Wine by Degrees: Serve It at the Right Temperature

It’s a conundrum we’ve all faced … and have possibly even been fooled by: What’s the right temperature to serve your wine? Sure, there is the common assumption that whites should be chilled as frigid as possible, while reds at room temperature are the way to go. But what do the experts say?

To help with this perpetual vino question, we tapped two guys who live, breathe and work wine – Jean Belondrade of Belondrade Winery in Rueda and Jake Kosseff, sommelier and managing partner at Seattle hotspot Miller’s Guild. And survey says? Bzzzzzzzz – not so much. There might be 5,000 miles separating these two fellows, but when it comes to temperatures, they’re essentially in 100% agreement.

Getting White Right

verdejoglass“Personally, I am not a temperature freak – and to be totally sincere, I usually just eyeball it,” Belondrade says, speaking frankly about white wines like the bottles his family produces. “If we talk about stocking temperature, 16-17 Celsius (60-62 Fahrenheit) would be a good temperature. But when you decide to open a bottle, a temperature between 12 and 14 Celsius (53-57 Fahrenheit) is perfect. Not too cold, and not too hot. If you take it out of the fridge and it is not cool enough, then 5-10 minutes in the freezer will be great!”

And Kosseff agrees. In terms of whites, the Seattle sommelier shoots for that happy middle temp, telling us that 52 degrees Fahrenheit is the money number for white wines (and a colder 47 degrees if you’re balling with bubbly).  “We also don’t use ice buckets unless people ask, so that they get to experience the change in flavors and characters of the wine as it warms slightly while they’re drinking it,” he adds.

If you take it out of the fridge and it is not cool enough, then 5-10 minutes in the freezer will be great!

Too often, white wines are served on the brink of freezing – especially when the heat of summer is on. And For Belondrade, this temperature faux paux is “an international sin.” He continues, “I can not remember how many people I have seen adding ice cubes to their glasses. I have too much respect for the wine to do that, but if this is the way to have young people starting to drink wines instead of soda or beer, then we’ll accept it!”

The Ideal – and Elusive – Perfect Temp For Red

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When it comes to red wine temperatures, Kosseff admits that his opinion may diverge from a lot of other sommeliers.

“I think they they should be served as close to room temperature (but always cooler rather than warmer) as is humanly possible,” he says, bucking the common 55 degree “cellar temperature” rule that many old-school sommeliers swear by. “I find that all but the lightest red wines tend to taste sharp and tannic when they are cold. With that in mind, my target is to serve reds about 5-7 degrees F cooler than the room, so that as they sit on the table, they warm slightly without getting too warm.”

Belondrade is in the same red boat, and even goes one step further with a warming technique that we can’t say we’ve heard before: “This might surprise you, but when opening a nice bottle of red, if I have a fireplace close by, I usually uncork it and leave the bottle for 4-5 minutes on the side.”

Pairs well with s’mores anyone?

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