In short, all red wines should be chilled. While this is ideal, that doesn’t mean a room temperature wine is undrinkable. As long as the taste isn’t offputting to you or your guests, then drink up without hesitation. Wine is an ancient drink, and certainly, the first people who enjoyed it didn’t have modern refrigeration.
Ever since humans discovered the joy of chilled wine, however, we’ve stored it in cellars, ordered servants to dig ice pits, and had snow delivered from the mountaintops all in order to lower the temperature of our favorite alcohol.
Which Red Wine Can be Chilled vs. Should be Chilled?
If you’re picking and choosing which reds to chill, definitely chill any of the lighter-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir. You’re more likely to notice their delicate fruity notes, which might be strawberry, blackberry, or even blueberry. With some experience, and depending on the red, you might pick up more subtle flavors like coffee, lavender, and vanilla. These flavors aren’t as noticeable when the wine isn’t chilled.
A Note on Chilling Sparkling Wines
Sparkling wines should always be chilled, whether they’re red, white, or rosé. The temperature is important to maximize the bubbliness, and what’s the point of a bubbly wine that isn’t very bubbly? Chilling sparkling wine also brings out the crispness of the beverage. Aim for the fridge, not the freezer. Sparkling wine is under pressure due to its carbonation, and it can explode in the freezer.
Which Red Wines Should NOT be Chilled?
Arguably all red wines can benefit from 20 minutes in the fridge or relax in an ice bucket. But if you’re short on time or chilling the wine isn’t an option, then it can be consumed at room temperature. When possible, if you know that chilling the wine is out of the question, opt for a full-bodied red wine.
Full-bodied red wines are typically served on the warmer side but are still around 65 degrees. This isn’t quite room temperature unless you live in a colder climate with someone micromanaging the thermostat.
Full-bodied Red Wines:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Durif / Petite Sarah
Which Red Wines are Traditionally Served Chilled?
Most red wines are traditionally served chilled, although this varies a bit regionally. In Europe, it’s common to have a cellar, which is the perfect place to store wine, then it’s drunk at whatever temperature that cellar happens to be. In the United States, cellars are rare in modern homes and usually only found in the historical homes that remain.
Americans are more likely to drink wine at room temperature out of convenience. The good news is that American supermarkets are comparatively huge and often stock pre-chilled wine. This gives you the convenience factor of grabbing a chilly bottle of red wine before dinner.
It’s important to chill red wine to enjoy it as its winemaker intended. Try to pick lighter-bodied reds when room temperature is the only option. You can also get creative and do as our ancestors did during winter: stick it in the snow. Don’t fret if you can’t chill a wine, but consider picking up another bottle of the same wine to compare the difference.