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How To Elevate a Red Wine: Add a Chill

How To Elevate a Red Wine: Add a Chill

Red Wine Glass

Wine trends can be exhausting to keep on top of. Whether it’s canned, orange, natural, or organic – it’s near impossible to be ahead of it all. But, if you’re one to pay attention to the industry’s latest ‘it’ product – you’ll notice one thing in common with them all: they’re lightening up! There will always be a time and a place for deep and bold red wines. But more and more, people are gushing over nuanced and elegant wines with high acidity. Enter: the chilled red wine. 

Let’s Talk Serving Temperatures

There’s a common myth that red wine should be drunk at room temperature. But most modern-day homes are kept between 66-72°F (19-22°C) which is truthfully too warm for wine. For reference, think about the Romans. Most likely, bottles were stored in a proper cellar, probably below ground where it’s cool and dark. People didn’t bring bottles up to the sitting room fire and wait hours for it to warm up. They drank their red wine with a chill.

There’s a common myth that red wine should be drunk at room temperature. 

Lighter-bodied wines such as Pinot Noir or Gamay should be the coolest and served between 53-57°F (12-14°C). Medium-bodied red wines such as Sangiovese, Merlot or Cabernet Franc should sit between 53-61°F (12-16°C). Even bottles housing full-bodied wine should feel a bit cool to the touch. For Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, aim for serving it between 62-65°F (16-18°C).

The Rationale Behind Drinking Chilled Red Wine

Following all the wine world’s rules can be daunting. But this is one worth investing your time in, there’s a rationale behind making sure red wine is served with a chill. Consuming it at the correct temperature is one of the most sure-fire ways to enjoy it at its intended peak. Too warm and the flavors become muddled and the profile edges blurred. By chilling it down, the flavors become more focused and the structure more solid. Plus, it’s more refreshing – particularly in the heat of summer. 

The Best Red Varieties to Chill

Target lighter style red wines such as Pinot Noir and Gamay when chilling red wine. In France, these varietals are regionally labeled as Burgundy and Beaujolais. In new world wine-producing regions, they’re labeled by their grape name. Keep in mind that the cooler the climate that they’re from, the lighter in style and brighter in acidity they will be. These are your gems! Look for cool-climate Pinot Noir from Chile or the north coast of California. For Gamay, look at the Willamette Valley in Oregon or the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, where some of the northernmost vineyards in the world are planted. 

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Claire Coppi doing a wine tasting

To experiment, seek out light to medium-bodied red wines that are regional specialities. Head to the Italian section of the liquor store and look for Valpolicella Classico which is predominantly Corvina. Or try some French Loire Valley Cabernet Franc (often labeled as Chinon), or even a lighter-style Rioja Crianza from Spain. 

Easy Ways to Chill Your White or Red Wine

Owning a wine fridge makes chilling wine an uncomplicated task, simply set the temperature and move along with your day until it’s time to crack the bottle open. For those without a fridge specifically for vino, make some space in your kitchen fridge. This is the most gradual way to bring the temperature down. In this instance, the 15-minute rule is a helpful guideline to follow. For white wine that’s been in the fridge for a while, remove it approximately 15 minutes before serving. And for lighter style reds, put the bottle in the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Aim for 8 to 10 minutes for a medium to full-bodied red. 

For white wine that needs a quicker chill time, the freezer will do in a pinch. But the drastic temperature change is harsh on the wine and it may show in the flavors. However, if the freezer is your only option then wrap the bottle in a damp cloth which will bring the temperature down more efficiently. Another proven way of chilling wine quickly is submerging the bottle in an ice bucket. Fill it partway with ice then add some water half plus a tablespoon of salt. The salt helps bring down the freezing temperature of the water, chilling the wine faster.

View Comments (2)
  • What about wines that benefit from decanting? How would you keep them properly chilled? Or do you even want to?

    • That’s such a great question! There are instances that this would apply. To keep it simple, decant first. Then when it comes time to chill, place the entire decanter in the fridge.

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