Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: January 4, 2024

How to Drink Red Wine Properly [Store, Serve, Enjoy!]

red wine glasses being held in vineyard

Serving temperature and aeration are particularly important when it comes to drinking red wine but you should ensure that it has been stored correctly too.

In this guide, we explain how to serve red wine and enjoy it properly.

Selecting the Perfect Bottle of Red Wine

Part of the enjoyment of red wine is knowing how to pick a wine you like.  

For a great selection of easy to drink red wines, don't miss our guide!

Start With Body

  • Do you like full bodied reds? These are higher alcohol content reds that coat your mouth. Look for a Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, or Malbec.
  • Prefer a light bodied red? These feel lighter in the mouth and are lighter in pigment, letting more light in. Pinot Noir is a favorite of those who like lighter reds.

Use Weather as a Guide - Yours or the Wine's

  • If you like full and light bodied reds consider basing your choice on the temperature. Full bodied wines complement the types of food eaten in winter and are thicker and heavier. They are also served a little warmer. Light bodied reds are a great way to enjoy wine in the spring and summer and are served on the chillier side.
  • If you like a more tart or acidic wine, look for one grown in a cool climate or microclimate.
  • Like less acid and more sweet, ripe fruit? Look for wines from a warm climate or microclimate!

How to Properly Store Red Wine

Once you have a bottle at home it's important to store it properly. You don't need a wine cellar or a fancy wine fridge if you follow some basic guidelines, although a wine fridge is never a bad idea if you live in a warm climate.

For Best Results...

  • Chill Out!  The ideal temperature for red wine is 55 degrees. Anything between 45-65 is good so most people can store in a dark pantry. Your kitchen fridge is okay for a couple of months but the super cold temperatures meant to keep food from spoiling can result in a dried cork, which can lead to spoiled wine.
  • No Cooking!  Even if you keep your home cool, be careful about storing your wine above the oven, in the laundry room, or near a furnace, fireplace, or radiator. Besides the risk of higher temperatures, which can cook wine, there is the added risk of dry air that can wreak havoc on corks 
  • Lay Down, Sally. Bottles with corks that are going to be kept for a while are best stored lying flat.  
  • Going Steady. Whether or not you invest in a wine fridge the key is to keep wine at a consistent temperature rather than allowing for swings from warm to cold and back. Big changes in temperature can cause the cork to seep or even push out - often ruining the wine inside.

Note: Screw cap wines don't have to be stored flat - there's no cork to worry about!

Opening Your Wine

When serving wine, how you open it is a big part of the experience.

Using a wine opener that works for you is most important. While there are fancy openers used for service, let's face it: a waiter's friend is not the easiest thing in the world.

We use rabbit style openers here at Wine Turtle. You want a wine opener that is easy to use and won't push in a cork, break the bottle, or make you avoid opening because it's clumsy or difficult to use.

Using a rabbit style wine opener is simple. Grip the handles so that they hold the bottle top, move the lever to insert the spiral into the cork.

Continue grasping the handles while reversing the lever to extract the cork. You can pop the cork off the spiral by twisting or simply use the handles to grasp the cork and pull the lever.

Get Some Air into Your Red Wine

At Wine Turtle we believe in the importance of aerating wine. It's a 'must do' step if you really want to enjoy red wine. 

Aerating (adding air to) red wines oxidizes them enough to open up the aromas and flavors perfectly.  

Here are the benefits of aeration:

  • Opens the bouquet
  • Allows gasses to blow off
  • Brings out all of the flavors
  • Allows the wine to warm

You can use a traditional decanter, which is a glass container, or save time and buy an aerating pourer

Decanting works best when you have anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours so if you're pressed for time, or don't want to wait, just pop an aerating pourer onto the bottle and enjoy immediately!

Sometimes there's no time (or patience!) for decanting. In that case, an aerating pourer is the best bet.

These devices pop onto a bottle to pour wine controlled rate while air intake holes create a vacuum so that the wine "glugs" at a rapid pace. The movement and air essentially decant while pouring.   

Room Temperature: Fact or Myth

Serve white wine chilled and red at room temperature. We've all heard it a million times.

The truth is, it really depends on the type of wine. And room temperature is a bit of a vague target considering we all find different temperatures comfortable and live in different climates

And unless you like your rooms chillier than the average bear, room temperature is probably a little too warm for serving reds.

For an in-depth look at serving temperatures for different types of wine, don't miss our latest guide.

If you are decanting you'll want to start from a colder temperature since wine can warm considerably over the 30 minutes to two hours you'll allow it to rest in the decanter.

What's the Perfect Temperature for Red Wine?

There's not just one answer to this - depending on region and personal taste but experts all seem to have the mid 60's in common in their serving temperature ranges.  

Some experts say 60-70 degrees while others prefer 58-65. I like my reds at 61.  Don't ask me why, but that is my 'go to' temp.  

Even I, though, have exceptions to the rule.  

For the sake of not repeating the ranges, we'll use "mid 60's" as our term for red wine temperatures.

How to Enjoy Red Wine at the Right Temperature

You have a few options for how to get your wine to the right temperature whether or not you have a wine fridge.  

And, even with a one-zone wine fridge, which will be kept at appropriate cellar temps or white wine temps (51 or below) you can still get your reds to the perfect temperature.

  • If storing in a pantry, place the wine in your regular fridge for 1-2 hours. 
  • If storing red wine in a single zone wine fridge, remove for 30-60 minutes.
  • If storing in a kitchen fridge or wine rack in the house, pop in the fridge for 1-2 hours prior to drinking.

Pro Tip: The likely reason for the range in temperatures is that there are times when you'll want to serve reds at a lower, or higher, temp. General rule of thumb: the lighter the body, the colder the wine.  So you'll better enjoy Pinot Noir a little cooler than you would a Nero D'Avola.

These hints, tips, and instructions will help you better experience your red wine - right from picking out a bottle.

When you're ready to take that first sip be sure to check out our article on tasting red wines!  How do you like your reds? Cooler? Warmer? Ice cold?

Let us know in the comments or continue the conversation with us on Facebook.

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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