aromas will dominate the fruit flavors at low temperatures.
The expression of room temperature for red wine can be misleading. Thanks to climate control and central heating, modern-day room temperatures are in the 75 to 82-degree range.
Most red wine should be served between 63 and 70 degrees, so slightly cooled. I serve my red wine nearer 63 degrees so that it won’t get too warm while in the glass in a warmer room.
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I can remember when I was staying at a German hotel a few winters ago. The wine racks for red wine were on either side of the fireplace, with a blazing log fire burning. The bottles were warm to the touch, and as a result, the wine tasted awful.
Some Italian reds are bottled at a cellar temperature of between 50 and 55 degrees, so need to be chilled down to that temperature before serving.
Rosé is also served cold but not as cold as white wine. Depending on the grape cultivar used and how long it has been on the skins, rosé will have fewer tannins than its red wine counterpart, which is why it can be chilled.
However, remember that rosé will still have tannins, so it can’t be served very cold, or else those tannins will begin to overpower the fruity flavors.
Some types of rosé, such as blanc de noir, spend no time on the skins, and the grapes are pressed and processed in the same way as white wine, giving a barely pink finished product. These varieties can be chilled down much colder due to the almost complete lack of tannins.
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Which Wines Should Be Served Cold?
I’m listing different wines here at their recommended serving temperatures. All these wines have a temperature range of between 5 and 6 degrees, at which they taste their best.
Therefore I am listing the temperature at the bottom end of their optimum range as the wine will warm as it sits in the glass, and you will want your final sip to taste as good as the first.
Remember that a standard refrigerator has a temperature of 35 degrees, so if you don’t have a special wine fridge that can be set to the temperature of the wine you want to serve, you will need to remove the wine from the fridge a few minutes prior to serving so that the wine can come up to temperature.
Check out the infographic below to give you a quick view of optimal temperatures for different wine varieties:
Cheap Sparkling Wine
These are the kinds of cheap and often fairly rough and acidic sparkling wines that are made by injecting CO2 into what would otherwise be a cheap white wine. Chill these down as cold as you can get them to stop the big CO2 bubbles from frothing up like soda water.
When I do serve these, I keep them at 35 degrees, and I’ll keep the classes in the deep freeze so that the wine can stay as cold as possible.
Asti Spumanti and Lambrusco
These are best served at 41 degrees. Both these wines have a tendency to be very fizzy, and this lower temperature will control the rate at which they bubble.
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Champagne, Metodo Classico, Cava, and Prosecco
These higher-quality sparkling wines that are made using the classic champagne method are best served at 45 degrees.
The bottle fermentation means that the bubbles are very fine and released slowly when in a glass. This means that the serving temperature can afford to be slightly higher, allowing more of the fruity flavors to come through.
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Dry White Wines
The majority of dry white wines do well at 47 degrees. Examples of these dry whites are Italian Pinot Grigio, Spanish Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürtztraminer.
South African Sauvignon Blancs are some of the driest white wines that I have tasted and can still hold a full flavor profile at 45 degrees.
I chose the Italian Pinot Grigio over the French Pinot Gris as a personal preference, even though they are the same grape cultivar.
If you do select a French Pinot Gris, just remember that the Pinot Gris from the Alsace region of France is a sweet version of the wine and belongs under the list of sweet wines further down this list.
Another dry wine that has a sweet cousin is Gewürtztraminer. The parent grape, Tramin, originated in the high dolomites of Italy, but by the time it had made its way across Germany into the Alsace region of France, it evolved into the Gewürtztraminer we know today. Some wineries in Alsace produce a late harvest Gewürtztraminer which is a sweet wine.
Chardonnay gets its own temperature category thanks to the new world versions that are produced in California and Washington State, where the wine is aged in new French oak.
Chardonnay is best at a serving temperature of 48 degrees.
Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France is not oak-aged and is more fruity. Oak aging changes the flavor profile completely to buttery vanilla.
If oak-aged Chardonnay is served colder than 48 degrees, the oak aromas become overpowering and spoil the rest of the flavor profile.
Having tasted both the unwooded variety as well as the oak-aged Chardonnay, my personal preference is with the New World oak-aged version.
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Sauternes and Other Sweet White Wines
When it comes to sweet white wines such as the Sauternes, Pinot Grice from Alsace France, the late harvest Gewürtztraminer, and other sweet/late harvest wines, a 52-degree serving temperature will work perfectly for them.
The reason why these wines can be served slightly warmer than other white wines has to do with their sweetness.
Firstly, the sweetness of the wine suppresses the acidity. Therefore, you don’t need to have the wine so cold in order to reduce the acidity. Secondly, the colder you make a sweet wine, the less you are able to taste the sweetness of the wine.
Beaujolais and Rosé
Both Beaujolais and Rosé wines are best served at 55 degrees.
As you already know, Rosé is made from red wine grapes where the wine stays on the skin for a shorter period of time so that the wine is pink rather than red.
The shorter time on the skin means that Rosé has fewer tannins than red wine. This means that Rosé can be served colder than red wine because lower temperatures amplify the tannins to the point where they overcrowd the other flavors.
Even though Rosé has fewer tannins than red wine, there are still tannins present. If you serve Rosé at a colder temperature than 55 degrees, the tannins will begin to overpower the wine.
The same applies to Beaujolais, which is made from the red grape cultivar of Gamay. What makes Gamay grapes different is that they have thinner skin, so therefore fewer tannins.
So, even though Beaujolais is a red wine, the tannin levels are equal to those of Rosé. This means that Beaujolais can be served at the same temperature as Rosé without the wine being overpowered by tannins.
Red Wine Chilled But Not Cold
Remember how I mentioned earlier that modern-day room temperature is between 75 and 82 degrees? This means that essentially all red wines need to be slightly chilled below modern-day room temperature to be at their best.
Even though these wines are not served cold, here is a rundown of the optimal temperatures of the different categories of red wines so you can see how they need to be brought slightly below room temperature for the best experience.
Chianti and other light Italian reds are perfect at 59 degrees, while Pinot Noir is best at 61 degrees.
When it comes to the heavier and more robust red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Burgundy varieties should be served at 63 degrees. Shiraz and the other Bordeaux wines are at their best when served at 64 degrees.
As you can see, these serving temperatures are well below the modern-day room temperature of between 75 and 82 degrees.
Why Are White Wines Served Cold?
As I mentioned earlier, one of the key characteristics of white wine is the acidity level. The colder a white wine is, the less prominent the acidity is in the overall taste of the wine.
Once the white wine is cold enough and the acidity is reduced, it becomes possible to experience the unique fruity flavors that the wine has to offer.
Wood-matured white wines such as Chardonnay cannot be served as cold as other white wines because the colder a wine gets, the stronger the oak aromas become.
So, when it comes to Chardonnay, there is an optimal temperature window where the wine is cold enough to suppress the acidity but not so cold that the oak wood aromas take over.
What Happens if Wine is Served Too Cold?
All wine has an optimal temperature range for serving if you want to experience it at its best. If white wines are too cold, they drop below the temperature where the fruity flavors are prominent, and they begin to taste somewhat flat.
If a white wine is oak-matured, the oak aromas become more prominent the colder the wine is, to the point where the oak is the only flavor you can detect.
Cold red wine amplifies both the tannins and the oak aromas. If your red wine is too cold, the tannins and oak drown out all other flavors.
Luckily, if your wine is too cold, you can leave it in the glass for a few minutes, and all the flavors will come back.
One mistake I can remember making was storing a bottle of wine in the fridge with the base of the bottle resting against the back wall of the fridge. The wine at the base of the bottle froze, cracking the bottle and messing wine over everything else in my fridge.
White wine, sparkling wine, and rosé all taste better when they are cold as the acidity taste reduces to the level where you can detect all the subtle fruity flavors.
If a white wine has been oak matured, the oak aromas get stronger at lower temperatures, meaning that each wine has an optimal temperature range for maximum enjoyment.
When white wines are bottled, they are chilled down to the optimal temperature for that wine. The recommended temperature for serving a white wine matches the temperature at which the wine was bottled.
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