When it comes to serving wine, temperature matters. Although you don’t need to be a chemist, it does help to follow a few simple guidelines when serving your favorite white or red wine. You may be surprised at how much difference it can make.

For starters, whites are generally served cooler than reds. Ok that’s easy, but there’s more. Keep in mind where you are storing your wine. A refrigerator (about 35F degrees), is colder than a wine cooler or cellar (about 55-65F degrees), and therefore will require a red wine to be warmed slightly (or a lot depending) longer than a white.

  • whites are generally served from 43F to 50F degrees (champagnes, ice and dessert wines coldest)
  • reds are served from 55F to 63F degrees

More tips and handy temperature chart:

  • a fridge normally operates about 35F degrees and will require a white to warm slightly, and a red to warm longer to reach ideal drinking temperature
  • decanting is a great way to let a wine breathe while also bringing it to serving temperature
  • a wine chiller is often necessary to get a white even colder (especially Rieslings and Champagne), and to keep it cold while open
  • if you’re enjoying only a single glass of red, pour and let stand for 20 minutes or so to ‘mini-decant’ and take some cool edge off which will open up the flavors

The biggest mistake people make is to drink wine straight from the fridge, which is unfortunate since most of the flavors (especially for reds) will be masked by the cold. Instead, let the wine warm to close to room temperature for reds, and slightly less for whites.

I don’t use a thermometer – although I’m sure many do! I just guesstimate based on experience with small tasting samples here and there to ensure temperature is about right. On particularly warm days, especially here in San Jose during summer, I always serve wines slightly cooler than recommended as I know they will warm faster.

Oh, and one more thing. These are just guidelines. The beauty of wine is that it’s personal and you can drink wine however you like, and at whatever temperature suits your fancy. Try, of course, not to drink straight from the box.

Refrigerator Temperature 35F
Ice wines, dessert wines 43F
Champagne, Riesling, Rose 46F
Chardonnay, Viognier 50F
Beaujolais, Madeira 55F
Zinfandel 59F
Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy, Bordeaux, Shiraz,  Port 53F
Malbec 64F
Room temperature 72F
Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear