Wine, like all beverages, has an ideal serving temperature. Just think of the last time you sipped a warm soda. Not pleasant, right? As you can see from that example, temperature dramatically affects how you experience a drink.
The best serving temperature for wine depends on the varietal and style of wine. While the common belief is that sparkling and white wines taste best straight out of the fridge and red wine at room temperature, there's actually more to it.
Let's look at the standards set by the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust, a globally recognized educational and credentialing organization for the wine and spirits industry.
Best Serving Temperature for Sparkling Wine
Champagne and sparkling wines are served the coldest of all types of wine as cooler temperatures help preserve carbonation. However, if you serve it too cold, the aromas will seem muted, especially in the case of vintage champagne. Keep in mind that once you pour the wine into a glass, it will start to warm up due to the ambient temperature of the room and your body heat as you handle the glass. Pouring smaller servings can help keep the wine cooler and keep the open bottle in an ice bucket with both ice and cold water to keep it cool.
Sparkling wine is best between 43°-50°F.
Best Serving Temperature for White Wine
White wine is best served cold, but not as cold as you think. Common practice is to keep white wine in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises setting your refrigerator to 40°F, but the ideal temperature for white wine is warmer than that.
To bring white wine to the perfect temperature, take it out of the fridge a little before drinking it to let it warm up. The ideal temperature range for white wine depends on the variety and body of the wine.
Light and medium-bodied white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are best between 45°-50°F.
Full-bodied white wines such as Chardonnay are best between 50°-55°F.
Best Serving Temperature for Red Wine
The American Heritage Dictionary defines room temperature as between 68°-72°F, but you may set your thermostat higher depending on your preference and the time of year. You might be surprised to learn that red wine is actually best served cooler than room temperature, and light-bodied red wines can even be served slightly chilled. You can put your red wine in the fridge for a short while to bring the temperature down before you drink it.
Light-bodied red wines such as Beaujolais are best between 55°-64°F.
Medium and full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah are best between 59°-64°F.
So... do I need a thermometer for my wine?
No. Generally, a few degrees difference is not a deal-breaker. These are the recommended serving temperatures for you to have the best experience with the variety of wine you are drinking. Temperature isn't the only factor that affects how you perceive a wine. Storing your wine correctly and using the right glassware will also influence how you experience your wine.
While these are the ideal temperature ranges for different varietals, if you want to drink your wine at a different temperature and are happy, by all means, do so.
On the other hand, if you need help remembering whether to chill a wine or not, an easy guideline is the lighter the color of the wine, the cooler you serve it, and always serve your sparkling wine cold.
However, one thing to keep in mind is not to alter the temperature of your wine quickly. If your wine is too cold, let it warm up naturally over a period of time. When you heat wine too fast, it will damage it. Also, don't chill a glass of wine by putting ice cubes in it, as the melting ice will water down your wine.