We all know that white wine is served chilled, while red is served at room temperature, which has brought up a recurring discussion during our staff trainings, because not all wines are create equal and neither are temperatures.
Let's start with red. We're Californians in wine country, we drink red wine and we're comfortable drinking it at any temperature. Whatever room temp is, that is what we go with for our daily glass of red, but if you're having a party or a particularly good (or particularly bad) bottle, then chill it properly to get the most out of it.
That classic rule of thumb to serve red wine at room temp is from a different era, an era when room temp was typically in the low 60's, not 72 degrees, or (forgive us wine gods) a 95 degree summer day! In catering the wine is coming out of the case at whatever the outdoor temp is that day, and we typically don't have much or any refrigeration at the event site. So our rule of thumb is to place the bottle on top of a bed of ice for 15 minutes for the first 10 degrees of cooling, then an additional 5 minutes for each 10 degrees more. Shoot for 60 as the room temp wine glass will warm it up a little bit.
White wine is more complicated. It uses the same cooling technique, but the proper temp varies by type:
Dry White 50◦ to 55◦ About 20 minutes on iceSweet White 45◦ to 50◦ About 25 minutes on ice Estimated cooling times are
Sparkling 40◦ to 45◦ About 30 minutes on ice based on starting in the low 70’s
Port 60◦ to 65◦ About 15 minutes on ice
Another good rule is that poor wine should be chilled further. Making it colder will knock out some elements of a bad flavor profile. The worse the wine, the lower the temp.
My favorite rule comes from my sommelier professor in college: "It's your wine, drink it however YOU like it". The rules only help us get the most out of our wine, they don't dictate what we like.