America, you are drinking your white wine too cold! I’ve ranted plenty over the years about wine serving temperatures, shaking my fist in the air as I decry the belief shared by far too many of my fellow countrymen (and women) that red wine should be served at “room temperature” while white wines should be served “chilled.” This philosophy is not just wrong, it’s illogical. And all it takes to disprove it is serving the same bottle of wine at various temperatures. I’ve demonstrated this dozens of times; in fact, I once hosted a seminar at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen called “Temperature Tantrum.” (Yeah, I’m a little passionate—okay, obsessed—about discrediting this misinformation.) All it takes to impress imbibers is progression of red wines tasted from “room temperature” down to around 55 degrees. Every time, without fail, people prefer cooler red wines.
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White wine is often a bigger surprise. That’s because most folks follow the directive that whites should be chilled. But pay attention to that word: chilled. As in, cooled down. Not "served a few degrees above freezing," or "iced into oblivion." The truth is that kitchen refrigerators are typically set at around 38 degrees F., which is way too cold for white wines. Serve a white at 38 degrees and you know what it tastes like? Alcoholic water. There’s no flavor: that level of chill kills it dead. So what’s the correct temperature, then? That depends. The rule of thumb—and this goes for all wines, white or red—is the lighter the wine, the colder it should be served; the bigger the wine, the warmer. That’s why a ripe, rich, California Cabernet blend tastes better at around 60, while a lower-alcohol, less robust Oregon Pinot Noir tastes better in the low 50s.