For Wine, Temperature is Everything

You’ve just selected that delicious special occasion bottle out at one of your favorite restaurants. The bottle is going to go perfectly with the appetizers you’ve selected. You have had this bottle before so your no stranger to it. The server comes by with the bottle, runs through the usual ceremony of presenting the bottle and let’s you try the wine to insure it is sound. You quickly give the glass a quick swirl and test the nose but your not getting anything. Not usual but by no means a sign of a flawed wine. You then take a sip. The big lively flavors of this California Chardonnay seem sound but muted. The wine is not exploding on your mouth with the pineapple, mango and marshmallow that you’ve had in the past. Your left scratching your head as to what is wrong. Finally, the last few sips it starts tasting like how you remembered it.

Has anyone had this happen to them? Then you are a victim of someone serving you a wine at the wrong temperature. Unfortunately this is something that happens all too often and a lot of people don’t realize what the problem is. Temperature in wine might seem like a trivial thing, but if you spend good money on a bottle of wine you don’t want anything but an enjoyable wine drinking experience when you open it.

I have especially found this issue to be the case with Chardonnay where wine drinkers commonly drink it too cold. Now the unoaked versions are ok to drink colder. They typically aren’t as fat as their oaked counterparts and they have a lighter body. So if they are served a little colder it doesn’t effect the wine. But oaked Chardonnay needs that warmer temperature to really express itself. When served colder the nose can shut down and the flavors can be muted.  On the flip side, the wine served too warm can seem flabby and more alcoholic. So you can see how important it is to get temperature right.

Now if your at home and cognizant of the issue, the problem is an easy fix. Either stick the bottle in the fridge or give it time to warm up. If your a dedicated wine drinker, you can look to invest in something like this. But let’s say your getting wine by the glass in a restaurant. Then you have a problem. Everyone wants an optimal glass of wine when your suppose to be enjoying yourself. A step to the prevent this is just simple awareness on the restaurants part. The easy solution to the problem is keeping different coolers at different temperatures. The last resort is pouring any wine that needs to warm up first and letting it sit while getting other things for the table. It would be similar if the wine needs a chill to bring the temperature down.

Here is some guidelines from my experience for the most popular grapes:

White
Riesling 43°-47°
Sparkling Wine 45°
Sauvignon Blanc 47°-52° Unoaked versions I like closer to 47°, oaked versions 52°.
Chardonnay 50°-55° Unoaked versions I like closer to 50°, oaked versions 55°.

Red
Pinot Noir  55°-61° Almost always on the warmer side of this range but a nice chill can be refreshing in the Summer.
Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 63°-64°
Syrah 64°

A tool I use at home and find helpful is a digital thermometer. Here is a link to one that I have used before that is inexpensive.

Finally, these are typically the norm but everyone has there personal preferences. While you can’t make everyone happy, sticking to the above guidelines should cater to most wine drinkers.