Ask Wine Wizard

Chilled Red Wines


Armina Escalon — Coral Gables, Florida asks,

I always hear that you should chill white wines in the fridge and that red wines should be room temperature. Then I’ve got some buddies that have recently brought over some red wines for dinner which they insist on putting on ice before serving. What’s up with that? Has the “always serve reds at room temperature” rule changed? Are we allowed to chill reds now or is this some kind of a new trend I Missed?


Though especially welcome in summertime, and especially tasty with regards to Pinot Noir, I break the “room temperature reds rule” year round and with many varietals to boot. In the depths of December you can still find me putting a slight chill on many reds, from a Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving up to some big and burly Syrahs on Valentine’s Day. I just like my reds served a little cool and find that I prefer around 50–58 °F (10–14 °C) or so, below standard room temperature.

Summertime, however, is when I’m most likely to put a red on ice. Room temperature in our ranch house in Napa doesn’t mean 68 °F (20 °C) like it does in November and as ambient temperatures rise, my tolerance for the more volatile components in red wines (i.e. alcohol, aldehydes, and volatile acidity) goes down. I find it hard to appreciate a red wine when it’s so warm, even a modest 13.8% alcohol red hits me like a ton of grapes.

My solution? Use a tabletop wine cooler, an ice bucket, one of those new stick-it-in-the-bottle gadgets like the one offered by Corkcicle™, or just simply stick the bottle in the fridge for 30 minutes. A slight chill can focus aroma, tame the perception of alcohol, and can make a red seem more refreshing, especially when the weather heats up. I hope you and your friends can come to some compromises . . . there’s nothing wrong with serving your red wines with a slight chill, and contrariwise, there’s nothing wrong with having your whites warm up slightly in the glass as you enjoy them around the table!

Response by Alison Crowe.