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. Just make sure to invest in a good wine tracker so you don't lose track of your collection.
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. You don't have to worry about cooking wine, any shelf will do.
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. You should also make sure not to move the wine too much and let it settle to avoid bottle shock in wine. 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. There's plenty of wine varietal-specific information available in some of the best wine books.
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 in wine that can change a full, round flavor profile into a flat, tannic, vinegary cudgel. Don't worry if it gets too cold. You can freeze wine, but should be alright once thawed.
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.
This is why wine dead stock happens so quickly. If you store wines the wrong way, you can kiss them goodbye.
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 liquor inventory sheet 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
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. You should also look into other topics like the calories in red wine.