We all know wine is a delicate drink that needs to be stored at the correct temperature. But how does wine react when it fluctuates in temperature? Let's take a closer look!
The wine industry takes wine storage seriously, so much so that there are many different guidelines for storing wine depends on its type and other factors.
For example, red wines should be stored at warmer temperatures than white wines, as they will oxidize more quickly. And certain types of wine should not be refrigerated or frozen because doing so can cause them to lose their flavour or consistency.
In this article, we’ll be examining how important the temperature of your wine is, how you should serve and store it and how the barrel temperatures impact the flavour of the wine.
Why is the serving temperature of wine important?
When it comes to serving wine, the temperature is often overlooked, despite wine being a drink you should enjoy at its best.
The wine’s acidity, body and flavours are all affected by the temperature of wine served in glasses or decanters. Serving wine too cold can mask some of these characteristics, while serving it too warm may make them more pronounced than they ought to be.
Beyond just reds and whites, different types of wine made from different grapes also have ideal serving temperatures.
For wine, there’s an optimal temperature at which it should be served. This is largely influenced by the wine’s alcohol level and body as well as its tannins.
Alcohol warms up our palate so wines with higher levels of alcohol are best enjoyed closer to room temperature than those that have lower amounts of booze.
A wine high in tannin or acidity usually needs colder temperatures – but not too cold – while sweet dessert wine can handle warmer serving conditions.
Generally speaking, thicker bodied red wine has a greater texture when served slightly cool, whereas white wine, particularly bottles made from fruit like Riesling or Gewürztraminer produce more flavourful aromas if they’re served closer to room temperature.
So what temperature should I be serving my wine at?
As a general rule, red wine should be served at about 60-65°F (15.55-18.33°C), but some wine experts recommend closer to 63°F (17.22°C).
White wine, which has less tannin and acidity than red wine, should be served at 52-60°F (11.11-15.55°C) in order to avoid wine from tasting sour or acidic.
Sometimes, wine can be served slightly warmer in the summer months because it may make you feel a little less chilly on a cool evening.
In this case, serving temperature for red wine would be anywhere between 63-68°F (17.22-20°C), depending on your preference and white wines should still stay closer to room temperature at 55-65°F (12.78-18.33°C).
Dessert wines should be served at 43-50°F (11.11-26.67°C), even though some wine experts may disagree on this, because they are sweeter and the higher temperatures will make them taste sour or like alcohol.
The same goes for rosé wine which is also generally much fruitier as well as sweeter so the higher serving temperatures will make those qualities even more pronounced. In this case, Rosé can be stored or drunk closer to 60°F (15.56°C).
Serving temperatures for specific wines
While the guidelines above work on a very general scale, you can get quite granular with wine serving temperatures.
For example, if you’re drinking a wine that has been aged in oak barrels – like French wine – it’s best to serve them at a temperature of 50-55°F (26.67-12.78°C).
Thanks to our friends over at Kendall Jackson, we have this fine table showing all the perfect serving temperatures for all the most popular wines:
Suggested Serving Temperature
Chill in Fridge Approx.
(from room temp)
Champagne or Sparkling Wine
White Bordeaux Blends
Red Bordeaux Blends
How temperature impacts barrel stored wines
Barrel temperature can also affect wine flavour profiles in different ways during ageing between 12 to 36 months depending on where it is stored. Warmer climates produce wines with more fruit flavours while cooler regions tend to create fuller-bodied wine with a longer life span.
Barrels are typically made out of oak which is porous so they will allow some airflow through them but not much – there’s usually only one small hole per cask called the ‘bung’ that’s used for wine transfer and wine storage.
When wine is stored in a barrel, the temperature fluctuates throughout the year because of heat from fermentation/active yeast cells being transferred to air outside of wine barrels which can cause fluctuations in inside wine temperatures by up to 30°F (17.22°C) per month.
In areas with colder climates or during the winter months, this can be a huge problem because wine can freeze inside wine barrels which causes the wine to expand and push against the wood, increasing your chance of wine corkage.
For wines that are meant for long ageing periods (think Bordeaux), it’s important to store them at a steady temperature throughout their lifespan so you don’t lose any of the flavours or body that were originally imparted by the winemaker – this is why wine cellars were invented.
Wines that age well include: Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Burgundy, all of which prefer barrel storage at 45°F (24°C).
Wine cellars keep your wine out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources like fireplaces/radiators/stovetops etc.
Since most homes aren’t designed specifically as ‘wine cellars’, many people opt for buying custom made wine cabinets instead which allow for different levels, controls airflow & humidity control depending on wine type, and wine storage temperature requirements.
In order to prevent fluctuations in wine temperature from affecting the wine’s quality and taste it is important that wine barrels are stored indoors where storage conditions remain steady throughout the year.
If you’re storing wine outside or in a colder climate during winter then consider purchasing an insulated wine barrel cover which will help insulate against cold temperatures as well as provide protection against UV rays.
Serving temperature tips
If you’re struggling with getting your wine to the proper temperature, or are just looking for some easy to implement serving tips, we’ve pulled together some of the best for you!
Getting the right temperature
For wine stored in a wine refrigerator, wine cellar or wine storage unit you’ll likely not have to worry about serving temperature as the units themselves will maintain ideal serving conditions.
If you’re using a wine cooler at home it is best to pre-chill or pre-warm your wines for several hours before drinking them.
For red wines, this means around one to two hours of pre-warming while white and rose wines require only 20 minutes to an hour of pre-chilling time beforehand.
There are many factors that affect how fast a wine reaches its optimum drinking point such as where the bottle has been stored (the warmer the storage location the faster wine warms up), if the cork used was store-bought, synthetic corks tend to retain heat more which can raise internal temperatures quickly so these should be avoided or used only in wine coolers.
Judging by smell and taste
Your sense of smell and taste are one of the best ways to check if the wine you’re drinking is at the right temperature. If you can smell strong alcohol notes, then the wine is too warm.
If you can’t smell much then it’s likely that the wine temperature is too cold and will taste flatter than desired with somewhat muted flavours. The wine should be warmer to allow for more flavour development.
Equally, if you can’t taste anything, which is especially common if you store your reds in the fridge, then your wine is also probably too cold and could benefit from spending a little time warming up.
Different temperatures for different qualities
If you’ve got a cheap bottle of plonk, you’ll want to drink it at a lower temperature, which can help to cover up the wine’s flaws.
Or, you’re working on your wine palate, allow it a little time in a warmer environment for those wine faults to come through and be detected by your taste buds, so that you know what characteristics not to look out for when selecting wine.
For anything of higher quality, such as wine from an award-winning winery or even just a supermarket wine you happen to really enjoy, wine should be served in the right temperature range.
As we’ve already discussed Sparkling wine is at its best when it is ice cold. However, if you have vintage Champagne, you’ll want to let the bottle warm just a little to allow it to intensify some of those beautiful tastes and aromas.
Hitting the right wine temperature
At the end of the day, drinking wine that is a few degrees off ideal isn’t going to ruin the bottle. However, making sure your wine is somewhere close to its ideal temperature is going to make it taste better.