Red wine is appropriate for several occasions, from a formal dinner party to pre-dinner drinks. Make sure to store, serve, pair, and drink red wine the right way.

glass of red wine

What red wine etiquette is

Red wine etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and drink red wine. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow red wine etiquette to appropriately serve it to your guests.

If you are a guest, respect red wine etiquette rules to properly drink and enjoy it.

What you should know about red wine

Red wine is a wine produced from dark-colored grape varieties. Its color comes from the fermentation of the grapes’ skin. The nuances usually depend on the age of the wine.

There are several varieties of red wine, based on the type of grapes used, the winemaking method, and the amount of residual sugar. The color, texture, and traits of red wine are determined by its variety and aging. Red wines are produced in almost every wine region of the world. 

how to serve and drink red wine

Etiquette rules for serving and drinking red wine

1) How to store red wine

Store red wine in a cool place. Keep the bottle away from direct light and far from any source of heat.

Place the bottle in a horizontal position, to keep the cork moist. Dry corks might let the oxygen in and spoil the wine.

Do not store red wine in the fridge or in the freezer.

2) How to prepare red wine

Most red wines benefit from decanting. The contact with the oxygen makes the texture and flavors of the wine more gentle to the palate.

Before serving, pour the full bottle of wine into a decanter. Then, let the wine breathe. The amount of time needed for decanting depends on the wine and on personal tastes. Usually, you should decant a red wine between 10 and 60 minutes. Try between 10 and 20 minutes for younger wines, and between 20 and 30 minutes for mature wines.

You do not need to refrigerate most red wines before serving.

Avoid chilling glasses in the fridge. The condensation waters down the wine and dilutes its taste.

3) How to serve & present red wine

Red wines usually taste better between 13°C and 18°C (55°F and 65°F). As a general rule, full-bodied wines require a warmer serving temperature. Cold temperatures risk preventing red wines from releasing their bouquet. Thus, it is appropriate to refrigerate only young and light red wines.

Do not put the bottle in the fridge or freezer. Similarly, do not keep the bottle in an ice bucket. 

Present red wine in its bottle or the decanter. On formal occasions, it is best to present the wine in its bottle, even if you let it decant first. After decanting, pour the wine back into its bottle using a small kitchen funnel.

Hold the bottle by its body, never by its neck or cork. Serve red wine in red wine glasses, which are larger and wider compared to white wine glasses. Fill the glass between ⅓ and ½.

4) When to serve & drink red wine

Red wines can fit any occasion.

You can and should serve at least one red wine on formal occasions. Such as a formal dinner party.

However, red wine is ideal for most informal occasions too. Serve dry and light red wine as an aperitif or at an aperitivo. Or at a barbecue, picnic, brunch, or light lunch. Rich red wine is ideal for pairings with a meat course or cheese platter.

Red wine is not best suited for warm weather, because of its heavier body compared to white and rosé wines.

5) Food & aromas to pair red wine with

The ideal food and aroma pairings with red wine vary based on the wine and its profile.

In general, red wines pair well with red meats, flavored fish such as tuna and swordfish, mushrooms, and seasoned cheese. Avoid pairings with delicate foods, white fish, Asian and Mexican food, or pizza.

6) Etiquette for drinking red wine

Drink red wine in red wine glasses. Hold the glass by its stem to avoid warming the wine with your hand.

Drink it in small sips. A glass of red wine should last between 15 and 30 minutes. Never drink shots of red wine.

Never add ice to red wine. First, ice waters down the wine and its bouquet. Furthermore, ice is usually added to low-quality or cheap beverages. Thus, adding ice to red wine can be seen as an offense to the quality of the wine, and therefore to your host.

red wine etiquette mistakes

Red wine etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst red wine etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Getting drunk.
  • 7/10. Drinking shots of red wine.
  • 7/10. Pairing red wine with the wrong food or aromas.
  • 6/10. Not holding the glass by the stem. 
  • 5/10. Adding ice to red wine.
  • 4/10. Serving full-bodied red wine cold.

Additional information for properly serving red wine

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

On average, red wines contain about 85 calories per 100 ml (3.5 oz). A glass of red wine is typically 150 ml (5 oz) and has 125 calories.

How to buy the best red wine

A crucial factor in red wine etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.

Choose the best

There are countless red wines in commerce. To choose the best, start with how you want to serve it.

For example:

  • On which occasion?
  • At what temperature?
  • Do you need to pair it with a specific food or aroma?
  • How many guests?
  • What is your budget?

Such questions help you narrow down the options. Then, you can check our etiquette guides for specific wines and research on specialist websites online.