Truth be told – can your Sauvignon Blanc be too cold?

Summer in the Cape Winelands easily sees temperatures in the late thirties and even early fourties and a well-chilled glass of wine, is just the answer to the heat. But does serving your wine at a really low temperature affect the taste?

Renowned wine expert, Jancis Robinson says: “It is impossible to over-estimate the effect of serving temperatures on how a wine will taste. Serving a wine at the most flattering temperature may seem absurdly high-falutin’ and precious as an activity, but it really can transform ink into velvet and, conversely, zest into flab. (Unlike the wine itself, it need not cost anything either…)”

Keeping that in mind, we thought to share a few thoughts on the ideal serving temperature for wine. The two main ideas to consider, are:

  • Temperature affects the nose of the wine. The cooler it is, the less pronounce the nose will be.
  • Temperature also affects the taste of the wine. The warmer it is, the softer the acidity and tannin will taste.

Hopefully you never have to manipulate temperature to disguise the nose or palate of a wine, but you can definitely enhance the drinking experience! Do that extra bit of effort, serve your wine at the ideal temperature and get the maximum enjoyment – whether your bottle is an easy-drinker or a very special vintage.

Wines with an aromatic nose such as Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc can be served quite cool, especially on that warm Boland days we talked about earlier. Sparkling wine and Champagne can also be served nice and cold as the carbon dioxide will then release slower and your glass will stay full of bubbles for longer.

Complex and full-bodied wines with integrated flavours need to be served warmer in order to release the flavours. “Warmer” is usually seen as slightly below room temperature which is considered to be approximately 20°C. So when you want to serve a wine at room temperature and you are in the midst of summer, please consider cooling it! Serving wine warmer than 20°C is never recommended, unless it is glühwein!

It is therefore not as simple as serving white wines cold and red wines warmer. Some lighter red wines definitely show better when lightly chilled and some complex whites will not show their true colours when they are served too cold. Although experts differ on the exact temperatures, we would like to share Jancis’ handy guide as to serving temperatures for wine:

Wine Style Ideal serving temperature °C/F Refredigerator hours
Light, sweet, whites 5-10/40-50 4+
Sparkling whites 6-10/42-50 4
Light (aromatic) dry whites 8-12/46-54 2
Sparkling reds 10-12/50-54 1.5
Medium bodied, dry whites, rosé 10-12/50-54 1.5
Full sweet whites 8-12/46-54 2
Light reds 10-12/50-54 1.5
Full dry whites 12-16/54-60 1
Medium reds 14-17/57-63 -
Full or tannic reds 15-18/59-65 -

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