Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Serve French Wines...Particularly in the Summer!

Pin It Most of us have been brought up to serve red wines, particularly French red wines, at "room temperature"... but what exactly is room temperature?

When the words room temperature (in French “chambré") were coined centuries ago, dining rooms were much cooler than those of today. Huge rooms were heated only by a log fire and, certainly, “room temperature” was never intended to mean the temperature of our present-day, centrally-heated or air conditioned homes.

The right temperature for red wine is about 15.5°C to 18°C (60° to 65°F). Regional and vin de table wines may even be served a little cooler. To achieve this, particularly in the summer, I usually stick the bottle in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes prior to serving. In the summer, I have seen the French stick a bottle or red wine right into a bucket of ice, particularly if it is a vin de table and you are in a bistro. The grand crus are a different story.

White and rosé wines are served slightly chilled (around 10°C or 50°F) and one hour on the shelf of the refrigerator will bring them to the right temperature. Most of us tend to chill them too long. Try this sometimes, particularly with a good Burgundy, such as a Mersault, and you will taste a big difference. I usually place them in an ice bucket for a half hour prior to serving .

Champagne and other sparkling wines take longer to chill and are left in the refrigerator for a few hours. If you use an ice bucket, an hour should be more than enough, although this is one time when too cold is not an issue for me.

General rules:

Young wines are served COOLER than old wines

Do NOT FORGET that wine heats up in the glass during the meal . A wine served at between 6°C (43° and 46°F) in a room having a temperature of 18°C (64°F) will reach a temperature of 10° to 12°C (50° to 54°F) within about 10 minutes. Keep an ice bucket nearby so you can place the bottle back after pouring.

Mistakes with white wines:
Over-chilling or icing
Leaving in the refrigerator for over two hours
Using the freezing compartment or the freezer
Putting ice-cubes in the wine (I kill people for doing that!)

Mistakes with red wines

Serving them too warm or too cold

So, take note and give your wines every break they deserve, particularly in the summer. A wine, no matter the vineyard or the vintage, is always at its best when it is at the right temperature!


  1. Great article.I did not know that red wines needed to be chilled or could be chilled. Now I will stick a few in the fridge before my next dinner party.

  2. Just for 15 minutes or bring down to "room temperature"! you will enjoy them more!


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