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The Proper Temperature for Storing & Serving Wine

Dec05

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Hi Amy,
So my question is about wine, specifically red, and the serving of. See, I’ve always, always heard: white wine is served cold and red wine is served at room-temp. I’ve worked in many restaurants and this is always the way it’s done, and all of my friends serve wine this way, as does pretty much everyone else I know, myself included. Lately though, I’ve been reading things about serving red wine chilled, so I decided to try it. I chilled a bottle of Tempranillo and, wow! It tasted great! And was so easy to drink! (Always a plus).
So what’s the deal? I know from reading your blog that you appreciate a nice glass of wine just as much as the next girl, so do you have a preference? Does it make a difference depending upon what kind of red wine it is? Any knowledge you can impart would be greatly appreciated.
Cheers,
Mia

(Happy Friday! Is it okay if we talk about booze?)
mommys-time-out.jpgSo! You have actually hit on one of my BIGGEST pet peeves about restaurants: they serve red wine too warm. Room temperature is NOT the ideal temperature for red wine, NO NO NO and NOT EVEN. Not for storing and not for serving. NO.
Red wine should be stored around 55°F (16°C). Keeping red wines for any good length of time in a too-warm area can cause it to age prematurely and thus, in my super-informed opinion, taste like ass. Serving it too warm also upsets the flavors and balance and non-tasting-like-ass-ness of the wine. (I guarantee you that a very large percentage of people who say they don’t like red wine are saying that because they’ve constantly had it served too warm, which can make it sour and bracing and dead on your tongue.)
Think about this: “room temperature” can actually mean anything between 65° and 75°F. Seventy-five-degree wine! Oh! Can you imagine? But that’s exactly what you get sometimes, especially at over-crowded and over-heated restaurants that leave the bottles out and open on the bar for an entire dinner shift.
So yes, red wines should be served a few degrees below room temperature. Depending on the temperature of the room. I wouldn’t call it “chilled,” exactly, but most bottles you open at home can hugely benefit from a little time in the fridge before you open them.
(At restaurants, if you order a bottle that arrives too warm, by all means ask for a bottle chiller or ice bucket to bring the temperature down a bit. Yeah, they might think you’re weird or mistaking your Rioja for a wine cooler, but technically, YOU are right and THEY are wrong. So there.)
(If you order by the glass, well…you can drop in some ice cubes, which obviously isn’t good for the wine either, but it might make it drinkable enough for you to finish quickly and then switch to white.)
(Although THAT’S a whole OTHER thing, since not all whites should be served at arctic frigid temperatures — that dulls the fruit and brings out the alcohol flavor.)
But you are exactly right, by the way, that it does depend on the wine. Big intense reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Shiraz, should be served on the warmer side — just a couple degrees below the low end of “room temperature.” 63° to 65°F, or so. As you move on down the scale to lighter-bodied or fruity wines, you can (and should) serve these colder. Basically, the more a wine reminds you of plain old juice, the colder it should be.
Now look, when I say “should” I’m not being all Wine Snob Crazy on you. Obviously, wine is a very personal, complex thing, and should (above all else) be ENJOYED. However you enjoy it. Personally, I think aiming for the ideal storing/serving temperature makes a HUGE difference in my ability to taste all the flavors and complexities in a wine, and has helped me really “get” wine and remember what I’ve tasted. And this helps me pair it with food and navigate wine lists of unfamiliar labels, which is a useful trick when you’re out for dinner in a group and somebody has to pick out some wine that 1) will please everybody, and 2) is not priced at a 700% markup.
But still, it’s like how I recoil at people eating steaks well-done while they gag at the sight of my medium filet mignon, but then I totally cannot eat my husband’s medium-rare version. You wanna freeze your whites into ice cubes or drink reds that have essentially cooked into vinegar? Go ahead, if that’s how you like them. (Just let me know before I come to your dinner party, so I can maybe bring something from home.)


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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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14 Responses to “The Proper Temperature for Storing & Serving Wine”

  1. Noelle Dec 05 at 10:02 am Reply Reply

    I appreciate an article that’s not about babies, pregnancy or childbirth. Thanks, this was a great question and the answer was really very informative!

  2. Amy Dec 05 at 10:07 am Reply Reply

    I’ve read that the “room temp” thing is a holdover from waaaay back when rooms were usually colder (55-65F) due to lack of now-modern indoor heating. So it used to be correct for reds, but “room temp” is now just much warmer than it used to be. But I agree, however you like it, that’s how it should be served. I too like most reds a little chilly.

  3. Stephanie Dec 05 at 10:38 am Reply Reply

    Here is a quick tip I read somewhere about getting whites and reds to approximately the “right” temperature if you don’t have a wine refrigerator with adjustable temp —
    Store the whites in the fridge and pull them out 10 minutes before serving.
    Store the reds at room temp (although, based on Amalah’s advice, assuming you bought them a day or so before you plan to serve and your house isn’t a sauna), then stick them in the fridge 10 minutes before serving.
    This way, your whites are chilled but not ice cold, and your reds are a little below room temp.

  4. Cagey Dec 05 at 10:52 am Reply Reply

    My oenophiliac friend who is dead serious about her wine (and even makes her own.) says that if you don’t have your own cooler a great rule of thumb is 15 Minutes:
    White wine – chill in refrigerator, take it out and let it sit for 15 minutes
    Red wine – store at room temperature and right before serving, put in refrigerator for 15 minutes, then take it out

  5. Laura Dec 05 at 11:00 am Reply Reply

    Thank you, Amy! Warm red wine is one of my pet peeves too. Reminds me of too many bars in college towns…but that’s beyond the point. Since it has gotten colder, I have actually taken to storing my red wine in the little storage room we have off our garage. Its usually about 55 in there, which is perfect when I pull the wine out, let it breathe, and serve. Better than leaving it in our always warm house, at least!

  6. kristin Dec 05 at 11:22 am Reply Reply

    Just about the only bonus to living in a crazy-cold, ancient stone house: Our “room temperature” really IS the right temperature for red wine.
    But I’d still rather have central heat.

  7. Mia Dec 05 at 11:45 am Reply Reply

    Thank you, Amy, for answering my question! And just in time for the weekend! I’ll be sure to drink a “cool” glass of wine in your honor.

  8. lizneust Dec 05 at 12:49 pm Reply Reply

    Hooray for common sense wine guidance!! Also, try your lighter red wines even a bit chiller in the midst of summer heat – deliciousness!

  9. Melissa Dec 05 at 1:22 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve heard similar “in and out” suggestions, though we were told take white wines out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving and put the red in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving. It’s funny how no source is consistent? So I have to go with Amy, drink it how you like it.

  10. Vanessa Dec 05 at 6:11 pm Reply Reply

    Actually it makes sense that there is some inconsistency between people’s chilling time, since everybody’s fridge is likely to be set at a slightly different temp, and depending on how crowded your fridge is it can take more or less time for something to get cold once its inside. I imagine it probably just takes some trial and error to figure it out for yourself & your appliance. Which means – yay – more drinking wine during the trial and error!

  11. jodifur Dec 05 at 7:19 pm Reply Reply

    Amen! Thank you for clearing up some one my biggest pet peeves.

  12. suziwon Dec 05 at 7:55 pm Reply Reply

    I took a wine tasting class in college. The instructor said that white wines are supposed to be served at 55F and red wines are supposed to be served at 65F.
    He further said that the “room temperature” designation was imported from Europe where the rooms often are 65F.
    And yeah, “room temperature” red wines here in the States are WAAAAAY too warm. Ewww.

  13. Laura Dec 08 at 11:31 am Reply Reply

    Also, try your beaujolais nouveau actually chilled, as in keep it in the refrigerator. The very young beaujolais is beautiful like this.
    Credentials: am European :)

  14. Bryan Feb 19 at 11:30 pm Reply Reply

    I am clearly in the minority here but I prefer my reds room temperature at least. To me the qualities of a red are more alive if it is not cooler than room temp perhaps for the same reasons that people warm their brandy though I’m not suggesting going to that length. Not trying to change anyone’s mind here but nor should you just accept someone else’s prefs just because they say so. As some one already said, drink it as you like it.

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