Wine is incredibly susceptible to changes in its environment, which also includes temperature. Temperature control is vital to ensure wine does not spoil and retains its flavour, texture and balance. Keeping your wine at the right temperature doesn’t just refer to storing your bottles adequately; it also means knowing which temperature is ideal for serving it.
The last thing you want is for your wine to age prematurely or become ruined when in storage, which is why knowing its ideal temperature and storage conditions is vital. Any extreme fluctuations in temperature can damage its structure and bouquet, so ensure that you are taking the right measures with your collection.
While there is no clear consensus about the perfect temperature to keep wine, especially because the optimal temperature for your wine bottles will depend on the wine itself, most experts agree with similar temperatures. The most important decision, however, is making sure that one you choose the temperature, it always remains the same and doesn’t oscillate:
Red wines, like the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Tawny Port, tend to have an optimal storage temperature that lies between 12oC and 19oC; however, the process to produce Madeira wine uses higher temperatures, which allows the final product to withstand higher temperatures than other wines.
White wine, such as Chardonnay, is typically kept between 8oC and 12oC.
As for sparkling wines, such as champagne, they should be kept in a storage area at 5oC to 8oC.
Generally speaking, your wine should always be kept under 21oC; anything higher than that might damage it. If your wine is exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time (over 25oC), it can quickly spoil and become ‘cooked’. While cooking with wine is a fantastic way to enjoy the stunning bottles in your collection, you want to avoid flat aromas and flavours.
In addition, as wine ages, a series of chemical and physical reactions take place inside the bottle; these reactions are influenced by several factors, like temperature, and the speed of the reactions doubles for every 10oC increase. A wine that should age in a few years’ time, for instance, can be past its prime in months if not kept at the right temperature.
A temperature that is too low will also spoil your wine. For instance, while your refrigerator is perfect to keep wine for a couple of months, you should never use it as a long-term storage area. Fridge temperatures lay below 7oC, which can dry the cork and ruin the wine.
Purposively-built wine cellars and rooms offer the best storage area for wines, as you can control the temperature and humidity at will (humidity will also influence wine, so make sure to keep it until 70%).
The serving temperature of wine is equally crucial, although most people do not pay it the same attention. Serving wine at the right temperature will unlock the full bouquet of flavours and aromas, and can help you enjoy your wine even more.
Just as with storing wine, the temperature to serve wine is not an exact science either, which means some wines will be better served at higher temperatures than others. Connoisseurs tend to follow similar guidelines, though.
This means that there are no concrete rules to follow; usually, a good rule of thumb is that red wine should be uncorked at least thirty minutes to an hour before serving, in order to breathe, while white wine is best served cold.
This means that:
White wines, rosés and sparkling wines should be served between 4 oC to 10oC, so that you don’t lose their fruity aromas and flavours. An example is Pinot Grigio. The low temperatures also allow sparkling wines, like champagne, to retain their bubbles.
Red wines, like Port, can be served at temperatures between 15oC-18oC, which emphasises the beautiful tannins in the wine.
We’ve mentioned many wine pairings before, such as the perfect wines to accompany appetisers, but one pairing that is not ideal is wine and heat. In order to keep your wine in optimal condition, make sure to keep it at the right temperature at all times. Serve it at the right temperature and you’ll also be able to enjoy the supple and beautiful flavours and aromas of your wine collection.