Does Temperature Matter?

The temperature at which a wine is stored and served does influence the wine’s taste and, most importantly, the wine drinking experience.  One of the biggest misinterpretations regarding wine service temperature is “room temperature”.  In the US, we are spoiled with the ability to keep our homes, businesses and cars at temperatures most comfortable to our individual preferences.  Typically, US residents prefer a range between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit to be most comfortable year-round.  Therefore, a bottle of wine will also have a temperature between 65-72 oF unless stored in a refrigerated environment.  

In the world of wine, however, “room temperature” refers to the average temperature of a wine cellar where wines are stored and matured.  These temperatures range between 45-65 oF with a medium of 55 oF being most common or preferred.  As a result, when wine is served at “room temperature” and not “cellar temperature”, it can taste hot, dull, or less-fruity.  Ultimately, the wine experience is less than desired, but easily fixable!

The table below indicates the ideal temperatures different styles or varietals of wine should be served to maximize the experience and bring out the best in a wine utilizing DOMSOM’s 4 white and 3 red styles of wine:

StyleExampleTemperature Recommendation
White: Fresh and CrispRiesling Chilled:  45-50 oF
White: Funky and FloralPinot GrisChilled:  45-50 oF
White: Rich and CreamyChardonnayLightly Chilled:  50-55 oF
White:  SweetLate Harvest RieslingSuper Chilled:  43-45 oF
Red:  Dry and dirtyPinot NoirCellar Temperature:  59-65 oF
Red:  Fresh and FruityModerate Climate MerlotLightly Chilled:  53-55 oF
Red:  Packed with a PunchCabernet SauvignonCellar Temperature:  59-65 oF

You are probably wondering how on earth you can even measure the temperature of a bottle of wine.  Thankfully, there are numerous, even inexpensive, options available in wine stores or online.  DOMSOM is a fan of simple wine bottle thermometers which can easily wrap around the bottle giving fairly accurate readings of the wine’s temperature.  Many can be purchased for less than $10.  Wine thermometer strips to infrared thermometers make the task quick and simple.  

Not all homes or restaurants have wine cellars or even wine refrigerators.  Never fear, there are many ways to achieve the best serving temperature without fancy, expensive rooms, equipment or appliances!  Here are a few of DOMSOM’s tips for creating your own wine-chilling experience:

Well-Chilled:  The best, and quickest, method is a simple bucket, or sink full of ice water and a dunk of approximately 30 minutes!  Ice alone will chill the wine, but by adding water, you can speed the process significantly.  Don’t have 30 minutes as your guests are anxiously awaiting a pour at the table?  Then keep the bottle chilling in ice water either next to the table or at the bar if your guests do not mind.  By-the-glass pours are easier to keep chilled as this can be done in the restaurant or at-home kitchen or bar and easily accessible to bar and service staff when ordered.  

Chilled:  Refrigeration is the easiest and best option, but may not be possible.  If not available, use the same method as Well-Chilled but limit the amount of ice exposure to 15-20 minutes.

Wine Refrigerators like the one on the left are great for red wine and Rich and Creamy white wines. To achieve “light chill” or “chilled” temperatures for most white wines, there’s nothing better than an ice bucket filled with water, ice and a bottle of wine!

Room Temperature:  Remember, this is not the same as the ambient temperature in most US homes, businesses or restaurants.  To achieve wine temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees lower than the average interior temperature, DOMSOM recommends brief exposure to refrigeration, an ice bath or five minutes wrapped with a wine bottle ice pack. 

Many options for cooling wine down to the best drinking temperature are available, sometimes creativity is the best option so if all else fails, chill the glass before serving the wine!