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When to Cool a Red
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed June 22, 2001. For more information go to

The beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere prompts a seasonal reminder: While tradition calls for serving red wines at room temperature and white wines cold, there's no harm in putting a slight chill on your reds during those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

The room-temperature rule for red wines makes sense, most of the time, because experience teaches us that most red wines seem dank and flavorless if they're served ice cold. They need warmer temperatures to display their aromas and flavors to the full. Whites, on the other hand, come across as crisp and refreshing when they're cold ... although the better the white, the less chill it needs to show its best.

But what's "room temperature"? Where I live, room temperature can easily reach into the lower '80s F (27C) even when the air-conditioner is running. When summer brings its sultry heat, I routinely pop red wine into the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes before dinner for most reds, or maybe even 60 minutes for a light and fruity wine like Beaujolais. An hour in the fridge should bring your wine down to the natural temperature of an underground cellar (54F or 12C), a point that I consider just a little too cold for most reds; but don't worry if you miss the mark: It doesn't take long for it to warm up again, and the wine won't be damaged in the process.


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