Very, very basic rule of thumb: most whites are served chilled. Most reds are not.
But just like the spelling rule, ‘I’ before ‘E’ except after ‘C’ this does not always hold true. Weird, right?
Let’s start off this way: wines should be served at the temperature you most enjoy them. Here is the thing – most refrigerators run at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, or the temperature to keep your milk and eggs from going bad. Technically, this is a little too cold for many whites. Why? Because when you chill a wine down to that temperature, you lose a lot of the aromatics (the smell, which is part of the experience) and sometimes that hides some of the flavor. This is fine, as long as you like the taste at that particular temperature, or you are sipping on
it and you know it will warm up a bit while you drink it. Generally, it will not hurt the wine itself. So feel free to experiment with a white and see how it tastes right out of the fridge and maybe again after sitting out for 15-20 minutes. You might notice a change in the intensity of the flavor and smell. Find the balance that is correct for your palate.
Reds, on the other hand, are often served too warm. “Room temperature” really refers to somewhere between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit cool for most households. So if you wine is in the room, it is more likely to be at 70-75 degrees. Again, if you like a particular wine at this temperature, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving it that way. But, if you find it has too much bite on it, then you might want to put it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes (depending on the temperature of your room) so it gets down to where the wine tastes best for you.
Keep in mind, there are some reds that are meant to be served chilled. Sweet red wines, for example, are often served cold.
One thing about wines: extreme heat can hurt them. Keep wines away from direct light and heat sources (don’t store wine next to your stove!!).