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Is it wrong to drink cold red wine?

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  • best of tastes Jul 29, 2002 10:09 PM
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Everyone knows white wine should be refrigerated and is to be drunk cold, while red wine is to be stored and served at room temperature. But why? Is it wrong to drink cold red wine? Conversely, is it wrong to drink white wine at room temperature? Is it just tradition or is there something about the temperature that brings out the best in the flavor? Can someone explain the reasoning to me?

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  1. From a reputable wine newsletter I subscribe to:

    "Red wine traditionally comes to the table at cool room temperature - 18 to 21 degree C. This permits any aged character to show at its best advantage. Chilled, a red wine will seem more astringently tannic and more tart than the same wine at cool room temperaiture, which sometimes enlivens young reds.

    White wines are, typically, served at about 13 degree C, the temperature they reach with about one hour in a refrigerator. Chilling accents tartness, and diminishes sweetness, if any. Some old, dry whites are served at 16 to 18 degree C for the same reasons dry reds are.

    Sparkling wines should be chilled to 7 degree C. This slows the release of bubbles. Not only does the wine stay lively longer, it keeps its fruit aromas and bouquets longer.

    Dry Sherries and other appetizers are served, most often, at about the same temperatures as whites.

    Ports, Cream Sherries, and other dessert wines put their finest qualities forward at temperatures similar to those recommended for reds."

    1. Actually, most people drink whites too cold, and reds too warm. A white straight out of the refrigerator is basically going to taste more on the tart/crisp side, even if it's a buttery chardonnay. Let it warm up to just a shade cooler than cool, though, and all of the nuances the wine has to give will show up. Let it get too warm, though, and the flavors get too fat and flatten out.

      Reds, on the other hand, should really not be served at room temperature, especially in the summertime. Too warm and an old red just tastes old, and a young one can't show its stuff. I don't know exact temperatures, but probably around 62 - 65 F is best. At that temperature you can really discern the fruit profile and tannic structure. But then, too cold and it goes to the tart.

      I have a wine locker at home that stays somewhere in the 58 - 60 F range, I think. And my whites taste best just a touch colder, and my reds just a touch warmer.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Tom M.

        I read once that the red/room temp. and white/cool rule evolved in pre-refridgeration Europe at a time when room temperature, in a drafty castle, was much cooler than today's room temperatures and cool, without refridgeration, was a tad warmer than today's cool. Don't know if this is true, but hey, it sounds good.

      2. I don't know the technical reasoning, or proper wine etiquette, but I know what I like.

        I don't like any wine warm.
        The sweeter the wine, the colder I like it (red or white).

        By way of example for whites, I like Chardonnay cool and Riesling cold.

        For reds, I like Cabernet cool and Lambrusco or Sangria cold.

        As you can see it's not very scientific, it's just what I like.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lil mikey

          May I suggest that you let your Alsace Reislings warm up just a bit? You will be truly amazed at the nuances of flavor that are hibernating in the cold.

        2. I've also read about the difference in room temperature between here and Europe. Also, I've been to french restaurants that serve beaujolais chilled and it's really a wonderful thing on a summer evening.

          1. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy a glass of wine, just enjoy it. That being said, the general comments made thus far are largely correct. White wines are often served to cold, and reds too warm. Bring the two towards the mean and you may notice different aromas and tastes in the same wines that you have already been drinking. If you are really interested, make and compare notes on the same wine at different tempature.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ADK

              I know I drink my reds warm, but only because I don't have room for the box in the fridge!

              (Just kidding.)

            2. Not if that's what you prefer.

              1. j
                Jennie Sheeks

                Summarizing what everyone else has said, here's a rule of thumb that I pass along to clients all the time: pull whites out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before serving and put reds in the fridge 15-20 minutes before serving.

                If you're ever feeling extravangant and experimental, buy 2 bottles of the same Chardonnay and 2 of the same Cabernet Sauvignon, preferably inexpensive bottles $12 or under. Chill the heck out of 1 bottle of each and leave the other bottles at room temp. Open all the bottles, pour into 4 different glasses and sniff and taste side by side. Cup your hands around the glasses of the cold stuff to gradually warm it up, sniffing and tasting as you go. Most people find that somewhere between the range of the cold glass and the room temperature glass is where the wine tastes best. I don't have time to explain the sensory and psychological reasons why, but if I get more time later I'll try to post more.

                1. I am not a true wino, but I have always understood from wino friends that red wine should be cellar temperature (55-65) and white wine the temp it reaches after 10 minutes of chilling in an ice bucket. If you don't have a wine cellar or an ice bucket...use the fridge. Aperitif wines should all be cellar temperature.