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California Red Wine at Room Temperature? Is that 80°, 70° or 60°? Winemakers Weigh In on Favorite Temps

Everybody knows California white wines should be served cold and reds should be savored at room temperature.

But, “Which room temperature?” asks winemaker/owner Helen Rommel of Lodi’s D’Art Winery.

Would that be your 85° garage? Your kitchen while cooking dinner at 75°? Or your 70° living room? A bottle of wine in an 80° room becomes an 80° beverage. As our friends at NASA determined, “Heat always transfers from the object at the higher temperature to the object with the lower temperature.” It’s called ‘convection.’ So, a glass of 63° wine in a 75° room will start warming up (specially when you’re grasping the glass with your warm mitts.)

Who would have ever thought we’d discuss wine ruled by the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics. Have we strayed too far?

The truth is red wine should be chilled below 70° according to winemakers and professionals we queried. We received a wide range of temperatures but they all hovered below this magic mark.

68° for Helen Rommel of Lodi’s D’Art Winery.

62° for Seth Norris at Helwig Winery in Gold Country.

63° for Jess Havill at Bella Grace Vineyards (stored at 58) in Shanadoah Valley.

65° for Jeremy Vander Velde at Polynesian Girl Winery in El Dorado County (stored at 55.)

68° for Damian Grindley at his Brecon Winery in Paso Robles if it’s an oaky and tannic red wine, cooler temps for a softer Pinot Noir and 56° for Grenache.

When I drop a bottle of red in the freezer four to five minutes our house guests sometimes look at me like I’m crawling out of some Area 52 UFO wreckage. But doing this takes off the 75°+ bite and cools the bottle for a longer temperature sweet spot. It keeps the wine below 70°.

Just don’t leave it in the freezer too long. Jeremy at Polynesian Girl Winery gave us a side by side taste of their Cabernet Sauvignon cooled to 55° next to a taste of the same wine at 65°ish. You’d be right predicting the cooler wine had not opened up, while the full taste of the wine came through at 65°. As those glasses warmed up to room temperature (and higher temperature because of my hands) 70°+ wine lost it’s flavor, taking on a less enjoyable bite.

The truth is many people who struggle with red Cabs, Zins, Syrahs and Barbera might enjoy them more at a cooler temperature than they’ve sampled before.

Your favorite wine is what you like, at the temperature you enjoy, in the glass you prefer. But, experiment with cooler temperatures on your red wines and see where you end up. You just might be dropping your bottle into the freezer for a few minutes and fielding odd looks from dinner guests.

Some notes on our wine ranking system.

Bill & Erin Hodge write about California Wine, the estates & winemakers producing them and educational information about Vino. Living in California Wine Country provides a front row seat to the places you want to visit the most here in the Golden State.

– -✰  means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰  means -Not liking it too much
✰ means  -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰+ + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+  with a slash, it means we disagree.

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