General Rule of Thumb
Serve red wines at room temperature. Serve white wines chilled. However, chilling wine should not just refer to white or sparkling wine. People using this rule often make the mistake of serving red wine at temperatures in excess of 70°F, the room temperature of many modern homes. Room temperature is defined as between 68 and 72°F, but even at the minimum room temperature of 68°F, red wine is too warm and needs to be chilled for at least 10 minutes (see below). Full-bodied, high-quality white wines like Chardonnay are often served too cold. Over-chilling wine can be useful for masking imperfections in cheap wine, but it’s a waste of good wine.
Wine Serving Temperatures
60 – 65°F: Barolo, Bordeaux, Cabernet, Chianti, Merlot, Old Red Burgundy, Pinotage, Rhone, Red Zinfandel, Vintage Port
58 – 64°F: Madeira, Pinot Noir, Port, Red Burgundy, Rioja
58 – 60°F: Valpolicella, Beaujolais-Villages
54 – 58°F: Best White Burgundies, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Young Chianti, Young Red Burgundies
50 – 55°F: Beaujolais Nouveau, Bual and Malmsey Madeiras, Fino and Amontillado Sherries, Gerwurztraminer, Johannisberg Riesling, Oaked White Rioja, Pinot Gris, Rhine and Mosel Kabinett and Spatlese Riesling, Sauternes, Tokay, Young Zinfandel
50°F: Rose Wines, Young Beaujolais
48 – 50°F: Amontillado Sherry, Chablis, Gavi, Orvieto, Pinot Grigio, Pouilly-Fume, White Zinfandel
45 – 50°F: Champagne, Sparkling Wines
40 – 45°F: Alsace, Asti Spumante, Chardonnay, Cheap Rose, Chenin Blanc and Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Muscadet, North American Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Unoaked White Rioja, White Bordeaux
36°F: Cheap Sparkling Wines
35°F: Average Refrigerator Temperature
A red wine that is too warm will taste of alcohol instead of fruit, it may even taste bitter or vinegary. A white wine served too cold will taste more acidic, less fruity and sweet.
Rule of Thumb for Chilling Wine
A bottle of wine will cool 4°F (2°C) for every ten minutes in the refrigerator, and depending on room temperature, will warm at about the same rate when removed from the refrigerator. Therefore, chilling wine like Asti Spumante from 75°F (room temperature) to 40°F will take approximately 90 minutes or 1 1/2 hours. Chilling wine like red Bordeaux from 75°F to 65°F will take 25 minutes.
How to Chill Wine Fast
A fast way to chill a bottle of wine is to immerse it in a mixture of ice and water. Chill white wine for 20 to 30 minutes, red wine 5 to 10 minutes, add rock salt if you want to cool it more rapidly. Avoid cooling wine in the freezer, you may forget it and end up with a slushy mess.
If this feels like guesswork, there are wine accessories for measuring actual wine temperature (not ambient temperature), without opening the bottle. If you’re a serious wine drinker, you may want to invest in a wine refrigerator or cooler with digital controls. Wine refrigerators allow you to store wine for up to a year at proper serving temperatures (i.e. you don’t have to chill wine that’s already at the right temperature). The storage capacity can be as small as 4 bottles, or as large as 100+ bottles.
Another way to avoid the mess of ice and water to quickly cool your wine is to use the Vacu Vin Rapid Ice line of wine products which allow you to serve chilled white wines in 5 minutes. Store them in your freezer until ready to use, it keeps bottles cold for up to 3 hours.