The first question really should be, “At what temperature should I store my wines?” Heat will damage your wine. (Also light, vibration, oxygen and low humidity.) Heat can damage an unopened bottle of wine in an accelerating speed as temperature rises. Wines stored above 80°F can lose character in months. Above 90°F, in weeks. In general, the ideal temperature to store your wines is 58°F.
If you come across an unopened bottle of wine, with the top of cork “crowned” or “convex”, (the top of the cork should be below the top edge of the bottle opening or “concave”), this is often a sign that the bottle has been exposed to an excessive amount of heat. Be cautious.
The, “Rule of Thumb,” has been: Serve Red wines at at room temperature and serve White wines chilled.” This gets you close. Let’s get a little closer…
Red Wines: 57°F-64°F
Fine red wines- 61°F-64°F
(Bordeaux, California or Italian reds)
Lighter or less expensive red wines- 57°F-62°F
(New World Pinot Noir, Grenache or Beaujolais)
In general, the ideal temperature to serve your reds is 62°F ideal temperature to serve your reds is 62°F.
White Wines: 39°F-50°F
Fine white wine- 46°F-50°F
(Fine white wines and champagnes)
Sparkling, sweet or less expensive whites- 39°F-46°F
In general, the the ideal temperature to serve your whites is 46°F ideal temperature to serve your white wines is 46°F.
Insider’s Tip: Be cautious of white wine served at a very low temperature in a tasting. Temperatures below 39°F will mask many of the defects of a damaged and/or subpar white wine. Let the wine warm up in your glass before taking the next sip. If it is great, you will enjoy this second taste much more. If it is bad, it will become much more apparent.
“I don’t have a fancy wine cellar or wine fridge, so how do I safely correct the temperature of the wine to an ideal serving level?”
Wine is too cold: Think ahead and leave the bottle on the counter ahead of time. The wine will safely and gently warm up. Don’t heat up a bottle by soaking it in hot water, or placing it near a heat source like a fireplace, the sun or a heat vent. (…or the microwave!) These will all damage your wine.
Wine is too warm: Think ahead and put the bottle in your kitchen fridge ahead of time. (Refrigerator only, not the freezer.) White wines and champagnes for about an hour. Red wines for about 30 minutes. You can also use an ice bucket for about 5-15 minutes.
You do not need a thermometer when serving wine. Serve your wines a little colder vs. a little warmer because the wine will warm up after it is poured in the glass.
Industry Shorthand- 46°F Ideal to serve white wines
58°F Ideal to store wines
62°F Ideal to serve red wines
Sue & Jim Langman