The Real Reason Red Wine Is Best Served Chilled

When you think about drinking red wine, you might imagine sipping something full-bodied on a cool-weathered evening. However, there are plenty of red wines that deserve to have a place next to your light, bright whites and fruity rosés during the warmer months too. In fact, most red wines benefit from being chilled rather than serving them at room temperature, be they light or heavy varietals (via Vine Pair).

While many might think of serving red wines at room temperature, there's a surprising gap in what "room temperature" really means. Traditionally, that would indicate a temperature that's noticeably cooler than by today's standards. As Wine Enthusiast put it, "Unless you live in a European castle where your boudoir remains chilly year-round, the room temp axiom is outdated." Room temperature today means around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Basically, but the ideal temperature for serving red wine can range from 55 to 68 degrees according to both publications. 

The reason red wines should be chilled before serving more often comes down to how the wine is perceived on the palate. The temperature change can play up or downplay different characteristics and notes within the wine such as its acidity, alcohol, and flavors, according to Vine Pair.

Use chilling to dial in a red wine

Even within the acceptable chilled temperatures of red wines, the overall complexity of the wine can be reflected differently. "A wine served above 66 degrees will have an impact on the overall structure of the wine such as acid, alcohol, and flavors. It will soften the structure of the wine, and the alcohol becomes significantly more noticeable," says Paola Embry, award-winning wine director at Wrigley Mansion in Phoenix (via 85 South). "However, if you chill the same wine down to 55 to 60 degrees, the flavors will become focused, the alcohol will not be as evident, and the structure will be tighter."

You can use a bucket with ice water to find the best temperature. The ice bath makes it easier to adjust the chill until you find what you like best. Keep in mind that lighter reds like pinot noirs and Beaujolais are significantly better after chilling. These are less noted for complexity and better know for their vivid and invigorating profiles. But, experiment with chilling all red wines to find the right balance you prefer — Wine Enthusiast suggests 90 minutes in the refrigerator for lighter-bodied reds, and around 45 for fuller-bodied reds.