A recent email from Florence Fabricant of the NYTimes asked what I thought about a restaurant that has a special category on its wine list for Chilled Red Wines.  I would like to expand on my reply, but for a little more background you can read her column here:
“On This Wine List, Cold Reds Get a Cozy Spot”

Here are some further thoughts on the subject.  I have always been of the belief that a cheap, not very good wine should be served very, very cold so as to disguise the unpleasant aromas and flavors.  Chilling red wine makes the tannin in the wine more pronounced creating the unpleasant impression of drinking tea that was steeped too long.

For a restaurant to list a number of chilled red wines on their wine list is to me just a gimmick.  One of the wines they list is Dolcetto. I have been in Piedmont a number of times ,in the restaurants, wineries and homes of the producers where I have been offered Dolcetto to taste or drink never did anyone ever suggest that the wine should be served chilled. It is just not done!

A reader responding to Ms. Fabricant’s article disagreed with me and wrote that Beaujolais should always be chilled below 55 degrees F. He did not make the distinction between Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais Villages. The Villages wines should never be chilled, as they are wines with tannin and can age.  Beaujolais Nouveau is released at the end of November and this is the wine that most people think should be chilled.  Chilling the Beaujolais below 55 degrees will mute those wonderful fruity aromas and flavors that you want from this type of wine. This wine should be drunk as soon as it is released and is at its best up to the early spring.

Here is my bottom line.  When it is a very hot day and a wine feels warm to the touch it should be placed in the refrigerator or in an ice bucket until it feels cool to the touch. The perfect temperature to drink a red wine is between 63 and 68 degrees when the bottle will feel cool.   Since we do not carry thermometers around with us to check the temperature, touching the bottle and feeling that it is cool is the best test.

One exception to my rule — all sparkling red wines should be chilled.



Filed under Chilling Red Wines

9 responses to “Chilling?

  1. Tom Maresca

    Charles: I would probably go 5 degrees lower than you allow for red wines, especially in the kind of summer we’ve been having, but otherwise I am in total agreement with you.



  2. Charles,
    your thoughts on serious lambrusco? Sorbara and Grasparossa – both the “still” and the “lively” versions?


    • Ciao Alfonso- I have always had the “lively” versions chilled in Emilia Romagna and they were always the”dry” ones that go with food. I have had very little experience with “still” versions. How would you serve it?


  3. michele colline

    We used to always drink vino sfuso rosso chilled at home.


  4. Ed McCarthy

    I like my red wines cooler than you do, Charles. 60° to 63°F is fine for me. Certainly not as high as 68° as you suggested. And all Beaujolais—except for the big crus such as Moulin a-Vent and Julienas, taste great at about 55° to 58°F. Beaujolais Nouveau? Who drinks that stuff?


  5. Pingback: That is Cool! | wpawinepirate

  6. Michael Fallow

    One of my favorite Paraguayas in Buenos Aires liked her red wine blended with Coca Cola. What would you recommend there for serving temperature?
    I would say Ruschmeyers in August served in the garden at the beach in Montauk? Chilled reds are probably a good idea. The wines will always warm up. I hate getting a bottle of red wine that’s warm, then getting the waiter to drag out an ice bucket filled with ice and water to chill them down, then the wait twirling the bottle in ice while you eat anyway without the wine. And then if you’re not in a rage all ready, two glasses to calm down.
    Slightly chilled is good.


    • Ciao Michael- many old Italian/Americans would mix their red wine with Coca Cola or some other soft drink and add ice!
      Most of the restaurants I go to the red wine is too cold


      • Michael Fallow

        This reminded me of a summer lunch in Friuli years ago where the white wine served at lunch was served with a pitcher of chilled sparkling water to blend with the wine and make it more refreshing on a hot day. Wine can be a beverage or the Holy Grail. The shocking thing after I was obliged to taste the wine and coca cola blend on a warm summer night, I could see the appeal.
        You should take a bottle warmer with you to restaurants, the kind Michael Todd used in the Grapezine on that bottle of Barolo 🙂


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