We’ve all heard the old adage that we should drink red wines at room temperature, while drinking white wines chilled.
Why do we drink different wines at different temperatures?
Why is that? Chemistry! Red wines, especially those that are bigger and bolder, have tannins that provide nuance to flavor. If a red wine is chilled, the flavor may lose some of the lighter, more enjoyable nuances. Conversely, white wines have higher acidity, which, at warmer temperatures, can introduce unwanted tasting “noise.” By chilling the white wines, the flavor profile tightens, effectively muting some of that noise so that we may better enjoy the lighter, fruitier elements1 of the beverage.
What are these recommended temperatures?
But what is “room temperature,” and what is “chilled”? Many wine experts share the opinion that Americans actually drink their red wine too warm, and their white wines too cold. Part of this issue stems from the fact that “room temperature” in Europe really means cellar temperature, which tends to be around 55F to 65F. Room temperature in the United States, however, is approximately 72F 2 . Furthermore, refrigerators typically chill food to 37F, but experts state that white wine should be enjoyed between 45F and 50F1. This means that red wine is typically drunk 7 to 17 degrees warmer than intended, while white wine is drunk 8 to 13 degrees colder than what is recommended.
How do we reach the recommended temperatures?
So, how should we get wine to its intended temperature? Like many things, good planning plays an important role. If you have red wine at room temperature, just place it in the fridge about 45 minutes before you plan on enjoying it. If you have white wine at room temperature, place it in the fridge about two hours before you wish to drink it. You can also keep both red and white wine in the refrigerator, and then take the red out about half an hour before you wish to enjoy it3, and take the white out approximately 15 minutes before enjoyment. As a rule of thumb, the lighter the wine, the longer it should be in the fridge, and the heavier the wine, the shorter amount of time it needs to be chilled.
As always, recommendations are purely guidelines. Wine is for your enjoyment, so feel free to experiment with temperatures and stick with your own personal preference!