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Longtime readers know that wine serving temperature is a subject near and dear to my heart. I was once well-known (notorious?) for always having a temperature pen with me when I visited wineries. As we are now clearly in summer’s warm embrace, it’s worth revisiting the subject.

Speaking generally, most people drink red wines too warm and white wines too cold. Surprisingly, even most restaurants serve wines this way.

The traditional recommendation is to drink red wines at “room temperature.” This makes no sense, as room temperature could be anywhere from 60 to 90 degrees! In contrast, white wines are often consumed at refrigerator temperature. That is way too cold. This is a shame, as serving temperature is critical to maximizing the enjoyment of wine.

If a wine is too cold, fruit aromas and flavors tend to be more subdued and oak notes are more overt. At warmer temperatures alcohol becomes more prominent, and a wine can quickly get thrown out of balance. There are also considerably different textural perceptions at cooler and warmer temperatures.

How important is wine temperature? I’ll give an example. Many years ago, I tasted a white wine that was quite underwhelming given its provenance. I tasted the wine again later, and it was much closer to expectations. It was one of the biggest swings in the perception of a wine I had ever experienced.

What changed? In the intervening time between when I first tasted the wine and when I tasted it again, the wine warmed up. I cooled it back down to a proper serving temperature, and once again, the wine presented as it originally had, light and lackluster. This wine showed much better when warmer than at a typical white wine serving temperature. That’s odd, but it happens. Bottom line, temperature matters.

Ever since that experience, I have paid close attention to serving temperature. When sampling wine for review, I always taste wines within a specific temperature range. For red wines, this is between 62-66 degrees Fahrenheit. For white wines and rosés, it is between 55-60 degrees.

While wine serving temperature is important to overall enjoyment, one doesn’t need to be overly fussy or formal about it. A bottle of red wine should be cool – but not cold – to the touch. A bottle of white wine should be slightly cooler than that. A short stint in the fridge or an even shorter stint in the freezer will do the trick.

If you’re interested in being more exact about wine serving temperatures, there are a variety of infrared-style temperature sensors one can purchase. They can cost as little as $10.

Bottom line, wine serving temperature is important to maximizing enjoyment. If you find a wine that isn’t quite meeting your expectations, try cooling it down if it’s a red wine or warming it up if it’s a white. You just might have an entirely different experience.

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At Northwest Wine Report, all scores come from blind tastings in varietal/style sets. Read more about this site’s process for rating and reviewing wines. See the Northwest Wine Report rating system and special designations. Read about how to interpret scores. See a list of recently reviewed producers.

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