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Wine Storage & Serving Temperature Guide | Red & White Wines

March 27, 2020
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Scott

Virtually all wine professionals agree that wine storing temperature and wine serving temperature are different things. The serving temperature between white and red wines varies—as, indeed, does the serving temperature between the different types of whites and different types of reds.

But wine storage temperature is simpler, thankfully. And it gets even easier with refrigerated wine storage cabinets and other wine storage furniture.

In this post, we’ll cover why wine storage temperatures differ from wine serving temperatures and what the ideal storing and serving temperatures are for the primary types of wine.

Wine Storage Temperature

Wine is uniquely sensitive to changes in temperature. The wines we drink today are the product of literally thousands of years of experimentation and refinement. Generations of people spent lifetimes slowly turning the screw of oenology to find specific combinations and interactions of chemicals that shape desired tastes, aromas, and colors. Wine is a fundamentally complex and fragile creation.

Red Wine Storage Temperature

55°F is the optimal red wine storage temperature. That’s not a strict guideline, either. 1–2 degrees cooler or warmer is still an ideal red wine storage temp. As long as the temperature is being maintained consistently.

White Wine Storage Temperature

55°F is the ideal white wine storage temperature. And, likewise, a few degrees up or down from there is still safe. Again, as long as the storage temperature remains consistent.

Can it really be this simple? Yeah, awesomely it can. While some wines would benefit from 53 or 54 degrees, and others 56 or 57 degrees, the difference when storing them is negligible. Success when you’re storing wines means providing a stable, non-destructive environment that protects wine from extreme and volatile temperatures. A few degrees here or there isn’t terribly important.

Why Does Wine Storage Temperature Matter?

Storing wine at ideal temperatures encourages desired chemical interactions. Too cold or too hot and molecules begin to slow down, break down, or otherwise change and fail. That’s why wine storing temperature matters. We’re talking about nothing less than preserving the identity and life of your wine.

Here are some simple rules to follow, along with best practices for long- and short-term wine storing temperatures.

Wine Storage Temperature Tips

The Two Rules of Wine Storage

To account for its delicacy, there are two fundamental rules of wine storage temperature. The first rule of wine storage temperature is to keep it cool. If the unique chemical structure of wine is the china shop, heat is the bull. If wine is exposed to temperatures in excess of 77°F for long periods of time, its brittle molecular structure is bulldozed. It develops off-flavors and sharp, one-dimensional aromas. And while heat will ruin wine more significantly and quickly than cold, storing wine in too cool a temperature is likewise a problem. Bright wine cellar lighting has the same risks. And a good wine cellar app can help you mitigate those risks through effective cellar management.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, high and low temperatures also affect the integrity and seal of the cork. If the cork fails in any way, even in ways imperceptible to the human eye, the amount of air allowed in begins a process of oxidation that can change a full, round flavor profile into a flat, tannic, vinegary cudgel.

The second rule of wine storage temperature is consistency. The composition of wine reacts to its temperature. If wine is constantly reacting to temperatures, that means the chemical fabric of the wine is always moving and changing. And slowly breaking apart.

Long-Term Wine Storage Temperature

Red wines that you plan on holding on to for years (or decades) should be stored at a stable temperature between 53°F and 57°F. Temperatures warmer than 57°F run the risk of aging wine too quickly, while temperatures under 53°F may prevent the proper development of the wine’s flavor. Here's some more info about aged wines.

Short-Term Wine Storage Temperature

A majority of wines produced and purchased today are intended to be consumed sooner rather than later. So you can store them accordingly. Most wine enthusiasts and those studying at any of the sommelier levels have a rule of thumb: if you plan on storing a bottle of wine for less than six months before consuming it, you’re better off storing it at its ideal serving temperature.

Using a wine cellar spreadsheet template can help you organize your wines and make sure you're keeping them cellared for the optimal time. The stakes are set, then. Not adhering to an ideal wine storing temperature is bad. So let’s do some good.

Wine Storage Temperature Chart

Red Wine White Wine
6+ Months Storage Time 55°F 55°F
0–6 Months Storage Time Serving temperature Serving temperature

Wine Serving Temperature

Wine serving temperatures are more varied because the goal of serving wine at a specific temperature isn’t to protect it from extremes or fluctuations. The goal of an ideal wine serving temperature is to provide the most ideal environment for the wine’s molecules to move freely. Only then will the tannins in wine, a wine’s acid level, and a host of other chemically-related markers fall into place.

Red Wine Serving Temperature

The optimal red wine serving temperature for full-bodied wines is between 60–65°F. Light- and medium-bodied red wines have a slightly larger, lower ideal serving temperature around 55–62°F.

While most people mistakenly believe that red wine should be stored and served at room temperature, 70°F is too high to create the best flavor profile.

Full-bodied reds have the most complex chemical and tannic structures. There’s more to break. That’s why they have the smallest optimal red wine serving temperature range. Examples of full-bodied reds include Burgundy, Bordeaux, pinot noir, shiraz, Barolo, merlot, and Port.

This includes light-bodied wines like pinot noir, gamay, and grenache, and medium-bodied wines like sangiovese, barbera, and cabernet franc.

White Wine Serving Temperature

Chardonnay, the biggest-bodied white wine, has the highest serving temperature of any white, at around 50–54°F. Other white wines are served much lower. The serving temperature for light- and medium-bodied whites, along with sparkling wines, is 43–50°F.

White wine serving temperature is generally lower than that of red wine. While extreme cold mutes most wine flavors and aromas, a slight dip in white wine serving temperature dulls only some undesirable wine characteristics while showcasing more-desirable ones. That’s why white wines benefit from a modest chill.

Why Does Wine Serving Temperature Matter?

Wine is chemistry. Our experience of wine depends on the way the constituent parts of wine, its molecules, behave. The goal of a wine serving temperature is to provide the ideal environment for the free movement of the wine’s molecules—the things we experience as flavors, colors, and aromas.

A wine serving temperature that’s too hot breaks down the wine’s structure, letting the durable ethanol molecules take over. You’ll notice a sharper, alcoholic taste. A wine serving temperature that’s too cold will mute the majority of flavors and aromas.

Here are some tips and tricks to hit the right serving temperature. Along with how to leverage room temperature to get there.

Wine Serving Temperature Tips

How Long to Chill White Wine

If you’re chilling white wine in a standard freezer or an ice bucket, the temperature goes down about 1°F every 3 minutes. As an example, if you pull your medium-bodied pinot grigio out of storage at 55°F, you should keep it on ice for 21 minutes to serve it at a crisp 48°F. 

What Does Room Temperature Mean for Wine?

Room temperature is about 72°F.  At room temperature, wine increases about 1°F every 8 minutes. As an example, if you pull your red wine out of storage at 55°F and want to serve it at 60°F, it must rest at room temperature for 40 minutes. Learning how to use a wine decanter is a good way to let your wine rest and open it up.

If you don’t have a decanter, you can also open up reds with bottle-top wine aerators. Check out our post on what wine aerators do and the pros and cons of using wine aerators vs. wine decanters.

Likewise, if you’ve taken a bottle of white wine out of a 40°F refrigerator and want to serve it at 50°F, you’ll need to let it sit at room temperature for roughly 80 minutes.

Wine Serving Temperature Chart

Wine Type Serving Temperature Time to Serving Temp from 55°F Storage
Full-Bodied Red 60–65°F 40–80 minutes at room temp
Light- and Medium-Bodied Red 55–62°F 0–56 minutes at room temp
Full-Bodied White 50–54°F 3–15 minutes on ice
Light- and Medium-Bodied White and Sparkling 43–50°F 15–36 minutes on ice

Ideal and Optimal Wine Temperatures 

Everything in this post is about the ideal or optimal wine storage and wine serving temperatures. It should be taken broadly for two reasons. First, a degree here or there is highly unlikely to ruin a bottle of wine. Second, the ideal serving temperature of specific white wines and red wines varies based on the varietal, style, complexity, and body. And third, there is no accounting for taste. If you like your pinot noirs at 65°F, then do it. You won’t ruin your wine. Don’t sweat it.

Either way, the last thing you should be doing with a half-decent bottle of wine is storing or serving it at room temperature.

Follow the guidelines here, accounting for personal preference, check out our home wine storage guide, hit your standard wine pours, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a sommelier in no time.