ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I find that decanting my wine for an hour or so often improves its drinkability. Doing so, however, means my wine is at room temperature when I serve it. How can I give my wine some air time yet also serve it at a cooler temperature?

—Mike H., Los Alamitos, Calif.

Dear Mike,

I’ll assume that since you wrote me, you’ve already ruled out actually lowering your room temperature to more cellar-like conditions. I’m also assuming you don’t have a fancy walk-in cellar where you can just set the decanted wine on a counter, at least not yet.

I think how you approach this depends on how warm your “room temperature” actually is. My house is typically about 68 to 70 degrees F, so if I take a bottle out of my 55-degree cellar an hour beforehand, it’s usually right in the sweet spot of where I like to serve reds, right around 65 degrees F.

But if you want your reds colder, or if the air temperature is warmer, there are a couple things to try. First, set the decanter on ice. I’d avoid putting it in the fridge—then it could get too cold and the flavors would be dumbed down. But I guess in a pinch, you could stick it in there for no more than 10 or 20 minutes to keep it chilled. Another idea is to chill down the empty decanter in the fridge before pouring the wine into it (but be prepared for subsequent condensation).

Finally, if you use a wine cooler or other storage area that only holds bottles, you can pour your wine into a decanter to aerate it, then pour the wine back into the bottle, stick the cork back in so it won’t leak, and put it back in the cooler until your guests arrive. The act of pouring the wine from the bottle into the decanter and back again would expose it to air, and so would extra head space in the bottle, if you first pour yourself a small taste to see how the wine is showing.

—Dr. Vinny


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