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May 8, 2008 11:56 AM

How do I get red wine to the proper temperature?

I don't have a cellar or one of those fancy wine fridges, but I still want to drink and serve red wine at the proper temperature.

I'm thinking maybe I should put it in the fridge overnight, and then pull it out a while before serving...but how long before serving? One hour? Two hours? Or is there a better way?

I guess it depends on the temp outside...but I usually drink red wine in the evening when it's cool, not cold, not warm.

Thanks for your input.

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  1. We have a wine fridge, but back in the day when we did not, I'd store it in the frig and then when I got home from work, pull it out (or about a hour ahead of time for a party or such) to warm up for the evening. I hate when red wine is served too warm (or white wine too cold).

    1. I learned this general rule from others on this board, and it has proved pretty helpful:

      Take your whites out of and put your reds into the fridge 20 minutes before serving.

      1. I agree about most white wines being served too cold and reds too warm!

        I use the combo of a digital wine thermometer and vacu vin rapid ice sleeve (if cooling is needed) to get/keep wines in their proper ranges.

        1. Put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes before you want to serve it, or into an ice /water bath for about 10 minutes. That should take the heat of the room off of it, unless your room is an oven.

          Even one hour out of the fridge if your bottle's been in there all night, might not be enough. When red wine is too cold, it suppresses the flavors.

          1. >> I don't have a cellar or one of those fancy wine fridges, but I still want to drink and serve red wine at the proper temperature.

            Do you have a basement, garage or do you have access to some space underneath your house? This works fine for me however if you live in a high rise condo you are out of luck ...

            3 Replies
            1. re: olasek

              This is always a topic of interest to me, and can be a confusing one.

              We store all of our wine at 55 degrees for longterm storage. This is what I consider "cellar temperature." Yes, we do have some daily drinkers around that are at basement temp, which is typically cooler than the rest of the house, somewhere around 62-64. But my question/discussion is this:

              It has been said that more than 5 degrees of temperature variation per day is bad for wine storage. Maybe this has been proven, maybe this hasn't been, but it is a good, general rule of thumb. That said, it is good to keep your wine in an area where the temperature does not vary by more than a couple of degrees per day.

              So that being said, does putting the wine in the fridge an hour before opening to bring temperature down send the wine into "bottle shock?"

              We typically serve our wines at or above cellar temperature. if anything, I'll pull them out a 1/2 hour before, and open them to let them breathe. It does of course depend on the wine, and there are many that way may decant for several hours before serving. But even in the decanter sometimes, it will be placed back in the cellar, and will stay at cellar temp, then taken out 30 minutes before to give it a chance to warm up.

              That said, what are all of your thoughts on the topic? Does possible bottle shock apply here? Do you think that bottle shock is just a farse? Does bottle shock only happen after bottling or shipping? Just some food for thought! -mJ

              1. re: njfoodies


                The variation in temp does apply for long-term storage. Wine is really pretty durable, so long as one's abuse of it is over a short time span.

                Still, the better we handle our wine, the better it is likely to be. I doubt that any of us could tell a difference in the same wine, if the bottle has been stored perfectly for a month, or placed on the counter of the "average" home, for that month, except for the possibility of bottle variation. Now, do this for 5 years, and most of us would likely be able to find some differences. Do it for 20 years, and I think that anyone could pick up the differences. Again, bottle variation is removed from my example, just for discussion.

                I do believe that shipping and handling can cause "bottle shock," but to what degree will depend on exactly what the circumstances of that shipping/handling are. Same for the "aging" processes going through "dumb," or whatever, stages. Back to the "bottle shock," I think that a lot of that might well be having the sediment stirred up, and put back into solution - see another active thread on my feelings on this. A perfect test would be to take two 10 year old Bdx and decant one bottle, while shaking and then pouring the other. Get the picture? Guess which one I'd rather taste.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Bill: I see exactly where you are coming from, and it's a good discussion. So many people have their feelings, and I have mine.

                  To me, if I am going to invest a lot of money in good Bordeaux that I am going to cellar, you bet your behind I am going to keep a constant temp. Nothing worse than opening a bad bottle, or a cooked bottle that you have been holding onto for years and years and years.

                  That's why our long termers are always at 55 degrees.

                  As for the Bordeaux "shake," you'd never catch us doing it, but you might find some MollyDooker fans who will give it a whirl! ;-) -mJ