All wines may share certain characteristics, but their differences are significant enough to complicate the serving situation. To properly serve a wine, it is not enough to pour it into a pretty glass and hand it to your guests. Each wine category requires its own glass type and serving temperature; even within the larger group, different styles of wines require more precise techniques. The exact temperatures and size and shape of the glasses are not critical, but general guidelines should be observed.
Red wine is known for its tannins, compounds which can be astringent to the palate. They can also overwhelm the other flavors of the wine. To counteract these, red wine should be served close to room temperature, at about 60 F. Red wine also needs to breathe, allowing some of the flavors break through the harsher aspects. Therefore, reds should be served in large glasses with wide bowls. This allows the wine to be swished around, exposing it to more air.
White wine, containing fewer tannins, can be served at a lower temperature than red wine. Between 50 and 55 F, white wine reaches its peak. Since white wine also need not breathe, it requires smaller and narrower glasses which do not expose it to so much air. The smaller glass also means that the wine has less contact with the warmer glass, slowing the rate at which the wine heats up.
Wine benefits from an even lower serving temperature than white wine, as it also lacks the overpowering tannins of reds. Approximately 50 F is the warmest a rosé should be drunk. Due to its lower serving temperature, rosé wines need glasses similar to those for white wine to maintain the lower temperature.
Sparkling wine utilizes the lowest temperature of the main wines, 45 to 50 F. To properly form the bubbles which gives the wine its name, narrow glasses are essential. The longer stem typical of the champagne flute offers a grip on the glass which does not directly affect the wine’s temperature, helping it remain chilled.
Taking It All into Account
While the serving temperatures and different glasses can be frustrating to remember, each specification ensures your wine will be enjoyed to its fullest. If you wish to simplify the process, serve the wines in order of temperature, from the coldest to the warmest. Taking out the white and red wines while serving the champagne lets them reach the appropriate temperatures, provided the white is served first. In the right glass, at the right temperature, a good wine will complement any meal you serve and fix the evening in every guest’s memory.