The world of wine is one which is full of disagreements. Our wine drinking habits have evolved culturally, and the way one nation drinks their wine can differ quite significantly from another country’s norms and methods.
One of the big disagreements which seems to pop up every so often is to do with red wine, and specifically, what temperature it should be served at.
Now, I’d argue that most wine disagreements can be settled quickly and effectively by pointing out that ultimately, it’s a matter of personal taste. However, with this particular issue, I do think that some countries and cultures do get it very wrong indeed.
For example, all across Eastern Europe, it’s typical to drink red wine cold. Not just chilled, but kept-in-the-fridge-overnight cold. If my mother-in-law is reading this in Romania (which is highly unlikely), I’d like her to understand that by doing this, you’re actually killing off all of the flavour and aroma of your lovely wine, and making it positively unpleasant to drink.
It isn’t just her - you’ll find this practice in many places, and it comes from a basic misunderstanding of how the chemicals in wine react to oxygen and temperature.
A Few Degrees Cooler
Despite this, it’s also very common indeed for people to serve their red wine too warm. Somewhere along the line, it’s become normal for people to think that red wines need to be served at room temperature, whereas actually, red wines should be served at cellar temperature in order to produce optimum results. This is somewhere between 15-18 degrees celsius, a temperature which will allow the flavours of the wine to be sharp and fresh on the palate, and the texture to be fully expressed.
It’s also the temperature at which the winemakers intend the wine to be drunk - and seeing as they put their whole lives into producing wine for your enjoyment, you should probably listen to their advice. If you want to bring your wine down to this temperature, it can be put in the fridge for fifteen minutes or so, or kept in a cooler.
A Little Colder Still
Of course, it isn’t quite as black and white as I may be making it out to be. Some wines do benefit from being chilled slightly more (and ‘slightly’ is the optimum word here, in case my mother-in-law is still reading this). You don’t want to do this with your deep and complex, aged Bordeaux wines, of course - these types of wines do not get on well with the cold at all - but for cheaper, simpler, more direct red wines, a bit more of a chill can be good.
In the summer, bringing the temperature down on a bright and summery bottle of Sangiovese, Beaujolais or Valpolicella wine can be very pleasant indeed. The light body of these types of simple, rustic wines can deal with being a few degrees colder than usual, and they can be enjoyable to drink on a sunny, hot day, with some light picnic food.
If you’ve been drinking your red wine too cold or too warm all your life - don’t feel bad. Most people have been doing the same. It just seems such a shame to me to spend money on a good bottle, and then flatten the potential of how good that bottle might be by bringing the temperature down too much.
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