Why you shouldn't always drink wine at room temperature

Australia, we're doing wine wrong. We're "anaesthetising" it, in the words of one expert.

We make some of the best plonk in the world. Big, punchy reds from the dust and sun of Mclaren Vale and the Barossa. Cool, complex pinots from Tasmania's wild coasts.

But, according to the experts, we're not bothering to adequately control a variable that plays a surprisingly large role in the way a wine tastes: temperature.

In fact, controlling temperature degree-by-degree can result in dramatically different wines, experts say.

You're doing it wrong

You've probably heard that Australians drink red wine too warm – room temperature, which is the recommended serving temp, is of course dramatically colder in Europe than Australia.

But it goes further than this, Taylors Wines' resident master of wine Neil Hadley told Fairfax. A few degrees difference rendered huge changes in the palate of the wine, he said – including white, which we serve way too cold.

"Red wine served too warm loses its balance of subtle flavours because the alcohol and tannins overpower the flavours and aromas, so by chilling for just 30 minutes, you get the complexity and balance of flavours that the winemaker intended," says Neil.

Serving suggestions

A slightly colder red will exhibit more subtle and balanced flavours, he said. And a warmer white will allow the wine's fruits to bloom, balancing the acidity.

White wine


Best served at 6-12 degrees depending on variety (a typical fridge is 2-4 degrees)

Red wine

Best served at 12-18 degrees depending on variety (typical room temperature is around 21 degrees)

Time to cool

Phillip Hude, Owner of Armadale Cellars, advises on a long glass of slightly-cooled water before your glass of claret. That will cleanse the palate, but also cool the tongue. A cooler tongue picks up a wine's complexity more than a warm tongue – or a parched tongue.

He advises sticking a bottle of red in the fridge for 30 minutes before opening, to just put a light chill on the wine.

"Too cold will accentuate the oak. Too warm will accentuate the alcohol, which is the back-palate part, it will almost give you a burning sensation, and to some degree accentuate the riper characteristics in the fruit."

Freezing the flavour

The average Australian fridge is set between two and four degrees – and that's exactly where most people store their white wine. The problem: that's way too cold.

"Aussies are shocking at anaesthetising their wines," Mr Hude said. "The greatest problem with dining at a restaurant is it comes out of the fridge and gets plunged into an ice-bucket. You're refreshing yourself, but are you seeing the essential lemons and limes and beautiful subtle characters in the wine?"

Taylors' latest marketing campaign is a small colour-change sticker affixed to their wine bottles. The stickers measure a wine's temperature and will indicate when it's perfect to pour – in theory.

Have you tried chilling your reds or warming your whites? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.