A long, hot summer’s day deserves something delicious and chilled to go with it. And while many folks prepare for the warm weather by stocking their fridges full of white wines, we’re sharing our hot take: chill a bottle of red wine instead.

From restaurants to home dining rooms, red wines are typically pulled from cellars and shelves at room temperature (68°-76°F) for serving. There’s a long time notion that a red wine expresses itself better at this temperature, and that chilling it would ruin its integrity and flavor. 

We know that there are definitely negative effects of heat on wine. At R. Stuart, we don’t ship our wines during the hottest parts of the season in order to prevent your wine from being “cooked.” A cooked wine’s fruit profile diminishes significantly, and instead becomes more like a “grape stew” with murky, muddied flavors and pronounced alcohol on the palate. So while we know we don’t want our wines really warm, what does chilling a red wine do?

Lighter bodied, lower alcohol wines are optimal for chilling as their profiles become more nuanced with a drop in temperature. This is perfect for the Pinot noir lover, as this grape is notoriously delicate and lighter bodied than varietals such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot. When chilled, a lighter red such as Pinot will see its fruit profile enhanced (consider how delicious cold watermelon is compared to room temperature), while tannins and other astringents tend to mellow. 

Our tips to get a perfectly chilled bottle of red wine:

  • Let the wine chill for 2-3 hours before serving, aiming for the wine to reach 55-60°F.
  • Go for cold, but not ice cold. Wine can freeze, and the crystalline structures created in freezing can negatively affect the wine upon thawing.
  • Need to chill a bottle quickly? Use the paper towel trick.
    • Wet a paper towel and wring out the excess water. Wrap the towel around the bottle and stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Upon removing, gently rock the bottle 2-3 times to circulate the wine inside the cold bottle for additional chill.

When you’re ready to bring the bottle to the table, invite your guests to pay attention to how the wine changes as it warms up in their glass. How does the fruit profile change? Acidity? Tannins? Overall structure on your palate? There’s no “right” or “wrong” thing to notice! Ultimately, the goal is for you to find your ideal chill and to enjoy it just as you’d like.

As the warmer days continue, we give you the green light to chill our wines for a hot day near the grill. You just may find your new summer obsession! We think our Love, Oregon Pinot Noir and Vignette Pinot Noir are perfect candidates for chilling and experimentation with temperature.

Chill, grill, and share with us how you enjoy your red wines!