(trust me, every single wine will taste better)

One of the easiest things you can do to improve the quality of every wine you drink is to become temperature sensitive.

Here’s the truth: most white wines are served far too cold. And most red wines are served far too warm. This problem is especially common in American restaurants, but it’s often repeated inadvertently at home. 

There is no one answer for the perfect temperature for all whites and the perfect temperature for all reds. To enjoy wine to its fullest, you have to understand the range of temperatures and how it affects different styles of wines.  

Light-bodied, crisp, lively white wines that are based on acidity as their driver(Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio) are best served about 10-20 minutes after coming out of the refrigerator. As they warm up just a few degrees, more complexity will be revealed. Ideal temperature? Around 42 degrees.

Fuller bodied, textured, richer white wines (Chardonnay, Viognier) are best served with just a slight chill. Bringing the temperature down too far smothers the textural richness these wines are known for. Ideal temperature? Around 48 degrees.

Lighter bodied, detailed, elegant red wines (Pinot Noir, Gamay, Dolcetto) are wines that often have a touch of acidity which, just as in white wines, needs cooler temperatures to show their stuff. This is where “cellar temperature” refers to a cool stone basement in Europe. Ideal temperature? Around 55 degrees … the ideal temperature for long term storage as well. Note: if these wines get a bit too warm, like to 65 degrees, you’ll sense a marked downturn in complexity. How many people have dismissed a Pinot Noir wrongly just because it’s served at the incorrect temperature? My guess is many. Use an ice bucket without hesitation to help keep these wines in the “coolish” range during serving.

Fuller bodied, structured red wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah) can handle the higher temperatures, though it should never go above 65 degrees or so. As these wines are served too warm, the alcohol becomes more apparent and easily overwhelms any detail in the fruit. An ideal temperature is around 60 degrees.

Once you get used to wine at the correct temperature, you’ll have a hard time when it’s served otherwise. Use the “Sommelier 20” trick: white wines out of the fridge for 20 minutes, red wines into the fridge for 20 minutes. Presto! Better wine!

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