One Easy Hack that Will Change the Way You Serve Red Wine Forever

Posted November 03, 2014

Howard Kaplan


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Just about everyone on the planet is familiar with the most basic of all wine rules: serve your white wines chilled and your red wines at room temperature. Seems simple enough. But it is actually more complicated than that.

This rule is thought to be first developed in England during the 17th century. Of course, that was before radiators or central heating. Homes were noticeably colder than they are now. Because of this, it is generally thought that "room temperature" back then was no more than 65 degrees, sometimes much colder.

But in the words of Bob Dylan, "the times they are a changin’." In our modern world, most people keep their homes at temperatures higher than 65 degrees, with some people preferring when it's much warmer, hovering around the 80 degree mark. Obviously, that may make some humans comfortable, but you would never want to serve your red wines at that temperature.

Still, many people have neither a cool wine cellar nor a temperature controlled wine unit to keep their wines at the ideal 55 degree temperature, so they end up storing their wines in warmer temperatures. This is not such a good idea, not only in terms of serving temperatures, but also in terms of allowing the wine to develop and mature at a normal pace. We've even seen people store their fine wines in the kitchen - sometimes above the stove - where the temperatures often get much higher than 80 degrees. Absolutely horrifying. Please don’t do that to the lovely wine you buy from us. We beg you.

Thankfully, there is an extremely simple solution to this dilemma.

Throw your red wine into the fridge for 20 minutes before drinking. This may feel like heresy, but I assure you there is method to this madness. Ideally, your red wine will have a slight chill when you drink it, so that fridge time will allow them to chill down to a perfect temperature, between 55 - 65 degrees.

Your wine will be better, your guests will be happier, and any relatives you might have had in 17th century England can rest easy knowing their descendants can handle a bottle of claret the right way.

Howard Kaplan is a co-founder of Executive Wine Seminars, a New York based organization focusing on tasting rare and coveted wines.  He started writing about wine in the early 1980s for Wine Spectator and Cuisine Magazine.  Today, Howard’s tasting notes can be found on both Stephen Tanzer and Robert Parker’s websites.