How often have you been to a restaurant, bar, wine tasting or cellar door, and the red wine is way way too warm. Then when you suggest perhaps they might chill it down a bit, you get the condescending reply that reds are served at 'room temperature'. Its at times like these that our better half's usually grab an arm or kick us under the table as we sometimes on rare occasions have a tendency towards responding with either sarcasm or snarkiness or if the condescending reply is to pointed we may completely spit the dummy and start a lecture. Look, if we just spent $20 on a glass of wine we sure as want to enjoy it. If we ordered a bottle we always ask for an ice bucket to lower the wine temp. For those that know us it must come as a complete shock that we can be a bit picky about our wine, but sometimes it happens.
The temperature of wine as you drink it is fairly important if you want to get the best from it. While there is some dispute as to the exact best, there is a range that is fairly optimal to best appreciate a wine, whether it be red or white.
Lets take a look at the term room temperature and where some of the miss conception comes in. A lot of people, even in the industry think that red wine should be at room temperature when drunk. Meaning put it on the shelf and when someone orders a red just pull it off the shelf and pour into a glass and drink, no matter what the temperature is. If you are pouring in a restaurant that is possibly about 75 plus degrees you are not doing the red wines any favors.
What's "room temperature," anyway? These days, it's about 73 degrees, which is a far cry from the room temperature of the drafty manor houses of a century ago, where many modern-day wine-drinking habits were born. Actually, 73 is actually way too warm for almost all wine. As a rule, white and sparkling wines are best served well-chilled (42 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit), with sparkling wines and lighter whites at the lower range of the scale and fuller-bodied, richer whites, such as Chardonnay, at the upper range. Red wines should be served at cool room temperature (56 to 65 F.), with lighter, fruitier reds (e.g., Beaujolais and Pinot Noir), at the lower range and fuller-bodied varieties ( e.g., Cabernet, Zinfandel and Syrah, at the upper range.
Certain conditions may dictate exceptions to these guidelines. On a hot days, for example, it's a good idea to slightly chill a full-bodied red to mitigate its alcoholic "heat," which is more evident as the wine warms quickly when the ambient temperature is high. As it is easier for wine to come up to temperature if you start too cool. Conversely, it may be advisable to serve an especially rich white wine at the upper temperature range to ensure its complex aromas and flavors can be fully appreciated, but again you can raise the temperature with the warmth of your hands if it comes a little too cool.
So the term room temperature goes back a long way to a time when homes were drafty stone buildings and were generally very cold by todays standards. All that aside the fact is there is a temperature range that wine is best to drink in so pay attention to that and just forget the term 'Room Temperature'.
Happy Tasting Adventures,
Kiwi & Koala