Can you chill red wine?
Wine lovers often skew towards red, but it can be a challenge during the summer months. Red wine and heat don’t always mix well; the high temperatures tend to make the tannin and higher alcohol more pronounced. Moreover, red wine is usually served at cellar temperature (around 60 degrees)—not exactly refreshing. Summer temperatures may have you wanting a bit more chill on your vino, but red wine drinkers don’t have to get left out. Here is our guide on chilling red wine.
The best temperature to serve red wine
Wine experts suggest serving red wine between 50-65 degrees. Once the wine gets too warm, the alcohol is more pronounced, and the wine can feel clunky and off-balance. Higher temperatures also soften the structure of the wine, giving it a flabby feel.
Lighter reds like Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley are usually best suited around 55 degrees. In comparison, bigger reds like Napa Cabernet benefit from softening with a serving temperature of around 60-65 degrees.
Why you shouldn’t serve reds at room temperature
Most people don’t have a wine cellar to keep their wines at an optimal 60 degrees. Instead, they may have a wine rack or a corner in the kitchen for their bottles. As long as it’s out of direct sunlight, this can be fine for wines you plan to drink soon, but keep in mind most of us keep our homes between 69-75 degrees.
Above 66 degrees, red wine loses much of its structure, and the alcohol is blown out on the palate. The aromas even change to more of an overripe, sticky quality. Even in the winter months, chilling red wine for an hour or so before serving can focus the aromas and structure.
What happens when you chill red wine
Most red wines benefit from a slight chill around 55-65 degrees. When red wine gets too cold, the structure and the aroma close up. The tannin might feel more bitter and pronounced, while the alcohol feels more subdued. The fruits and other aromas will be very subtle and less enjoyable. As chilling wine can have especially unfavorable effects on red wines with higher tannin, grapes like Shiraz, Barolo, and Cabernet Sauvignon do best between 60-65 degrees. Fruity wines such as Sonoma Pinot Noir or Beaujolais may have the lower tannin that responds well to chill, but you’ll also sacrifice some of the charming fruit.
How to chill red wine
The best way to chill red wine is with an ice bucket. Dunk the bottle under the ice for around 20 minutes or until it feels suitable for your taste. You can always toss it back in if the bottle gets too warm or let it sit out for a bit if it’s getting too cold. Alternatively, you can refrigerate your wine for about an hour before serving, but make sure it’s sealed, and there aren’t any funky smells (like your best friend’s garlic dip).
Best red wines for chilling
The best red wines to chill are those with softer tannin, as the chill can make tannin taste bitter. Somewhat fruity wines can be charming with a slight chill, but if you like savory notes on the nose, the chill can enhance them (again, usually around 55 degrees). Here are some of our favorites:
Pierre Bleue, “Pierre Bleue”, Brouilly, Beaujolais.
Domaine Blain was founded in 2014 when siblings Lucie and Marc-Antonin Blain acquired 14 acres of vineyards planted with old vines on the slopes of Mont Brouilly in Beaujolais. Marc-Antonin maintains the vineyards and vinifies the wine while Lucie runs the business. The 50-year-old vines lend towards a complex style of Beaujolais with notes of raspberry, rose, and pomegranate. Shop now $38
Domaine Duzon, “Cabernet Franc”, Chinon, Loire
Aromas of red plum, black cherry, dried bell pepper, and forest floor. This historic estate was purchased and renovated by Chinon native Eric Santier with the help of the esteemed Baudry family. Shop now $30
No Fine Print, Cabernet Sauvignon, California
Cabernet lovers can still jump on the chilled wine bus! This lighter, fruity style Cabernet was the brainchild of music producers in California. They wanted something fun and easy to drink backstage. Discover aromas of ripe strawberry, plum, and blackcurrant. The palate features delicate spice and a lighter body, complemented with tart black fruit and rose notes. Shop now $26.95.
Xavier Clua, “‘El Sola d’en Pol'”, Terra Alta, Catalonia
This fruity Grenacha from northern Spain is packed with juicy blueberry and huckleberry flavors, with a meaty and savory finish. It comes from the heart of up-and-coming Terra Alta. Shop now $17.95.
While red wine should never be super icy, a slight chill of around 55 degrees is perfect for lighter reds with soft tannin, even during the winter! If you don’t mind losing some aromatics, you can go as low as 50 degrees for very light red wines, but if you want it colder than that, consider serving up a rosé!