From champagne to merlot and brie to blue, wines and cheese have very specific storing and serving temperatures. We have the thermal tips you need to be prepared for holiday parties this season.
Why Serve Wine at Specific Temperatures?
Wines and have specific layers of flavor that can only be fully enjoyed when they’re experienced at the proper temperature. Wine served too cold will dull taste bud sensation so you aren’t able to detect subtleties. (Some delicate French wines’ flavors are so subtle that an improper serving temperature would completely destroy the drinking experience.)
Of course, careful control of temperatures should start with the way you store your wine, long before you serve it. Here are some helpful hints for the proper storage of your wines:
5 Tips for Storing Wine:
- Start off with the right storage temperature. Keep it cool, but not too cool. The optimal storage temperature range is 45–65°F (7–18°C) with 55°F (13°C) being cited as the perfect temperature. Average refrigerator temperature is below 40°F (4°C). At that low of a temperature the humidity level drops, the cork can dry out, and air from the fridge can seep into the bottle, damaging the wine. Storing at temperatures 70°F (21°C) or above can cause aromas and flavors to go flat. Avoid dramatic temperature swings. A trip home from the wine store isn’t going to harm your bottle, but leaving it in your car all day in the middle of the summer sure might.
- Wine should be stored away from direct light—that’s why so many wine bottles are tinted. Just like a pair of sunglasses, the tint helps reduce the penetration of UV rays. Exposure to light can cause bottle shock, premature aging of the wine, and degradation of flavors.
- Store your wine at a horizontal angle. Wine is traditionally stored sideways to keep the cork from drying out, but this isn’t necessary if it will be consumed in a short period of time.
- Keep your wine humid. 50–80% humidity is considered optimal. Any higher and mold can grow.
- Keep your wine still. Too much jostling can cause chemical reactions in the wine, and sediment in older wines will be disturbed.
Once you’ve properly taken care of your bottle of wine, be sure its integrity is maintained on its journey to the glass.
Generally speaking, red wines should be served between 55–60°F (13–16°C), whites should be served from 50–55°F (10–13°C), and sparkling wines from 45–50°F (7–10°C). Within those general ranges, specific varietals have their own optimal serving temperatures for the best drinking experience.
Recommended serving temperatures will optimize the sensation of the wine’s bouquet, body, tannin, acidity, and subtle flavors such as floral, earthy, or fruity. See the list of wine serving temperatures below:
Wine Serving Temperature Guidelines
|Vintage Port||66°F (19°C)|
|Bordeaux, Shiraz||64°F (18°C)|
|Red Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon||63°F (17°C)|
|Pinot Noir||61°F (16°C)|
|Chianti, Zinfandel||59°F (15°C)|
|Tawny Port, Madeira||57°F (14°C)|
|Ideal Wine Storage Temperature||55°F (13°C)|
|Beaujolais, Rose||55°F (12°C)|
|Ice Wines||43°F (6°C)|
|Asti Spumanti||41°F (5°C)|
|Refrigerator Temperature||35°F (2°C)|
How are these ideal temperatures achieved? After removing the bottle from storage, leave a red wine at room temperature to let the wine’s temperature gently rise. A white or sparkling wine can be placed in the refrigerator or in an ice bath to chill to the proper serving temperature.
Quickly spot-check the temperature of the wine with an instant-read thermometer like a ThermoPop® to make sure you’ve reached the target temperature. Traditional wine thermometers that wrap around the bottle only tell you the surface temperature of the bottle, not the temperature of the wine you’re about to serve. Suspend a instant-read thermometer, like the ThermoPop into the neck of the bottle and into the wine itself to get an accurate reading.
➤ Thermal Tip: Hold the Glass by the Stem
Always hold a wine glass by the stem rather than cupping the bowl of the glass in the palm of your hand. Body temperature is higher than the serving temperature of wine whether it’s red or white, and your body heat will warm the glass and the wine more rapidly if the glass is held in the palm of your hand. Wine glasses have stems specifically to help maintain the wine’s optimal serving temperature.
An assortment of artisan cheeses is often on the menu for holiday parties. But how should you store and serve the cheese for the best flavor and texture?
Fine handcrafted cheeses are a product of labor-intensive processes. Once you’ve sought out the perfect cheeses to include for your event, you’ll want to make sure the cheeses are as delicious as they can be by treating them properly after you’ve brought them home.
Tips for Storing
- Temperature: At 50–60°F (10–16°C) in a humid, dark area. This temperature range is colder than room temperature but warmer than refrigerator temperature. Cellars, cold storage, and wine coolers are often this temperature. This range will allow aged cheeses to continue developing their complex flavors. If stored at refrigerator temperatures (typically about 36°F [2°C]) the cheese’s active bacteria goes dormant. Generally, the same storage temperature as for wine!
- Wrap: Cheese should be loosely wrapped in waxed or parchment paper, not plastic. Air-tight plastic wrapping traps moisture and encourages the growth of mold and bacteria. Also when stored air-tight, cheese can be infused with strong flavors (such as ammonia) that would normally dissipate wrapped in breathable paper.
- Cutting: Cut just before serving. Purchase cheese from a vendor who can cut a portion from a full wheel of cheese fresh for you. Keeping the cheese intact in its rind for as long as possible ensures that the cheese is able to maintain the maximum amount of flavor. Once cut, cheeses begin to lose volatile aromas and flavors.
Much like wine, the complex flavors of aged cheeses are best experienced when served at their proper temperature. When you’ve invested time and money into selecting cheeses, you’ll want to put the same amount of care into storing and serving them.
At cold refrigerated temperatures, the milk fat in cheese is hard and waxy, much like cold butter. Gently warming the cheese to room temperature will soften the milk fat for a more pleasant mouthfeel. Serving cheese at cold temperatures directly from the refrigerator also subdues its complex flavors and aromas.
Cheeses should be served at room temperature for the best texture and flavor. Arrange your cheeses on a board and let them sit at room temperature for a full hour prior to serving. Room temperature is considered anywhere in the range of about 65–75°F (18-24°C), with 68-72°F (20-22°C) being the most optimal range for serving cheese.
Don’t “Sweat” It
Avoid serving cheese at temperatures of 80°F (27°C) or above. At these higher temperatures, milk fat begins to melt and surface on the outside of the cheese, giving it the appearance of beads of sweat (pictured at right). Keep the cheese in its sweet spot temperature range of 68-72°F (20-22°C).
Once your wine and cheese are at their target temperatures, it’s time to relax and enjoy being with your guests! Be sure to get the most out of your wines and cheeses this holiday season. Cheers!