When your favourite white wines are served too cold, their unique and specific aromas and flavours are reduced, inhibited and even shut-down - making the wine seem less expressive, shy, thin and short on the palate and being described as not very interesting or pleasing.
It is agreed by those in the know that serving a white wine too cold is like putting a filter over the top of your wine. You cover up the wines natural fruit aromas, along with its more subtle herb or mineral notes. And at extremely low temperatures, it is like serving alcoholic water. But there is the other side - when white wines are served too warm, they lose their structure and the fruit in the wine becomes flat, tired and even flabby in character, losing their freshness and lively personality.
Having any influence on the serving temperature in a café, restaurant is not so simple - but we can do a few simple things at home to better enjoy wine. Many of your favourite cafes and restaurants have their fridges supplied by the breweries or designed with a serving temperature for all products stored inside at around 4ºC. This is far too cold for all of your favourite white wines. Many of you have experienced your glass of wine with a thin film on condensation around the glass. This is typically (except in very humid environments) a very good signal that your white wine of very cold and below the ideal serving temperature of 8ºC - 10ºC for the majority of quality white wines.
But is should also be noted that your domestic - home refrigerator maintains an internal environment of around 4-6ºC, which is also far too cold for most white wines. As quality Champagne and varied white wines, and quality oaked white wines are best served at a temperature between 8ºC - 10ºC (sometimes even a little higher for specific wines). For examples some rich, fuller style barrel fermented Chardonnays are best served straight from a cool cellar which can be down to 13ºC. But for many homes who do not have a cellar or temperature controlled storage unit. 45-60mins or so (depending upon starting temperature) in the main home fridge will be fine. Inexpensive white wines, cheaper sparkling wines and sweet white wines can be served in the coolest temperature range of between 6ºC - 8ºC, so around 90 minutes should bring these bottles down to an ideal temperature.
If out for dinner and you are served a bottle of white wine that is very cold, (a thick film of condensation on the sides of the bottle) don’t be shy to ask that it be left standing on the table, rather than placed in an ice bucket. If you are outside in a very warm environment, you might ask for a bucket just filled with 2-3 cm of ice and a small amount of cold water, for the wine to sit in to hold the ideal temperature (note: the front label, should not be under the level of ice and water). Though be aware that you might need to defend your bottle against an overzealous waiter determined to place it in a bucket covered full of ice.
Though it must be said, it is much easier to bring your extra-cold white wine back up to a more favourable drinking temperature. As all it takes is a little patience while watching the bottle sweat condensation. But what if friends are coming over and you have accidently forgotten to chill the white wines. You can use an ice-bucket filled 2/3 with ice and cold water (plus add a heaped table-spoon of salt - helps with the temperature exchange) and place the sparkling and white wines bottles upside down, neck-foil first into the ice and water for 20 minutes. Please note do not place them in bottom, base first, as the process will take nearly twice as long to cool them down to the ideal drinking temperature - plus by placing them in neck-foil first you won’t damage the labels when serving.
The reason why some more simple sparkling wines can be served around 6ºC, as this sharp chilling keeps their bubbles fine (smaller) rather than larger and feeling slightly frothy on the palate. 6-8ºC is also a good range for some dessert wines; as the level of sweetness is accentuated at warmer temperatures, so chilling them preserves their balance without masking their vibrant and inviting aromas and flavours.
White wines which are crisp, naturally high levels of acidity and lifted citrus flavours can be should be served at the colder end of the spectrum (towards 6-8ºC), while richer, more fuller style white wines should can be served and enjoyed at the warmer end of the spectrum (towards 10-13ºC).
Scientific research has shown that our taste buds function and respond differently with changing temperatures. For example, the perception of sweetness in a solution within a white wine is strongly affected by the temperature of that solution - (e.g. a white wine tastes sweeter as it warms up).
And if you have been storing a white wine in your home refrigerator for a few days or longer. I recommend that you remove the first wine to be served (depending upon the room temperature) about 30 minutes before serving - to bring it up to the ideal temperature, so that you and your guests can enjoy all the personality and character in the wine you have chosen.