Different wines are best served at different temperatures. Serving at optimal temperature helps us to enjoy and appreciate the wine at its best. This is because our sense of taste relies on smell, and different aromas are activated by warmth. Generally, higher quality, older wines need less chilling. Wines with higher acidity should be served cooler. We’ve created a handy calculator (see it in all it’s glory on this page here) to help you get it right. Taste is subjective, so our guide isn’t definitive, but our simple calculator lets you choose your tipple and provides guideline information to achieve optimal drinking temperature by chilling in the fridge, freezer or ice water.
Before you get started, there are a few terms to be sure you understand:
Complex Whites: A complex white’s flavour will change from the moment you taste it to the moment you swallow it. It will have multiple layers of flavours and aromas. Of all white wines, Chardonnays are usually the most complex.
White Table Wines: Table wines usually have a fairly low alcohol content and are generally served with food. They are not fortified or sparkling.
Rosé, Blush and Sweet Wines: Rosé and blush wines are pink in colour, created by a few hours of colour extraction from purple grape skins. Sweet wines are also known as dessert wines, they are the opposite of dry. They maintain some of the grape’s natural sugars rather than converting them to alcohol.
Vintage Champagne: Vintage champagne is made from only one year’s harvest rather than a blend of different year’s harvest. A good quality year will produce a fuller, deeper Champagne, and this only happens three or four times a decade. Vintage champagne should be left to mature for at least 3 years.
Sparkling Wines: Sparkling wines use carbon dioxide to make the wine fizz. This covers anything sparkling that isn’t a vintage champagne.
Full Bodied Reds: Full bodied reds are more viscous, and usually have a higher alcohol content, over 13.5%. They coat your mouth, and are often made from grapes with thicker skins.
Reds: Red wines that fall between full bodied and light and fruity. Usually between 12.5 and 13.5% alcohol.
Lighter, Fruity Reds: Usually under 12.5% alcohol, these red wines are lighter in colour and less viscose. They have delicate flavours and taste fruitier, more like white wine.
Now you can identify your wine, you will also need to understand a few things in order to reach that optimal temperature:
Time in the fridge: This is based on the time for a whole bottle in a refrigerator set to 35 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Celsius.
Time in freezer: This is based on the average freezer temperature of -0.4 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius.
Time in ice water: Ice water is actually the fastest and most effective cooling method. This is because the liquid helps to transfer the heat out of the bottle.
Time to warm: This is the time required to warm the wine back to optimal temperature if fully refrigerated.
Most of us are aware that white wines should be served chilled, and red wines should be served around room temperature. However there are more than just these two types of wine, and subtle changes in temperature can make a difference to flavour. Red wines may still need refrigeration as our room temperature in heated homes or in summer climates is often above the optimal temperature for drinking a red. White wines should not be left chilling for too long, or you may risk it tasting bland.
To find the optimal temperature for your wine, simply enter the type of wine you are drinking and check the results of the calculator. If you’re still unsure, or lose track of how long it has been chilling, serve the wine a little too cold. That way you can appreciate the change in flavour and aromas as the wine warms up in the glass.
If you’d like to have that perfect glass of wine with dinner or want to make sure your guests experience the wine you have chosen to its fullest, plan ahead. Don’t leave the white wine in the fridge all day as you will only dull the flavour and taste the acidity. Try not to let a red get too warm or you will lose the freshness and simply taste alcohol. If your planning hasn’t gone well and you realise you have forgotten to chill your wine, ice water is the answer. The liquid helps to transfer the heat out of the bottle, so the cooling process happens much more quickly. It even works faster than the freezer!
Remember, wine can be damaged through prolonged heat (temperatures over 75 °F or 23 °C) and prolonged cold (temperatures under 41 °F or 5 °C) so it should be stored between these temperatures in a cool, dark place. Storing is one thing and serving is another, so only bring your wine to serving temperature when you are preparing to drink it.
Most of all, we want to help you to get the best wine drinking experience, so you can enjoy your favourite bottle to its fullest. You’re much more likely to achieve this if you keep and serve it properly. Store, chill, drink and enjoy!