The first step to ensure that wine makes its way to the table at a desirable serving temperature is to designate an area in the restaurant for storage, not located next to a heated area. If the restaurant has a cellar, the temperature should be kept ideally at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper storage is essential to keep wine at its best and maintain its freshness, particularly for restaurants with extensive wine lists, featuring rare wines that don’t move as quickly.
Consumers have become accustomed to drinking white wine very cold and red wine too warm. Staff should be informed and trained about this. In theory, white wines, rosés and sparkling wines should be served chilled but not cold, and red wines, cellar temperature, not room temperature.
Served too warm, red wine can appear harsh, flabby and unfavorably high in alcohol. Served too cold, it can seem overtly tannic and acidic. White wine served too cold stifles its flavors and nuances. The synergy between what is in your glass and on your plate will be more evident when the wine is able to express itself and pair harmoniously with the food.
As a guide to serving temperatures, Champagne and sparkling wine should be served between 43 to 45˚. Dry, simple white wine and rosé should be served between 44 and 50˚. For complex white wines and for vintage Champagne, serve at 50 to 52˚. Light to medium, fruit-forward red wines should be served at 55 to 58˚ with full-bodied, bold red wines served between 58 and 62˚.
For by-the-glass service, red wines should be kept at cellar temperature and pulled just prior to service. If your restaurant does not have a wine cellar large enough to store the red wines by the glass, allow thirty minutes for them in the refrigerator before service begins. White wines by the glass can be stored at room temperature and iced down for thirty minutes prior to service.
After the initial wine presentation and service at the table, servers and sommeliers should ask the guests, particularly for white wine, if they’d prefer that the bottle of white wine to be left on the table to come down in temperature or conversely if they would prefer to have it kept chilled.
Following these guidelines will ensure that the wine measures up to its potential and pleasingly delivers an optimal drinking experience for the guest.
Step by Step
1. Keep wines stored at proper cellar temperature of 55 degrees.
2. Educate staff about the benefits of drinking wine at the right temperature.
3. Follow the temperature-serving guidelines above for the different types of wine.
4. Ice down white wines by the glass and pull red wines from cellar prior to service.
5. Ask guests their temperature preference for their wine after bottle presentation.