If you have not had a chilled red wine, it can be quite the mental pivot. Truth-be-told, most people drink red wines too warm and white wines too cold. As they say...“the worse the beer, the colder you drink it”.
Today we’ll discuss a couple of questions regarding red wine and chilled red wine:
1. Beaujolais is a light red wine from the Beaujolais region in France. This wine is made from the Gamay grape. Gamay is a versatile grape that is a cross between the Gouais and Pinot Noir. When Gamay is used to make Beaujolais Noveau, it is a light and fruity wine meant to be drunk very young. This wine is terrific when thrown in the fridge for some time before drinking.
Note: a Beaujolais with a village name added on the label (ex. Morgon) may imply the wine is more serious and should NOT be chilled as much.
2. Pinot Noir is typically drunk warmer than it should (our opinion). We have a few fellow winemaker friends who will put them in the fridge before dinner, open them up and let them sit on the table. This helps the wine slowly get to room temp as time passes and the wines are consumed. Light and fruity flavors marry well with the chill factor.
3. Lambruscois an Italian wine that is made with the grape of the same name “Lambrusco”. The first time we tried it we were a little shocked. It was tannic, bubbly, sweet and chilled...a real brain bender! However, once the overstimulation subsided it was pretty nice - . That said, these wines can be “secco” (sweet), “Amabile” (off-dry/sweet), and “dolce” (sweet AF).
It is very apparent when you drink wine too warm. It sucks….especially if it’s a heavy red like Cabernet Sauvignon. Ever drink warm whiskey? You can do it, but it is pretty intense and something just ain’t right. It burns the nostril and tastes boozy. The alcohol in the wine evaporates more rapidly at higher temperatures meaning more alcohol per whiff.
Side note: Say you were to leave an unopened bottle of wine on the counter in a 90-degree kitchen. Doing so will hyper-age your wine. Depending on the wine, it’s lifespan will be cut dramatically. The longer it sits out, the more burned out it will taste (see our YouTube episode on the topic).
Between drinking wine too hot or too cold, I’d choose the latter. Chilled wine won’t show the aromas it would display at the “perfect temperature”. A heavy red would be more aggressive and cause a dry feeling in the mouth, but it wouldn't be as offensive as a wine that was way too hot (IMHO). I always say, “the worse the beer, the colder you drink it.” The warmer things are, the faster they move (science). The colder things are, the slower they move (science!!). You definitely want to drink crappy white wines when they’re super cold because it will help hide the flaws.
Side note:A red wine stored too cold will not age as fast as red wine at cellar temperature (55F). Also, if kept too cold for too long, both reds and whites that have not been cold stabilized can start to create sediment in the bottle. Sedimentation is not a huge deal, but it can be messy toward the end of the bottle. Tartaric acid and Potassium in the wine will bond together when cold
The perfect temperature to drink wine is a debatable topic, but only by a few degrees here or there. White wines have an optimal range, as do reds. (Note: Cellar temperature is usually 55 degrees Fahrenheit.) Let’s discuss:
Sparkling Wine: As mentioned above, the shittier the wine, the colder you drink it. It is refreshing and it will hide the flaws. However, the nicer the wine, maybe err on the side of slightly less cold.
Best temperature range considering the aforementioned: 36-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
White Wines:This is the same as above. Although, in addition to the quality of the wine, you may want to factor in the structure of the wine (how heavy it feels or how crisp it is). A big, rich, aromatic wine like Chardonnay can be drunk a little warmer than you would drink a crisp, clean, less aromatic Pinot Grigio.
Considering this info, a good range to play in would be 45-58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Red Wines: A crappy red can’t hide its flaws with temperature, but you will want to consider the weight of the wine. For example, a big, rich, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon should be a touch warmer than a lighter, more refreshing Pinot Noir. A couple of extra degrees will help open up the aromatics and help the tannins (dryness of the wine) seem less aggressive. Again, the warmer the wine is, the more you will perceive the alcohol- there is a happy medium here.
Considering the above information, the best temperature to drink a red wine will be somewhere around 62-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Below is a good infographic from Wine Folly. Their recommendations are a touch different, but diversity is the spice of life. Yum… spice.
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