The most common mistake with wine: the wrong serving temperature

May 28 2021, 08:12 | by Lorenzo Ruggeri
A wine served too cold or too hot is one of the worst services we can offer the customer, damaging all the work done by the producers. Here are a few rules.

This week we are tackling one of the most sensitive issues, still too often underestimated in wine bars and restaurants around the world: the wine serving temperature, a major factor that can radically reverse the situation. A wine served too cold or too hot is one of the worst services we can offer the customer, damaging all the work done by the producers. As the temperature in the glass changes, the aromas, intensity and texture of a wine vary accordingly. A full-bodied red wine served below 12°C/53°F will emphasise bitter components and a certain firmness of the tannins, while a white wine served at 3°C/37°F will be practically tasteless, besides its sensation of freshness.

Room temperature simply does not exist

First of all, the outside temperature plays a crucial role when serving wine, considering that the wine will tend to warm up quickly in the glass in relation to the climate. Wines should be therefore served much cooler than normal in summer. Here is the rule number one: opening a wine at room temperature is wrong. The room temperature is a very variable factor, whereas the wine serving temperature range are very precise. The reds in particular are still opened and served too hot in 90% of cases, thus muting their pleasantness, freshness and drinkability. A higher temperature emphasises the sensations of softness and concentration, to the detriment of scent. On the other hand, colder temperatures bring out the hard part of the wine, starting with its acidity and therefore freshness. Here is a brief wine serving temperature vade mecum to follow.

The detail that makes the difference

Remember that sparkling wines should be served cold, but at different temperatures depending on the method of production. Charmat wines should be enjoyed cooler than Metodo Classico wines, with a higher serving temperature as the years on the lees and the structure increase. The same applies to whites: vintage wines and aromatic varieties should be served cooler than structured whites, perhaps aged in wood, as well as mature whites with several vintages behind them that can be served a bit warmer. Macerated whites? The temperature rises, since the tannic notes are particularly affected by cold temperatures. The longer the maceration, the higher the serving temperature, in some cases reaching the temperature of red wines. For rosé wines, the temperature varies according to colour and concentration of flavour, serving cooler the rosés with lighter colours, more focused on acidity and freshness, while a bit warmer the structured ones, such as Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo. Reds? Young red wines are best served chilled to reveal the fruit and pleasantness, while important reds should be served at a slightly higher temperature in order to appreciate their complexity. In any case, the best option is serving wines lightly chilled than they should be, so as to reach the right temperature when breathing in the glass. Lastly, remember that for sweet wines a lower temperature softens an excessive feeling of sweetness, giving the right balance to the otherwise cloying drink.

Vade mecum on the optimum serving temperature with Italian wines

Prosecco and other Metodo Italiano sparkling wines: 5-8°C/41-46°F

Franciacorta, Trentodoc, Oltrepò: 6-8°C/43-46°F

Vintage white wines: 8-11°C/46-52°F

Structured white wines: 10-13°C/50-55°F

Macerated white wines: 12-16°C/54-61°F

Sweet wines: 11-14°C/52-57°F

Rosé wines: 12-16°C/54-61°F

Young red wines: 14-16°C/57-61°F

Barolo, Brunello, Barbaresco, etc.: 15-18°C/59-64°F

Long aged red wines: 17-19°C/63-66°F

by Lorenzo Ruggeri

 You can find out more about the Villa Sandi Contemporary Wine List Award here

Read previous installments of the series:

How To build a contemporary wine list

Everything you need to know about the Italian Method

Bubbles as a lifestyle

How to cook with wine

The real enemies of wine at the table

The contemporary sommelier

Five native grape varieties we are ready to bet on

It was the yar... snippets of modern history of wine in Italy

Find out more about how to cook with wine

The Villa Sandi Contemporary Wine List Award

The Villa Sandi Contemporary Wine List Award is the prize we reserve for the most current, brilliant and user-friendly wine lists in our Top Italian Restaurants guide, dedicated to the best of Italian dining in the world. While waiting to resume awarding venues around the world, we’re offering an educational journey through the multi-colour ‘Jurassic Park’ that is Italian viticulture. We’re proposing a series of themes, with practical advice and suggestions, published every week on our international website

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