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Puzzled Over The Right Way to Drink Red Wine? Chill Out!

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                                                Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

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Marc Rauch
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Let me start by saying that how ever you like to drink wine, that's the right way to drink it. There are no rules that you have to be concerned with...there are no rules that you should be concerned with...other than rules pertaining to drinking and driving, of course.

An analogy I like to use concerns coffee. How ever you like to drink coffee it is undoubtedly different than how your spouse or significant-other drinks their coffee. Yet, it is as perfect for them as your coffee is for you. No one ever says, "let's see what Mr. Folgers had to say about the right way to drink his coffee," and no one ever says, "How would Howard Schultz (founder of Starbucks) say we should drink his coffee." Moreover, if you've ever tasted Starbucks regular coffee then you know Howie doesn't have a clue as to what good coffee should taste like. You sweeten your coffee; lighten your coffee; or supplement your coffee; with additional flavors the way you love it, and you do love it! That's how you should approach drinking wine.

The greatest misconception about red wine is the proper temperature to drink red wine. I say this both in terms of the ambient temperature of the environment in which you're in, as well as the temperature of the wine itself. Every year, as the weather starts to heat up, people regularly say something like: "I stop drinking red wine in May and don't drink it again until October because it's too warm. We like to eat outside and barbecue. I'd love to have a glass of red wine with the meat but it's too hot, so I drink cold white wine or beer."

This problem is caused by the erroneous understanding of the rule: Drink wine at room temperature.

Remember what I wrote at the beginning of this commentary, there are no rules you should be concerned with. The room temperature rule is the best example. When the rule about "room temperature" was made up, it was roughly 700 years ago - literally seven centuries ago - and the rooms they were referring to were the cellars in which the wine was blended and stored. These were cold rooms, 55 degrees Fahrenheit or colder (equal to around 12 degrees Celsius and colder). They weren't talking about modern-day indoor living room and dining room temperatures of 68 to 72 degrees. And they sure as heck didn't mean backyard temperatures that could run up to three digits. The only time to ever drink hot wine is après-ski, mulled with cinnamon or other spices, after a long day on the slopes.

What this means is that red wine is meant to be chilled. It should be chilled colder than the room (or environment) that you're in. How much colder? That depends on the room and your personal taste. If you're inside, where it's 69 to 72 degrees, a good guide is at least 9 to 15 degrees cooler. If you're outside, and the air temperature is about 90 to the low 100s, then 9 to 15 degrees lower isn't going to do it. You're going to want the wine to be 30 to 40 degrees colder. (Notice that I use the word "guide" instead of the word "rule." I don't want to be accused of creating another worthless rule.)

An overwhelming majority of the people drinking the cold red wines I've served enthusiastically approve of the temperature of the wine. Every so often someone will tell me that the wine is too cold (for them), and that's fine because how ever they like their wine is what is perfect for them. The solution is to let the wine sit in a glass for a couple of minutes and it'll warm up. Occasionally, a wine poseur will tell me that the wine "opens up" as it warms. This makes me chuckle because there's just as many wine poseurs who preach that wine "opens up" when it cools down.

The funniest reaction I get from people when I tell them to chill their red wines is the question "You mean I can do that?" I tell them, "Yes, it's your wine, you can do anything you want."

The goal is to enjoy red wine, not to put up with it! Don't be afraid to experiment with temperature. It's your wine, drink it as you like.

In support of my cool approach to red wine drinking I offer the following resources:

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About the Author

Marc is a multi-award-winning marketing expert, author, automotive journalist, and Paella chef. In his 50-plus years of business experience he's successfully served thousands of clients and customers.