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Letter to the editor: Red wine temperatures in SA

By , 26 January 2023



Ideal wine serving temperatures. Image: WSET.

The following received via email from Ernst Z’Graggen of Switzerland: “This beautiful red wine is best served at 16-18°C…”

Two weeks ago, my wife and I came back to Switzerland after a visit to South Africa. For the last 25 years we have been visiting this beautiful country, enjoying stunning hills, valleys, and vineyards, lovely people and obviously great food and wine. While the quality level of food and wines has increased substantially over the last years, the total ignorance of the importance of wine serving temperatures unfortunately remains. Not only in restaurants at all levels but even in wineries, there is no awareness of the issue.

However, what is difficult to understand and accept: How come that this important detail of wine culture is obviously not taught in the professional wine service training institutions or even by the management of licensed hotels and restaurants? We even wonder if its importance is made known to future winemakers?

Of course, whenever we ask a winemaker what serving temperature he/she recommends for red wines, most answers are: “between 16 and 18°C”.

Why then, are these great wines almost always and nearly everywhere served at “ambient or room temperature”? Meaning, I have to drink the wines at 22 – 25°C!

On all our wine tours, winemakers kept explaining at great length the work, energy, love, and money they are investing into making great wines. Unfortunately, their wines are not giving the pleasure they would have had they been served at the right temperature which sadly is often not the case. I can provide a long list of wineries and restaurants who are not paying any attention to this detail.

In Europe, you will find the respective mention on every red wine bottle: “Drinks best between 16-18°C“ – which makes it easier for us to point it out to the waiter explaining that: the producer is recommending how his wine should be served. We are suggesting all the time to producers in South Africa this detail, but so far in vain!

Fortunately, at home, I can serve the wines I’m importing, also from South Africa, at the right temperature!


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