Chilled Reds, Warm Whites

July 5, 2007

I read an article in the New York Times the other day about how white wine is often served too cold in America. It sparked several Ice-wine-2conversations (including an impassioned plea by me about considering the circumstances and pairings . . . for instance, I argued, a crisp white served icy cold with a fritto misto is heaven). Is chilling a Cabernet Sauvignon the ultimate heresy or smart thinking? Is leaving a Chardonnay out on the table a smooth move or simply clueless? The truth is, Eric Asimov is right when he states that, here in America, we tend to drink wines either too cold or too warm.

In a perfect world, all wine would be served at cellar temperature (of course, in a perfect world, we’d all have sprawling, well-stocked cellars too and this whole article would be a moot point). At this temperature range—between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit—wines are at their peak; any colder or warmer and flavors are masked or muted (yes, that rules out ice cubes in either white or red — sorry). A good rule of thumb to remember is that the bolder and bigger the wine, the warmer it likes to be served (within that temperature range of 50-65 degrees). Therefore, a crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc would be perfect at around 50 degrees, and a rich, hefty Shiraz would be good pushing 65.


Most of us don’t have a cellar to pull from, or a wine cooler dedicated to bringing bottles to the perfect temperature. For most of us, our kingdom is our fridge. If you chill a white wine to refrigerator temperature (around 35-40 degrees), give it 20 minutes on the counter to warm up to around 55 or above. If you’re serving a red from your rack, tuck it in the fridge or an ice bucket for 20 minutes to bring it down into the low to mid-60 range.


To paraphrase:


1) Open the fridge 20 minutes before a meal

2) Take out the white

3) Put in the red






6 Responses to “Chilled Reds, Warm Whites”

  1. Maureen Says:

    Lia, that’s a great simple way to serving wine! I love it!

    We have a wine refrigerator, and store both our reds and whites in it. What would you suggest we keep the temperature set at? (BTW, we have about 30 bottles of red, 6-7 bottles of white, and a few rose’s.) We currently have it set at 64.


  2. foodette Says:

    Great post! I love the paraphrase – it’s something I will start doing 🙂

  3. lia Says:

    Thanks Foodette!

    Maureen, great question. You may want to lower the temp to a bit closer to 55 degrees if you’re storing your bottles for any length of time, since that’s considered optimal storage temp. But since you lean towards red (a woman after my own heart), it wouldn’t hurt to push 60. Just remember to pull them out a few minutes ahead of time to warm up a bit and, vice versa, to pop your whites and roses in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

    As far as the best way to store both whites and reds in the same wine fridge, I’d recommend sticking with the standard method of storing the reds on top and whites on the bottom since heat rises. There’s only a few degrees difference (at most), but you may as well go with the flow instead of against it. Enjoy!

  4. Azgal Says:

    Great info! I read about this some time ago and have made it a habit since then. Right now I’m sipping some Clos du Bois 2004 Reserve Zinfandel that we brought home from our trip to the winery in May. The bottle had to sit out for almost an hour before I thought it “felt” like the right temperature to drink. That brings up a question…we don’t have a wine cooler. I store my better wine in a regular refrigerator. Is that too cold? Thanks!

  5. lia Says:

    Great question AZGal. In fact, it sparked the topic for today’s post ( If you’re planning on drinking the wine right away (within a week or so), storing it in the fridge is fine. But you may want to check out this post on affordable cellaring strategies for longer-term options.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the Clos du Bois Reserve Zin! I think you were right on the money with the temp to sip it at–that’s a bold wine, and it drinks best at the top end of the temp range so it could certainly take it a while to shrug off the chill of the fridge . . . you’ve inspired me to pop a bottle of my own tonight!


  6. […] guys brought up some great questions about storing wine in response to what temp to serve wine. So I dug about for cellaring strategies for those of us who can’t afford a cave of our […]

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