In general whites are stored in quite cool temperatures. My long-term whites like my long-term reds are stored at 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit). But then I have usually about 6 - 8 'ready-to-serve' whites in my kitchen refrigerator which are stored at 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit). This is too cold a temperature to serve most white wines. In general, excellent white wines (Montrachets and other aged Chardonnays and Semillons) should be served at 10 - 14 degrees Celsius (50 - 57 degrees Fahrenheit) to really release their great flavors and bouquet. Typically good white wines (Most other Chardonnays, Rieslings, Pinot Grigios, etc.) served at 7 - 10 degrees Celsius (45 - 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and bad white wines as chilled as you like!
Boxed white wines and lower quality white wines are usually served very cold as they are lacking flavor anyway. What most 'bad' white wine drinkers are looking for a a refreshing, cool drink and lots of alcohol! But if you want to get the most flavor out of a white wine that it has to offer, then you should warm it up a few degrees.
In the past, I made the mistake of storing and serving my white wines too cold, especially if I took an excellent white wine directly from the fridge. Now I tend to take the wine out of the fridge for about 15 minutes to let it rise in temperature a few degrees and become more flavorful. This is often accomplished by putting the bottle in a carrying case to bring to a restaurant and the time it takes to get to the restaurant is perfect in terms of the wine being a few degrees warmer. Or if I am going to serve it at home, I let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes before serving it.
For an excellent white wine, especially a great and aged Chardonnay, I now let the wine warm up to about 12 degrees or so. (Note that I do not actually take the temperature of the wine, but rather just feel the bottle and compare the bottle to room temperature.) A bottle such as a great Montrachet or the Penfolds Yatarnna deserve this type of treatment and you will definitely notice the improved bouquet of wine in your nose and taste of the wine on your palate.
I love taking a sip when it is still 'too cold' and swirling an excellent white wine around my mouth. The body temperature of my mouth warms the wine almost immediately and over several minutes, you can pick up a variety of different tastes that keep changing over time. It is an amazing experience and worth savoring!
Champagnes and sparkling wines are usually served even more chilled than while wines. For low-end sparklings, you can serve them at 4 - 6 degrees Celsius, but good Champagnes should be served at a somewhat higher temperature.
While difficult to discern by other than expert tasters, Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy relates the different experiences he has had with the 1996 Moet and Chandon Dom Perignon Champagne:
- at 8°C, mineral and a little closed, perfect with an oyster tartare
- at 9°C, moderately open, to be matched with crayfish
- at 10°, complements wild salmon magnificently
- at 11°, chardonnay's butter notes appear, volume amplifies
- at 12°, delicate mushroom aromas appear
- at 13°, pinot noir aromas, tannins! serve with a lamb tajine
- at 14°, smoky flavours and yoghurt aromas are revealed
- at 16°, aromas of meringue and walnuts, amazing intensity - magical with a tarte Tatin with candied violets
You deserve the enhanced flavor of letting a great white wine warm up a few degrees towards room temperature to enhance the taste. A number of people will take a great white wine directly out of their long-term cellar at 14 degrees Celsius (by now you should know this is 57 degrees Fahrenheit!) and serving it.
|Right way - no ice|
|Wrong! Do not use ice!|
And if this all seems just too hard, then for white wine, take it out of the fridge for 20 minutes before serving it and leave it at that. That is as good a rule of thumb as any.