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Red wine temperature: how to drink and enjoy it during the summer

29 May 2020

Whoever said that you cannot enjoy a bottle of Chianti Classico or any other red wine during the summer when it is very warm?

Well, it is true that a white wine or a sparkling wine served chilled directly from the fridge is often the most suitable choice. However, sometimes you might feel like sipping on a glass of red wine, even if only to be able to pair it with a more structured dish, such as meat cooked on the grill or barbecue that is so popular during the summer months.

The right serving temperature for red wine

The solution is very simple; we need to stop serving the wine at a “room temperature” and start pouring it at the right temperature, that is 18°C (64° F)

I can still recall the stunned faces of many guests at our wine tastings when we in the summertime with 35°C (95° F) heat outside are serving them a glass of Chianti Classico at the right temperature. “But...are you really serving red wine?” is often the first question they ask us when they touch the glass. And, I immediately reply: “No, not cold but chilled to the right temperature”. Once they have taken the first sip they are always very appreciative of this ingenuity.

Temperature and wine tasting

Before we give you some suggestions for how to chill a bottle of red wine, let us try to understand in an effortless manner why red wine, such as Chianti Classico, is very pleasant to drink at 18°C  (64° F) rather than at warmer temperatures.

There are different components in the art of wine tasting that interact on our palate and contribute to the balance of how we perceive the wine in our mouth: the acids in the wine, the alcohol, the mineral salts, the glycerine and mannoproteins, and when it comes to red wine, the tannins.

All of these components can be perceived with an accentuated or reduced impact based on the wine temperature at the moment of tasting.

The tannins that normally exist in red wine, for example, increase the sense of astringency and bitterness at low temperatures. That is the main reason why we drink red wines at higher temperatures versus white wines that do not contain any tannins (or have lower levels of tannins).

A wine that is tasted at too high temperatures will likewise be off-balance as regards to the alcohol, which will be accentuated in conjunction with the perception of the “soft” elements (glycerine and mannoproteins). Other than these changed elements, it is also a matter of the desire to drink something fresh rather than warm, as a lukewarm beverage feels less pleasant in hot weather.

We can use thermometers specific for alcohol to easily measure the temperature of the wine (they are very cheap and easy to find online or in shops for wine accessories). Pour a bit of wine in a glass and measure the temperature with the thermometer (only a couple of seconds are needed to measure the temperature).

How to chill a bottle of red wine

Now that we have realized the importance of serving the wine at the right temperature, we will try and understand how to arrive at 18°C  (64° F) when it is much warmer in the room or in the garden where we are to drink the wine.

The wine refrigerator

This specific fridge for the correct conservation of wine is no doubt the best of all appliances. Basically, it is a fridge with shelves for bottles where the internal temperature can be set to 18°C  (64° F) for our so very popular red wines. There are different models and sizes on the market and the capacity can vary from 9 to 100 bottles or more. Even the design can be more or less refined. This appliance is indeed very useful and makes it possible to taste the wine at the right temperature, as well as preserve the bottles over time.

Of course, it is not always possible to have such an appliance at home. Let us show you some other easy solutions.

Chill the wine in a normal fridge for 60-90 minutes

With the air conditioning turned off, the temperature in my Florence apartment can reach as high as 32° C (90° F) in the month of July. If I left a bottle of red wine on a shelf in the kitchen during the day, I would never achieve an acceptable serving temperature when I was ready to drink it at dinnertime even if I were to lower the room temperature with the air conditioner. However, I could put the bottle in the fridge (that usually has a temperature of 4° C (39° F)) for an-hour (or for more time if it is very warm) and get the optimal cool temperature.

Use an ice bucket

There are moments when we need to chill our wine even faster. It has happened to me several times when I was at a restaurant in the summer, ordered a bottle of red wine and saw the waiter take it directly from the shelf rather than from the fridge cabinet. Perhaps I had already been served my steak...so what do you do then to chill the bottle quickly? 

It is simple: you only need to put the bottle in the ice bucket that is normally reserved for white wines and chill for 5 or 10 minutes. According to the law of physics, the cold water manages to chill the wine bottle faster than the cold air in a fridge. This makes it possible to reach the ideal temperature in a short time.

Now I can sip on a nice glass of Sangiovese at the right temperature before the steak turns cold