Hot and cold: the right temperature to serve wine



If you’ve ever been served a luke-warm glass of Merlot, or fine white Burgundy with an icy chill, you know that having a great wine doesn’t necessarily mean people drink one. This quick guide from our introductory wine book Exploring & Tasting Wine tells you which wines to serve at what temperature

Most people do not use a temperature gauge for their wine service at home because they learn to match their preference with their fridge temperature. Chilling wine emphasises acidity and/or tannin, but can dull aroma and flavour. For this reason, most prefer to:

Gently chill (one hour in the fridge/outside on a cold evening):

  • Complex subtle whites (such as white Burgundies) so as not to obliterate their delicacy
  • Vintage Champagnes and other sparkling wines
  • Sweet wines

Well chill (two hours in the fridge/outside on a cold evening):

  • Whites that have high acidity and not much aroma, such as easy-drinking wines (eg house whites in restaurants)
  • Intensely aromatic whites such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • Non-vintage sparkling wines
  • Light reds such as Beaujolais

Serve at room temperature (cool is better than too warm)

  • Reds that have medium to high tannin
Keeping it cool/warming it up

The quickest way to lower the temperature of a bottle is to immerse it in a bucket of ice and water. Note – not just ice: the water carries the chill. Don’t use a freezer: pressure will build and the bottle can explode.

Also resist the temptation to heat wine in a microwave or put it on a radiator if you feel it needs heating up. It cooks the wine and spoils its delicacy. Warm wine gently by cupping the wine in the glass with your palm.