Achieving the Right Temperature – How to Serve Italian Red Wine Correctly

Picture the scene.

You’ve invited your friend and family around for a dinner party. For the entire day, you’ve been in and out of the kitchen cooking a delicious feast. Everything is perfect. The food smells great and you can’t wait to see the looks on your loved ones’ faces when you finally serve it up.

The big moment arrives.

Everybody has a plate full of food, which means all that’s left is the pour each person a glass of Italian red wine. You picked your wine out especially for the occasion and you know that it’s a good one. With the drinks poured, you watch as people take their first sips.

But something’s wrong.

You’re not seeing happy and smiling faces.

Instead, you see people looking at their glasses quizzically as though something appears to be off.

And it is!

Even though you spent and an enormous amount of time on the food, you didn’t focus quite as much effort on ensuring you served your wine correctly. The dinner party certainly isn’t ruined. But now, it’s not quite as special as it could have been if the wine was able to match the food.

Let’s make sure that never happens.

In this article, we’re going to share some tips and tricks that ensure you always serve Italian red wine as it’s meant to be served.

Tip #1 – Temperature is Everything

The general advice for serving Italian wine is to go for slightly chilled below room temperature. You don’t want it chilled to the level of a white wine. But a couple of degrees below room temperature is best.

That’s the rule of thumb.

And it’s right…

Some of the time!

The reality is that your red wine’s ideal temperature varies depending on the type of wine you’re serving. If you’re lucky, the wine label will give tell you exactly what sort of temperature you should hit. If you check any of the wine pages on Xtrawine, you’ll also see some notes about the ideal serving temperature.

But if you have nothing to work from, just remember these three simple rules.

If it’s a full-bodied red, such as a Barolo, the ideal serving temperature is between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius.

If the red wine has a medium body, you go a couple of degrees further down. Between 14 and 16 is your sweet spot here.

Finally, lighter and fruitier reds go all the way down to 12 or 13 degrees, with some even being chillable to 10 degrees Celsius.

So, check the wine and learn more about its body. If you don’t have an ideal serving temperature to hand, use those general rules and you should land on the right one.

Tip #2 – Think About the Food

As we’ve stressed many times before, the food you serve alongside your Italian red wine has a huge impact on the experience.

For example, let’s say you’re serving juicy steaks. All done rare or medium-rare, the steaks have exceptionally rich flavours, coupled with savoury undertones. Then, you combine those steaks with a very light red wine.

The wine will get lost in the shuffle. It won’t be able to compete with the richness of the steaks, making it lose a lot of its qualities in the process.

Food pairing can be tough, which is why we’ve already written a blog post detailing some useful tips to help you get it right.

Tip #3 – The Wine’s Age Matters

Let’s say you have a nice red that you’ve been saving for a couple of years. When it’s finally time to open it, the temptation is to crack it open straight away and start drinking. But by doing that, you’re likely losing out on many of the qualities that make aged wine so special.

Preparation is key when you’re serving an older bottle of red.

For example, you need to stand the wine up vertically for a couple of days before serving it. This allows all of the sediment, which may have collected near the cork when stored horizontally, to drop down into the bottom of the bottle. Thus, your guests don’t get mouthfuls of sediment with each sip.

Decanting is key here as well.

Your goal is to leave the sediment undisturbed. Many recommended decanting over a candle until you see a little cloudiness at the bottom of the neck. You should also see the main body of the wine become clearer and brighter, indicating that you’ll get more purity in the flavours.

Tip #4 – Don’t Overfill Your Glass

This is a common mistake, though it’s also understandable. You’ve been looking forward to drinking this red for ages. So, you fill your glass almost to the top, meaning you get to drink more before you need a refill.

That’s great in terms of convenience.

However, a full glass is not going to help you get the most out of your wine. When you fill the glass, you have less room to swill it. And that means you can’t release all of the aromas that make the wine so enjoyable.

Ideally, you should pour the wine between a quarter and a third of the way up the glass.

Tip #5 – No More Stemless Glasses

A stemless glass may look cool and trendy.

But it’s also going to cause temperature issues. After all, you have to surround the glass with your hand to pick it up. This creates heat, which gets transferred to the wine. So, you may as well not have bothered getting the temperature right because you’re just warming the wine up anyway.

The stem of a wine glass serves a purpose.

It gives you something to hold so you don’t have to grip the glass, thus altering the wine inside.

If you have no other option, pour only a small amount and hold the stemless glass near the rim.

Get Your Reds Right

Temperature, sediment content, and the wine’s age all affect how you prepare your Italian red wine for serving. These handy tips ensure you get it right the first time. And of course, Xtrawine is here to serve your needs if you need to get your hands on a tasty red for your dinner party.


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