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Storage and Service Termperatures

Temperature for Service and Storage

Know the service temperatures for your wines and train staff to know. It's impossible for a restaurant to have multiple zones that perfectly match all styles. Chablis at 42 and KJ at 48 makes sense even with both being Chardonnay.

The classic service temperatures for wines are as follows from most chilled to least. These were of course established in Europe where cellar temperatures in classic wine regions are “naturally” this temperature, and room temperature is quite cooler than what most in the U.S. would suggest. 

 

Sweet & Sparkling (well chilled) 43-50°F 6-10°C
Light body, whites and rose (chilled) 45-50°F 7-10°C
Full bodied white and light bodied red (lightly chilled) 50-55°F 10-13°C
Medium to Full Body Red (room temperature) 59-64°F 15-18°C

From the above chart you can see that according to European standards, many Americans drink their reds too warm and their whites too cold. Don’t get in a fight with your customer BUT know how your wines perform at various temperatures. It’s easy enough to drop a Burgundy or Beaujolais (or Willamette) into an ice bath for a couple minutes to just edge the wine to its sweet spot. We had a glass of big oaky Chard sent back that had been served at about 40F that I warmed in my hands, poured into a new glass after 3 minutes and it was the “best wine they ever had”. Sauvignon Blanc is another that when too cold is abrasive, get a good one to 45-50 degrees and the fruit will emerge to stand up to the acid.

Other guidelines (for dry wines) include:

Body higher - temperature higher
High aromatics like slightly higher temperatures
Clumsy wine likes low temperatures

Culture will predispose optimal serving temeratures, having an ice bath will let you chill a wine that has been opened quickly with minimal nuisance to the guest

Many Americans drink their reds too warm and their whites too cold. Don’t get in a fight with your customer BUT know how your wines perform at various temperatures. It’s easy enough to drop a Burgundy or Beaujolais (or Willamette) into an ice bath for a couple minutes to just edge the wine to its sweet spot. I had a glass of big oaky Chard sent back that had been served at about 40F that I warmed in my hands, poured into a new glass after 3 minutes and it was the “best wine they ever had”. Sauvignon Blanc is another that when too cold is abrasive, get a good one to 45-50 degrees and the fruit will emerge to stand up to the acid.

That said, a bad wine will generally fall apart as it gets closer to room temp. If you have a “name brand” mass produced wine on your list, a few degrees extra chill will let it show a bit better.

brine bathGenerally the choices are throwing the bottle in the freezer, throwing it in ice water or placing in a brine solution. A 3 gallon container with 3 cups of salt, about half a gallon or so of water and lots of ice are a good brine base. With this mixture you can drop a bottle of wine from 75 to 40 in just over 5 minutes. Sparkling wine with its thicker bottles was similar, possibly a minute slower in reaching serving temperature. The chilling rate slows as the wine gets colder with another 5 minutes required to get a bottle to 36 from 40. A freezer will take over an hour to accomplish this same cooling. Agitation of the bottle improved the cooling time by a couple degrees but at a rate seemingly not worth the constant effort. That said, a quick inversion of the bottle once or twice during the cooling would seem worth it. Having a brine solution ready for evening service is a requirement and gives much flexibility in adjusting service temperatures. A 2 minute bath for a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir can drop the temp just enough to allow it to better show its qualities. Even with chilled sparkling wine, dropping it into the brine for 3-4 minutes while preparing service items is a good idea and is quite noticeable to a discerning palate.