Should Red Wine Be Chilled?

Anish Patel @ 2022-01-13 07:22:47 -0800

Tinto Amorio - Jajaja Glou Glou Red Wine

Have you ever seen someone open their fridge and pull out a bottle of red wine? Did it catch you by surprise?  

It’s actually a common practice to chill red wine. If you chill your red wine, you can go the whole summer without giving up your drink of choice. Sounds pretty good, right?

Still, there are a few ground rules. There are many different types of red wine, and each one should be chilled differently. Some taste better at room temperature, but chances are, even your kitchen is a bit too warm for serving even the boldest of reds. A little time in the fridge can do everyone a little good. 

In this guide, we’re going to tell you exactly how to identify which red wines should be chilled and for how long. We’ll also mention a few dos and don’ts of chilling red wine. 

Aren’t red wines supposed to be served warm?

The answer to this question is no, not really. The warmest temps your red wines should be stored and served at is 64°F. In the summer, it’s easy for your house, apartment, condo, or room to get warmer than that. 

The best wines to chill are the ones that are fruit-driven and high in acidity. Cooling these wines highlights their fresh fruit flavors and can sometimes bring out other interesting flavors like pepper or eucalyptus.

Wines high in tannins are a tad trickier, but if they still have good acidity (hello, Sangiovese!), then they’ll be delicious in the fridge. Cold temperatures magnify the astringency that tannins add to wine, and if the tannins are already very high, this can overwhelm all of the other flavors. 

Chillable reds are growing in popularity in the world of natural wine, and more and more natural winemakers are making fruity, acidic reds from organic grapes. Sometimes referred to as glou-glou, these wines are destined for the fridge.

The low-down on glou-glou.

Glou-glou is a French term that can be loosely translated as “glug-glug.” These wines are also described as “chillable,” “crushable,” and “easy-drinking.” Glou-glou implies that the wine is so fresh and easy-going that you’ll drink it quickly without noticing that it’s gone. 

This doesn’t necessarily imply that you should chug your chilled red. Instead, glou-glou is a term reserved for wines that shouldn’t be over complicated or analyzed. Its most popular usage comes from Beaujolais. 

Beaujloais makes a bright, candied red wine from Gamay in a Nouveau style. This means that the wine is harvested, fermented, and bottled to be enjoyed within the year. No cellaring, no waiting—just pure enjoyment. With glou-glou wines, you can pour a glass, relax, and enjoy yourself. 

Here’s a guide to which reds should be chilled. 

There are so many different styles of red wine. As a general rule of chilling, lighter reds can withstand a longer chill, while bigger reds should see a shorter time in the fridge. 

Let’s break this down. 

Lighter Reds

Lighter reds tend to be light-bodied, have lower levels of alcohol (although not always–we’re looking at you, Grenache!), and have a more delicate structure. Structure refers to the levels of acidity and tannins in the wine. These two factors have a lot to do with not only how the wine tastes but how it feels in your mouth when you take a sip. 

Light reds are also fruity and often higher in acidity. Their tannin levels are typically (but not always) lower, so they’re less drying and more fruit-forward. 

You can taste fruits from raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries to plums to cherries in a light red wine. The flavor profile might be as complex as a full-bodied red, but the weight of the wine is light and delicate. 

The most common light red wines are:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Beaujolais
  • Grenache/Garnacha
  • Merlot
  • Dolcetto
  • Barbera
  • Cinsault

The proper storing temperature for these wines is between 55 and 64°F. Your refrigerator runs at about 35° or 40°F, so you can simply stick this wine in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour to get it down to the right temperature. 

Medium and Full-Bodied Reds

Medium and full-bodied reds feel rounder in the mouth and have a firmer structure. This is because the tannin levels are higher, so you’ll get a drying, astringent mouthfeel. Acidity in these wines can range from high to low, but they generally pack a bigger punch. 

The most common full-bodied red wines are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Zinfandel
  • Tempranillo
  • Malbec
  • Bordeaux
  • Petit Verdot
  • Tannat

These wines should be stored at room temperature, generally 59° to 64°F. If you’re living through the hot summer months, make sure your big reds have a cool, dark place to tough it out. If you want to chill them before serving, put them in the refrigerator for half an hour. 

Fortified Wines

Fortified wines are sweet wines made to be enjoyed in small servings after dinner. Alcohol is added to them which acts as a preservative, and they last a lot longer than other wines. If stored in the refrigerator, they can last up to six weeks. 

The most common fortified red wines are:

  • Port. This is Portugal’s signature sweet wine and can come in a range of qualities. It tends to taste like cooked cherries, walnut, coffee, and caramel. 
  • Madeira. From the island of Madeira, this fortified wine shows nutty aromas and flavors of caramel and stewed fruit.
  • Pedro Ximénez. This is a sweet style of sherry that tastes like dried fig, prune, and raisins. Pour 2 ounces in a cup of vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert. 

The quality of fortified wines varies greatly and serving temperatures do too. Typically, you’ll chill these at the same temperature as light red wines (55° to 64°F) or half an hour in the fridge. However, you can also serve these at room temperature. 

Should you freeze your wine to move things along?

As tempting as it is, you really shouldn’t freeze your red wine. Wine is sensitive to big temperature changes, and it might shut down and lose all of its interesting flavors. Your wine could also get freezer burn. 

Plus, if you forget your wine in the freezer, it will expand and start leaking all over your freezer, which makes a huge mess. Eventually, the pressure from the expanding wine will push the cork out or even cause the bottle to explode inside your freezer. 

If you’re in a pinch and need to chill your wine quickly, there are ways to get it cooled down in a matter of minutes. All you have to do is fill an ice bucket (or any bucket) with ice, water, and a couple of cups of salt. Place the wine bottle inside and spin it for 5 to 10 minutes. 

You can also leave it in there to sit instead, but spinning will speed the process along. The salt will allow the temperature of the water to drop below 32°F without freezing. This gets your wine chilling faster and might just earn you a round of applause. 

Depending on the structure of the wine you’re chilling, you can either leave the bottle in the ice to chill as you sip, or take it out and let it remain lightly chilled. 

Whatever you do, don’t put ice in your wine.

Perhaps even more tempting than putting the whole bottle in the freezer is dropping a few cubes of ice in your wine. Sadly, the ice will dilute your wine, so you’re doing yourself a disservice (unless it’s very poor-quality wine). Just whip up a quick, salty ice bath, and let it sit while you grab your glass.

If you find that your glass is getting warm before you’re done with it, pour yourself a smaller amount and be sure to hold it by the stem so your hand doesn’t warm the liquid. 

Lastly, have fun with it! Don’t be afraid to experiment with chilling different wines and breaking some rules. There are so many different wines. Some have high acidity and high tannins, so whether you should chill it feels like a toss-up. 

If you have a Cab Franc from the Loire that seems to be really fruity but definitely has some high tannins, try sticking it in the fridge for twenty minutes and see how you like it. Listen to that little voice in your head saying, “You should chill this!” 

If you don’t like it, you can always let it warm back up on the counter away from sunlight, and it’ll return to the warm wine you know and love.

Looking for something that can hang out in the fridge until you’re ready for it?

Try Tinto’s new Jajaja Glou Glou Wine, an easy-to-drink natural wine designed to evoke the warmth you feel laughing with your mates. 


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