Temperature Control for Various Wines

“Dear Paul & Rosemarie, I know that to fully appreciate a wine it must be served at the proper temperature. What are the temperatures for the various types of wine, and how can you tell when the bottle has reached that temperature? They say that reds should be served at room temperature, but in California ‘room temperature’ gets quite warm!”

– D.S.; Chatsworth.

Yes, paying attention to temperature of service enhances the appreciation of a wine.

First let us look at some standards. The following temperatures are generally agreed upon in the world of wine (all are degrees Fahrenheit):

Refrigerator temperature: 39-43.

Cellar temperature: 48-55.

Room temperature: 63-64.

As a general rule, the following apply:

Sweet white and dessert wines at 39-43.

Lighter dry white wines, sparkling wines. rosé wines, dry sherry, at 43-48.

Bolder white wines, better champagnes at 48-55.

Light red wines, cream sherry at 55-60.

Bold red wines at 60-64.

How do you tell if it has reached that temperature? To do it scientifically, one could use a wine thermometer, sold by some of the mail-order wine accessory catalogs. There is the conventional glass style you dip into the wine, or a digital strap type that wraps around the bottle and the temperature the bottle is at glows on a scale.

Some experience with manually feeling the bottle and correlating the temperature standards I listed earlier usually suffice. One can get pretty good at it.

I did a most frivolous thing about 5 years ago. I spotted a small, glass, pock­et, wine thermometer in a sterling silver case with a silver grape design cap, in a department store showcase. Being a silver nut too, I had to have it! I plunked down the outrageous price and it has been resting in my desk drawer since. Some­day I will have the courage to take it to a dinner party, and slip it into my wine glass, when the host pours me a portion! Just visualize that scene!

Yes, California “room temperature” is on the warm side. We seem to like it that way. You might need to put a bottle in the frig for a very short stay. Do not for­get it there, though!

Colder temperatures tend to reduce our sweetness, aromatic, and flavors discern­ment, and in sparkling wines reduce the rate of escape of the bubbles. Warmer temperatures tend to augment the above. The ideal temperatures for the groupings of the wines I have listed have been ar­rived at by trial and error. You can do that yourself. It would be an interesting exercise. Ice down any wine, taste it, let it stand and slowly warm up, and taste it at intervals. Make some notes as to which temperature you liked it best. A pattern will evolve as you try different wines.

That brings me to my final point, and always the best criterion! It is what you  like and how you like it, that counts.  Do not let the gurus bother you. Pretty soon you will be a guru anyway!

Thanks for your other comments in your letter. I would like to use them in my “Testimonials from Members” bro­chure. To your health!

– P.K., Sr.

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