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Serving Temp: Wine’s Secret Weapon?

Consider one of the most basic yet overlooked aspects of wine: serving temperature. Forget thermometers—not even the nerdiest wine geek carries one around. A few simple practices are all you need.

Americans have a tendency to drink red wine too warm and white wine too cold. Part of this stems from the over-use of the phrase “room temp” for reds and the lack of definition of “chilled” with respect to white and sparkling wine. Generally speaking, cooler temperatures help hold a wine together, so that no one element juts out, but ice-cold conditions will inhibit flavors.

For red wines, warmer temps will cause the wine’s alcohol and tannin to stick out, distractingly. Rule of thumb: the bottle itself should be cool to the touch.

For white wines, the more complex and flavorful the wine, the less chilled it should be. Simple bubbly like Cava or Prosecco—keep it ice-cold. A voluptuous Viognier, however, needs to be e bit warmer to release its full range of aromas and flavors. Think about salad for comparison: whip one up straight from the fridge, it’s a salad, but if it is exposed to room temp for a while it simply tastes better. Ditto ice cream as it starts to soften, as opposed to straight from the container standing up in the kitchen (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Of course, personal taste factors in as well, so it is useful to experiment. Here is one tried-and-true technique when at home. After a white wine chills for a few hours (or days) in the refrigerator, take a it out 15-20 minutes ahead of opening. And for a red wine, stick it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. The white will open up faster, and the red will be primed to hold itself together.


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