What’s the best way to warm up a bottle of wine?
While fridges and ice buckets solve the issue of chilling a wine down, it is a trickier task to warm a bottle up to its ideal drinking temperature.
While there is serving temperature variation between different varieties, different styles, and even different producers, the generally accepted guidance is to serve full-bodied red wines, such as Nero d’Avola or Cabernet Sauvignon, at room temperature (approximately 18°C). Lighter reds, such as Zweigelt and Lambrusco, might benefit from benefit from being lightly-chilled (around 13°C), so a short stint on ice could be in order.
Like Goldilocks and her porridge, it has to be just right: serving it too cold will result in harsh tannins and thin flavours, too warm, and you will lose freshness and the acidity will also be more noticeable.
But warming a wine is a perilous tightrope to tread: heat it too aggressively, and you can end up stewing the wine. Then again, waiting for the bottle to come up to room temperature can feel like an age, and, in an age of instant gratification, there must surely be a hack.
On Twitter, Peter Richards MW shared his method for warming up a first growth Bordeaux trio consisting of a 1990 Chateau Haut Brion, 2002 Chateau Haut Brion, and a 1995 Chateau Margaux:
TRIGGER WARNING for wine nerds: how do you get your special (red) wines to the right temperature if they’re too cold?! Have to admit that this situation (first growths in a pan of warm water) did give me the fear… pic.twitter.com/oGPUKR5NYB
— Peter Richards MW (@wineschools) January 31, 2023
Stephen Skelton MW joked: “What’s wrong with a microwave? I bought one without a turntable specifically so I could put a bottle in it.”
Give it 20-30 seconds and remember it warms from the inside out. Capsules. Not affected or a problem. pic.twitter.com/nElCAGquRR
— Stephen Skelton (@spskelton) January 31, 2023
There were also some more sincere suggestions: “Instead of just using the phone torch when decanting, go old style and use a candle. Or several candles. More seriously, would decanting into a warm decanter help, I wonder?”
“I’ve tried placing on radiators before and, staying in a hotel last weekend, I used the hair dryer”.
“Jesus Christ, just put your hands around the glass to warm it up!”
Speaking to db, 67 Pall Mall sommelier Freddie Williams suggested that in this case, the simplest method is still the best, though it might require some patience: “The best way is to let it warm up on its own to room temperature, or insulate with a wine sock. You can decant, but that will also air the wine.”
He also stressed: “Never heat a wine, it will ruin it.”
In a nutshell: you can’t rush a good thing.
If you prefer your wine hot, then you may be in luck – a study suggested that mulled wine could be good for your brain.