Jeff Josenhans | Drink Shrink
I’m always impressed by the growing number of individuals in the general public who are starting to appreciate wine and beer served at the proper temperature. They know that everything served ice cold is not a good thing anymore. That’s not to say that Corona still isn’t best ice cold or that grocery-shelf Asti Spumante sparkling isn’t tasty at 40 degrees, but believe it or not, there is something called “ideal varietal temperature” in the industry to help guide both restaurants and home consumers.
The basic premise is that most refrigerators are set about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. To reach higher temperatures you can take your wine or beer out a little earlier than when you plan to drink it, or you can get fancy and get one of those Costco wine storage units like I have had for years.
Besides cheap, cold, beer, nothing really “should” be served at refrigerator temperature. Why not? There is no definite answer to this because if you like it that cold, then 35 degrees is exactly the temperature you should be drinking your wine or beer at. However, it is beneficial to know that the person who designed and put their heart into making that beverage certainly did not intend for it to be served at that temperature.
The rule of thumb is generally high acid, lesser-bodied white wines, such as a Riesling or Champagne, should be drank at around 45 degrees, and fuller-bodied whites such as American Chardonnay or Viognier should be consumed at around 50 degrees.
For reds, the same rule applies, but with a different range of temperatures. For example, Pinots are typically served closer to 55 degrees and Napa cabs about 65 degrees. Note that just like the excessively cold temperature in the fridge is bad, room temperature in San Diego is almost always bad for reds. I know, it’s like whatever is inconvenient is what works best. But it’s worth the work once you get used to it.
What about beer? A quality pilsner or Hefeweizen should be served about 45 degrees, a full 10 degrees above fridge temp; IPAs and Belgians more like 50 degrees; and stouts closer to room temperature at 60 degrees. You want to keep beer refrigerated and away from light. Most beer is not meant to be saved, with the exception of some strong and intensely flavored beers, like an Imperial Stout.
Can you keep that bottle of wine you got for your birthday last year for decades in your closet? The answer is that most wine, like beer, is not meant for aging. A young Bordeaux on the other hand has to be aged. A good rule to follow is that more expensive European producers age well, as do the top tier of Bordeaux blends and cabernets coming out of Napa Valley.
Whenever I get the question of what is a good bottle of wine to buy a young adult to open on their 21st birthday, I always say a nice bottle of vintage port wine, unless you want to spend a small fortune.
When storing wine or beer, you want to focus on two things — light and temperature. You want to be in as much dark as possible, preferably with a little humidity. You also want to avoid fluctuations in temperature and should seek a spot that will stay between 55 degrees and 75 degrees year-round.
I hope this helps you with handling a few Christmas presents this year or inspires you to try serving your wine or beer at a new temperature for Thanksgiving. Let me know if you do. I would love to hear how it went!
—Level 2 CMS Sommelier and Master Mixologist Jeff Josenhans has changed the dynamic in The Grant Grill Downtown from a classic institution to an exciting lounge and elegant restaurant. Taking the kitchen’s “Farm to Table” philosophy to the bar, he has developed a seasonal cocktail program based largely on the hotel’s rooftop garden. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.