When it comes to wine, probably the biggest mistake made by restaurant servers involves serving Chardonnay too cold.
And that’s not a swipe at the servers. Most do the best they can with what they have to work with – which can include cooling units set too low, policies that call for all opened white wines to be placed in ice buckets, and a general lack of knowledge on the part of restaurant owners.
We never expect to experience absolutely perfect wine service because the proper serving temperature varies – and sometimes quite widely – by wine type. However, knowing the ideal temperature for each variety can help you to help the servers do a better job for you.
A general rule of thumb is that the lighter the style of wine, the cooler it should be. Ideally, varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio should be served at around 45 to 50 degrees to accentuate their crisp and clean qualities.
Chardonnay, however, should be served about 5 to 10 degrees warmer. Otherwise, its lovely aromatics can be muted. And that would be a shame because Chardonnay is almost as much fun to smell as it is to drink.
For light- to medium-bodied red wines – Pinot Noir,
Beaujolais, fruit-forward Merlot – the ideal temperature is about 60 degrees. Full-bodied reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel – can be served even warmer. Keep in mind, however, that the warmer they’re served, the more assertive their alcohol becomes. It’s a balance between muting the flavors and overwhelming the palate with a sense of “hotness.”
A good tip: If a wine seems “hot” in your throat, cool it down. If it’s difficult to get much aroma out of a wine, warm it up.