Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Serving Wine: To Chill or Not to Chill?

One of the most frequent questions we get from visitors to the winery is about the proper temperature for serving wine. It’s a valid query, because served either too cold or too warm, a wine will taste considerably different. And contrary to what many restaurants would have you believe, an ice bucket is not always “right” for white wines and “wrong” for reds.

When wines are served too cold, be they white or red, the aromas and flavors will be very subdued, and can even seem non-existent, while the acid and (in red wine) tannin levels will seem pronounced. As wine warms up — and you’ll often see professional tasters “warming” a wine by holding their hands around the goblet of the wine glass — aromas and flavors emerge, and so gradually does the perception of alcohol. If a wine is too warm, however, the alcohol may seem overwhelming, its aromas and flavors may be muddled, and the overall impression will be unstructured and flabby.

So what’s the ideal temperature? Well, it’s hard to make sweeping statements, because the perfect serving temperature will vary according to the varietal and style of wine. But there are some useful guidelines. Generally speaking, white wines are best when served at approximately 50 to 60° F. — on the lower end for bright, racy whites (such as Sauvignon Blanc) and the higher end for those wines that are richer and fuller in body (such as Chardonnay). Reds should be served a little warmer but not much, about 60° F. for light-bodied, delicate wines (i.e. Pinot Noir) and 65° F. for heavier, more tannic ones (Cabernet Sauvignon). Of course, the best rule of thumb is to avoid extremes and to experiment a little to see what temperature appeals to you.

Getting it Cold, Fast Need to chill a wine down quickly? Don’t stick it in an ice bucket with ice…it’ll take too long. Instead, fill the bucket with half ice and half cold water, then put your wine in. It will take about 20 minutes for a white wine to go from room temperature to 55° F, and about 10 minutes for a room-temperature red to go to 65° F. This is a great way to chill other beverages too.