It is a sad fact that most of the wine served and consumed in the UK is not drunk at its optimum temperature. We tend to drink our white and rosé wines too cold and our red wines too warm. Pubs and bars are complicit in the case of over-chilling as the colder a wine is the less well one can taste it. To put it another way cheaper, inferior wines do not taste as bad as they might if they are heavily-chilled so people trying to maximise their margins on poor quality products are incentivised to set their fridges to very low temperatures. The bane of red wine is modern housing. Today few homes boast proper cellars while most have central heating so we tend to drink our reds at ambient room temperature, which, unless you are in a draughty castle in Scotland, is probably a couple of degrees warmer than is ideal.
In hotter weather the problem of wines being over chilled is obviously less of an issue as they will start to warm up once they have been poured. I aim to serve aromatic, dry white and rosé wines at 8-10°C in anticipation of them getting warmer. Light reds from more Northerly latitudes often benefit from chilling and I aim to serve those at 10-12°C but keep an ice bucket to hand in case they need freshening up during the course of an outdoor meal. Complex dry white wines (think aspirational Burgundy) should be served warmer still at 12-15°C to reveal their full potential and big, tannic reds from the likes of the Rhône, Bordeaux, Italy and California should be served warmest of all at 15-17°C.
I don’t want you to get the impression that this is an obsession of mine – I’m not someone who goes round plunging a thermometer into guests’ glasses but it does pay to think about what wine you are serving and in what context and making a bit of effort to show it in its best light. It is useful to be able to adjust the temperature of any wine you are drinking and the simplest way of doing that is to place the bottle in iced water until it has reached the desired temperature. There are occasional instances when one might want to rapidly warm up a red wine but hopefully these are few and far between, although I have resorted to a bain marie in extremis.
Of course there is no getting away from the fact that taste is entirely subjective and that different people enjoy their wine at different temperatures. So if you want to put ice cubes in your Mersault or mull your Chambolle-Musigny you are free to do so - à chacun son gout!