Serving Wine in Warm Weather

wine tastingWhen the weather is warm, we think nothing of chilling white and rose’ wines, but what about those reds? How can we keep them at optimal serving temperature?

Chilling reduces the movement of volatile molecules in wine. In other words, it suppresses aroma and flavor temporarily. Also, the shock of a chilled beverage hitting the palate closes one’s senses to flavors. If you want a wine to show at it’s best, it should be about 50-52 degrees Fahrenheit (10-11 Celsius) when you serve it. If the bottle feels very cool to your palm, the temperature is perfect.

However, if it’s 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius) outside and you take your bottle of fine red wine directly out to the table, it’s going to quickly become warm. Very warm. Therefore, it’s perfectly all right to chill wines slightly, both white and red, when you plan to dine outside in warm weather.

Don’t put them in the freezer, exactly—just simulate the effect of cellar storage by laying the bottles on their side for a while in the refrigerator. The warmer the weather, the colder the bottles can be. Putting the bottles in the refrigerator for only a half hour or so will really chill only the bottle itself; it takes longer than that for the temperature of the wine to drop. And chilling the bottle a little will insulate the wine inside against your warm al fresco setting.

To keep your reds cool while they are outside, place them in a cold water bath. If you don’t have an ice bucket, a large pitcher or deep container of any kind will do. You may want to put a plastic bag over the bottle to protect the label. Placing wine on ice will chill only a small portion of the bottle, so fill your ice bucket halfway with cold water, and add a tray of ice cubes.

If you’re dining outside and the weather is hot, keep the wine glasses in a cool, shady place until shortly before dining. If you set the glasses out too early they will get hot, which will have an unpleasant effect on your guests’ wine enjoyment.

When the wine is served into glasses, each glass will warm up quickly, so keep that in mind, and pour only four ounces of wine at a time, keeping the wine bottle in a cool, shady spot.


Mary Baker is a wine and culinary consultant with over 20 years of experience in wine marketing and production.  She has worked for outstanding producers like Wild Horse and Justin, and conducted wine seminars throughout the central coast.

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