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Ideal Wine Storage and Serving Temperature Guide | Red and White Wines

March 27, 2020
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Scott
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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.

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.

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.

The stakes are set, then. Not adhering to an ideal wine storage temp is bad.

So let’s do some good!

Red Wine Storage Temperature

55°F is considered the all-around 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 considered the ideal white wine storage temperature, too. 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.

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.

Wine Storage Temp 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. Wine is chemistry, and 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.

Red Wine Serving Temperature

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

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.

Pro tip: 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.

White Wine Serving Temperature

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.

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.

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. 

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 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.