Is it correct that white wines should be served chilled, and reds should be served at room temperature?
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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it correct that when serving white wines they should be served chilled, and when serving reds they should be served at room temperature?
—Terrance J., High Point, N.C.
Serving temperatures are really a matter of personal preference, but most people seem to like their whites chilled and their reds at room temperature. Many connoisseurs think that Americans in particular tend to drink our whites too cold and our reds too warm. I bet that's because most folks chill their whites in the refrigerator (where they can get cold enough to suppress a wine's aromatics) and serve their reds at the ambient room temperature (which can be a bit on the warm side, depending on your definition of "room temperature").
More specifically, I think whites show their best anywhere from about 40 to 50 degrees F (the lighter-bodied whites at the colder end of the spectrum, the fuller-bodied whites at the warmer end). To give you some perspective, most food refrigerators are around 35 or 40 degrees F. So think of serving whites a bit cooler than a wine cellar, but warmer than a refrigerator.
For reds, you would typically want them warmer than cellar temperature, but still a bit cooler than most room temperatures—say, 60 to 65 degrees F. Also keep in mind that a wine served cool will warm up in the glass, while a wine served warm will only get warmer. Above all, let your own preferences be your guide.