Proper Temperature for Wine Enjoyment
With the hot Texas summer upon us, the thought of sipping a chilled wine on the patio or by the pool is most appealing. However, it may come as a surprise that many of us drink our wine at a temperature too cold to truly enjoy all the aromas and flavors that wine has to offer. It has often been said that in America we tend to drink our white and rose’ wines too cold. Conversely, we also tend to drink our red wines too warm. So, here follows a discussion of temperature and the role it plays in optimal enjoyment of wine.
Let’s tackle the issue of white wines too cold, first. The most preferred temperature for white and rose’ wine enjoyment falls in the range of 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit (F). A typical refrigerator keeps wine at 37-42 degF, while wine from an ice chest may be even colder. Most of what we taste in a wine is really what we smell. The olfactory senses are very powerful, and the volatile aromatic compounds that evaporate from the surface of a wine are what deliver the most flavor. The colder a wine is, the less volatile are these aromatic flavor components, the less evaporation can occur, and the less flavor lifts from the glass. Keeping the wine cool – 50-60 degF – is important for that cooling sensation in the mouth, but also allows for significant volatile aroma release for optimal enjoyment.
One can easily test this notion by running a simple experiment. Pull a bottle of white or rose’ wine from the refrigerator or ice chest, open it and pour about 4 ounces into an appropriately sized wine glass that will allow vigorous swirling without spilling. Return the bottle to the refrigerator or ice chest and wait 15-20 minutes. Again, pull the bottle out and pour another 4 ounces into a similar glass. Now swirl the two glasses and taste. Which offers the most flavor (aroma), warmer or cooler? Which do you prefer? Most of us will prefer the wine that had a chance to warm up to about 50-55 degF.
Now, the red wine too warm issue is essentially the opposite. Room temperature here in America is often 10-15 degF warmer than what was typical in Europe some decades ago when folks developed the preferred protocols for drinking red wines, like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja and Chianti. Red wines tended to taste better at 60-70 degF rather than 75-85 degF. The cooler temperature allows for sufficient aromatic flavors to evaporate from the glass while minimizing the sometimes overbearing impact of alcohol, which is also volatile. To test this notion, run another experiment similar to that above. Open a room temperature red wine, pour 4 ounces into the glass, and place the bottle in the refrigerator or ice chest for 15-20 minutes. Pull the bottle out, pour 4 ounces of cooler wine into another glass and do the taste test. Which offers the most pleasant flavor (aroma), warmer or cooler? Which do you prefer? Most of us will prefer the wine that had a chance to cool down to about 60-70 degF.
In review, white and rose’ wines tend to show best at 50-60 degF while red wines do best at 60-70 degF. And, just to cover all the bases, sparkling wines tend to taste better and show off their bubbly character at colder temperatures, 45-50 degF. Different folks will enjoy their wines at different temperatures. The important thing is to actually determine the temperatures at which you prefer your white, rose’ and red wines. That way, you can be sure to enjoy the optimal tasting pleasure from the wonderful wines available here in Texas, or those we enjoy from elsewhere.