Did you know even if you are a wine aficionado, there is a very good chance that you are drinking your wine at the wrong temperature? It is a common mistake to go by the old ‘rule’ that red wine should be served at room temperature and white wine should be served straight from the fridge.
The truth is, red wine should be served at what is called ‘cellar temperature’, which is actually cooler than the room temperature most people aim for. And while white wine should be chilled, straight from the fridge is actually too cold.
The idea about serving red wine at room temperature actually hails from Europe. There, a good bottle of red will be served directly from the cellar where in actual fact, the temperatures are quite a bit cooler than those of an average room in Australia. Especially in summer! The temperature of wine from the cellar ranges between 15 to 18°C. This is actually the optimal drinking temperature of most varieties of red wine. However, average (climate controlled) room temperatures in Australia are usually between 23 - 25°C and of course, when outside in the typical Australian summer, a lot warmer!
If you cool a bottle of red wine down slightly to bring it to 15 - 18°C, you will notice a big difference in the taste and the overall experience will be much improved. Try one of these methods on your favourite bottle and enjoy the new flavours and aromas that are unlocked.
View the below guide to check the perfect serving temperature by varietal.
Pop it in the fridge
The refrigerator may feel like a place reserved only for white wine or bubbles, but you should also make room for the red. As odd as it feels, the next time you wish to enjoy a bottle of red, pop it in shortly before serving. Don’t leave it for too long, just 15 minutes will do the trick. Any longer is not ideal, but if you do forget about it and go overtime just take it back out and let it warm slowly via room temperature. If you’re pushed for time, the freezer is another option. Wet a tea towel and wrap it around the bottle before placing it in the freezer to speed the process up a bit.
Decant before the fridge
If you have guests pop in unannounced, you may find waiting 15 minutes for the wine to cool in the fridge is too long. Not a problem, simply decant the wine first. Smaller amounts of liquid will cool much faster than a whole bottle. Pour the wine into the individual glasses and place them carefully into the fridge. This is especially pleasant on a hot day as the whole glass cools down and keeps the wine at the right temperature for a tad longer.
Chilled ‘rock’ cubes
Plopping an ice cube into a good glass of red wine is guaranteed to get you some eye rolls from people. But if done with those cool little cubes of marble usually reserved for whisky, you can chill your red just enough to get it to the right temperature without ruining the taste. Pop the chilled ‘rocks’ in to cool the wine down and then simply take them out and pop back into the freezer to use again another time. Another idea is to use frozen grapes. Place clean frozen grapes into your glass and you will still get the full effect of an ice cube but without watering the wine down. It can also be a cute talking point at your next dinner party. Worst case, use an ice cube but make sure you take it out before it melts and ‘waters’ down the flavours in your wine.
If you are not at home
If you are camping or having a picnic and your bottle of red is a bit on the warm side, you can use nature to your advantage. On a really cold day, you can simply keep the bottle outdoors and it will gradually cool down to the right temperature. Or if there is a stream nearby, place the bottle in carefully for about half an hour until it has cooled. Turn the bottle occasionally to cool it down faster.
Use a gadget
There are several gadgets on the market designed to either cool your wine down fast, or keep it cool on those hot days. There are electric ice buckets that can make a bottle cold in just 3 minutes, frozen sleeves to keep the bottle cool while it is on the table and frozen wine glasses designed to keep each serve refreshingly cool for hours. But you can’t go past the Corksicle Air, a plastic icicle full of gel that you freeze and then put into your wine. It won’t make a warm bottle of white go cold, but it will cool down a red to the desired temp or keep the white cold for longer. It will also aerate your wine while it pours.
White wine lovers
If you are drinking your white wine straight from the fridge, you are having it too cold. Most refrigerators are set to around 4°C, but most varieties of white wine should be served between 8 and 10°C. You should allow your white wine to warm up slightly before enjoying it. This can be done simply by taking the wine out of the fridge around half an hour before serving it.
When in doubt, always serve the wine a little colder than what you think it should be. Anything out of a fridge will eventually warm up, but it won’t become cooler on it’s own.