How to Drink Better: When to chill a red wine and warm up a white

John Wilson: Serving your wines at the correct temperature will make them taste better

Q: What are the exceptions to chilling white wine and keeping red warm?

A: While wine thermometers may seem pretentious, the temperature at which you serve your wine can make a real difference. I suspect that many wine drinkers serve white wine too cold and red wine too warm.

White wines first. Although we like the refreshing sensation of a cold drink slipping down our throat, the colder it is, the less we can actually taste. A few minutes in an ice bucket will kill the flavour (good and bad) of your wine.

Refreshing, light-bodied aromatic white wines such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wines are better served colder — about 7 degrees -10 degrees. Richer, more textured wines such as Chardonnay and Viognier are better consumed a little warmer around 10 degrees -14 degrees.


Bearing in mind that the recommended temperature of a fridge is 3 degrees -5 degrees, you can see why we serve most white wines a little bit too cold; try taking them out of the fridge 15-30 minutes before serving.

We were told that red wine should be served at room temperature; but that refers to chilly unheated Victorian rooms, which were probably about 16 degrees -18°C degrees. The chewy tannins in some young red wines, such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, can be more obvious at low temperatures, so they should be served a little warmer, about 18 degrees — 20 degrees.

Lighter wines, such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, Dolcetto, Valpolicella and Grenache will taste much better if you drink them at 16 degrees, In summer, I often serve red wines cool, even lightly chilled; feel free to add a cube of ice to cool quickly.

If you want to warm your wine in a hurry, submerge the (unopened) bottle in a sink full of blood-temperature water — if you dip your fingers in, you shouldn’t feel anything — for two to three minutes. But please don’t bake it beside a fire!

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