I am often asked why we serve our red wines at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. My comical response is a reference to a saying by one of our wine reps. ” A red wine should always be served at room temperature, and the temperature of the room should be 60 degrees”.
Well why is that the case? Especially when most of the eating establishments you may frequent have their red wines sitting on the back bar with a room temperature of 72 degrees F. Wine is made up of many naturally occurring compounds. The most famous of these being alcohol. There are many others including esters, acids and polyphenolic compounds , but in the case of keeping a red wine cool, alcohol plays a large role. When a wine is served significantly above the recommended 60 degrees F, alcohol becomes the predominant character noted in the wine. It covers other interesting aromas and overwhelms the taste. This is because alcohol is very volatile and evaporates quickly at warmer temperatures. Reduce the wine temperature and you will find that the alcohol becomes more subdued and the wonderful aromas and tastes of the wine appear.
Ok then what about the opposite end of the spectrum? Why do a lot of places store their white wines in a refrigerator and what does this do to the wine experience? Well, most refrigerators are calibrated to a temperature of 35-38 degrees F. This gets very close to the freezing temperature of water. When water freezes the molecules are tightly packed and barely moving. Similarly this same concept is happening in your wine. I refer to it as Muting or making the wine Mute. When a wine is overly chilled the molecules become more densely packed and have less ability to vaporize. Thus muting the wine and making it hard to smell or taste it.
Another tasting component of a wine that is very perceivable in relation to its temperature is the acidity. As you chill a wine to it’s recommended temperature the acidity or crisp brightening component of the wine increases. This makes the wine more vibrant and gives a lift to the flavor components.
Below is a chart of recommended temperatures for tasting styles of wines. This is not a hard fast rule. The beauty of wine is to “drink it how you like it”. I will often try a sip of wine at warm room temperature of 72 degrees then put the wine in an ice/water bucket (more water than ice for best results). After the wine has chilled past the recommended temperature I pull it out and begin the experience. I love to see how the wine changes. What was it like at room temperature? Then what happened once I over chilled it? Where did I find it to be most pleasing in the spectrum of tasting it? There are a lot of white wines that I have discovered taste much better at warmer temperatures. So many of the fruity, flowery components pop out at a warmer temperature and make the experience more enjoyable for me.
In the end, I encourage you to experiment with the temperature of your wines and how it affects the taste. Over time you will find out what temperature YOU like to drink a certain style of wine. And you should not be worried if this does not fit the scale below. You paid for it so enjoy it how you like it.
Last thought: I went to France with my lovely wife this last year and sat in a Michelin Starred Restaurant with the most amazing view and fantastic flavorful food. They brought our red wine out warm. I asked for a small amount of wine in my glass to see how it expressed itself at this temp. and told them we would need a bucket to chill it. Why, because I prefer my reds at approximately 60 degrees F.[caption id="attachment_90" align="alignleft" width="150"] Me sitting looking out over the Mediterranean Sea in France.[/caption]