Regardless of whether you're drinking a modestly priced bottle of wine or a more high-end vintage, serving and storing your wine at the correct temperature is the key to getting the most taste, character, and aroma out of your wine.
Fluctuations in humidity and temperature can have an enormous impact on how wine tastes and smells.
The following guide will help determine the best temperature for red wine so that you get the most out of your next glass of vino.
You've probably heard the basic rule of thumb that the best temperature for red wine is room temperature. This is a bit misleading and most likely comes from a time well before the advent of insulation and central heating when homes were much cooler.
The flavor and aroma of most red wines are best when the wine is served less at than 70° F, which is slightly cooler than the temperature in most of today’s homes. A juicy, fruity red, such as a Beaujolais, can be served as cold as 54° F. Light to medium-bodied reds, such as Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are best around 57° to 61° F. A full-bodied red, such as Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon, should be served around 63° to 65° F.
You can easily chill your bottle of red by placing it in the fridge for an hour before serving or in the freezer for about 15 minutes. You can also put the bottle in a bucket of ice water for a few minutes. Be careful not to let the wine go too far since you will be unable to appreciate the flavors fully if it is too cold.
Once you open the wine, allow it sit on the table while you eat your meal. This will give you the opportunity to enjoy the developing flavors and aromas as the wine warms up gradually.
Most of the wines that you purchase to serve with dinner are considered ready-to-drink and don’t necessarily benefit from extended aging or storage. These “everyday” wines are typically consumed quickly enough that they won’t lose their quality provided you keep them from excessive heat. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause your wine to become dark, overly sweet, flat, or lifeless.
According to wine expert Andrew Stover, you should avoid storing your wine in a rack above your refrigerator or near your stove or oven. These areas tend to be the warmest in the kitchen and can gradually degrade the flavor of your wine.
If you do invest in an expensive bottle of wine, storage does become more of an issue.
Red wines should be stored at a constant temperature of around 55° F. Storing wine below 45° F can slow the aging process. Extremely low temperatures can cause sediment to develop in the wine or cause the water in the wine to freeze and expand, which could push the cork out of the bottle.
Humidity is another important consideration when storing your wine. As a general rule, you should store your wine at a relative humidity between 60 and 80 percent. Low humidity can cause the cork to dry out, which can allow the wine to oxidize. Humidity levels above 80 percent will not necessarily damage your wine or the cork; however, you do run the risk of mold developing in your storage area.
Unless you have the luxury of living in a large home with a wine cellar or basement, you will most likely store your wine in a wine refrigerator.
There is considerable debate over whether you should use a single zone or dual zone refrigerator. This all depends on if you intend to use your fridge for storage, service, or both. The fact is that all wines can be safely stored between 53° and 57° F. This means that a single zone fridge is all you need if you are only using it for storage.
On the other hand, if you want your reds and whites at ready-to-serve temperature, you may want to consider a dual zone fridge where you can keep your white wine at about 45° to 52° F and your reds slightly warmer at 58° to 65° F.
Oxygen is the enemy of red wine. That's why an opened bottle of red wine can taste like vinegar after just a few days in the refrigerator.
The following tips can help you keep your wine tasting fresh for up to a week:
Certain wines do tend to go bad quicker than others once they are opened. This includes:
While the above are guidelines recommended by wine experts and connoisseurs, in the end, the best temperature for red wine is whatever temperature you enjoy it the most. It is also always better to err on the side of serving your wine a little too cool since it will warm up in the glass anyway.
As an assistant D.A. in a small city, Tim Packard always drank whiskey whenever he was out to dinner with clients, until an Italian mobster introduced him to a classic Valpolicella. One mouthful of the latest vintage, round with the flavor of cherries and earth, and he never again allowed friends to order the second-best wine.