Saturday, October 6, 2012

Service Temperatures

A wine should be served at the proper temperature in order to taste its best.  The wrong temperature can make a wine taste out of balance, even though it isn’t.  This is because too-warm temperatures emphasize tannins and alcohol and reduce the perception of acid.  Too-cold temperatures reduce the number of aromas and flavors we smell/taste.

Most people chill white wines and serve them pretty close to the correct temperature.  Red wines on the other hand, are usually way off, even in restaurants!  You may have heard that red wines should be served at room temperature.  This is true, except that the room temperature in question is actually room (or cellar) temperature in Europe, which is vastly different than most room temperatures here in Houston! 

Check out the correct service temperatures in the chart below, and then read on for tips on how to achieve these temperatures easily at home.

Getting your wine to the correct service temperature (or pretty close) can be as easy as you want it to be.  Here are some ways to do it:

If you’re a hard-core wine connoisseur… 
Store your wine in a wine fridge where it is held at proper service temperature.  There are a variety of sizes and costs on the market to choose from.  Another option is to buy an electric, one- or two-bottle table-top chiller, which will quickly cool the wine to a specific temperature.  There are also thermometers designed specifically for wine, so you can check for accuracy.

If you want to keep it simple…
Keep the white, sparkling, or sweet wines you’ll be drinking soon in your refrigerator.  (Don’t store them in there long term, but a few weeks is fine.)  Most fridges are set at 40°F.  For sparkling or sweet, you’re already on target.  For other whites, take them out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving them, to let them warm up slightly.  For reds, store them at room temperature, but put them in the fridge for about 20 – 30 minutes before serving.  This will chill them slightly, and you’ll be very close to your target temperature.

If you follow these simple guidelines, I think you’ll really notice your wine tasting better – the whites will be more aromatic and the reds will be brighter and less harsh.  Let me know if this makes a difference for you!

Copyright © 2012 by Joanna Opaskar
All rights reserved.


  1. Very interesting about the reds and makes sense. My boyfriend is English and we have several discussions on "room temperature" beer served over there vs. our room temperature beer. It's two vastly different things. My problem stems when restaurants serve red wine cold, which is usually really cold and it loses the flavor. I would much rather have it warmer than really cold.

    Also, saw your article on Houston chronicle. Very cool. I'm a technical writer, too, but in the oil business (go figure). I'm interested in the certifications and sommelier you have completed. I guess I will read more about that later when I dig in to your blog.

    1. Glad you saw the Chronicle article and found the blog! Always nice to meet a fellow tech writer.

      You might be interested in a summary I put together of all the wine certifications that are available:

      I started designing wine cheat sheets and posting them partly so I could use them myself, when I'm studying for my next test!