Can you drink red wine before dinner?

Can You Drink Red Wine Before Dinner? Uncorking the Apéro Tradition

Red wine is a beloved dinner companion, but can it also grace the pre-dinner table? The answer, like a perfectly aged bottle, is a nuanced “it depends.” Let’s explore the art of the apéro, the French tradition of enjoying a light drink before a meal, and see if red wine can be part of your pre-dinner routine.

The Allure of the Apéro

The apéro (pronounced ah-pe-roh) is more than just a drink; it’s a social ritual. It’s a time to unwind, connect with friends and family, and whet the appetite for the meal to come. Traditionally, apéritifs are lighter alcoholic beverages, often with a bitter or herbal quality, that stimulate the digestive system.

Red Wine: Friend or Foe of the Apéro?

While not the most typical apéritif, red wine can certainly be enjoyed before dinner. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Red Wine Style: Full-bodied reds with high tannins might overpower the lighter flavors often served before a meal. Opt for lighter-bodied reds like Pinot Noir, Gamay, or chilled Beaujolais. These have higher acidity and fruity notes that pair well with appetizers.
  • Food Pairings: Consider what you’ll be nibbling on. Cheeses, cured meats, and olives are classic apéro fare and complement many red wines.
  • Personal Preference: Ultimately, enjoyment is key. If you love a glass of red before a meal, go for it! Just be mindful of the factors above to create a harmonious pre-dinner experience.

Tips for Enjoying Red Wine Before Dinner

  • Chill it Slightly: Serving a light-bodied red slightly below room temperature (around 55-60°F) enhances its refreshing qualities.
  • Start Small: A small pour (2-3 oz) is perfect for an apéro. This allows you to savor the wine without feeling full before dinner.
  • Focus on Conversation: The apéro is about social connection, not consuming large quantities of alcohol.

Alternatives to Red Wine for Apéro

If you’re looking for a more traditional apéritif experience, consider these options:

  • Sparkling Wines: Prosecco, Champagne, or Cava offer lively bubbles and refreshing acidity, perfect for kicking off a meal.
  • Vermouth: This fortified wine comes in sweet and dry varieties and is a common base for classic apéritif cocktails.
  • Bitters: A dash of bitters like Aperol or Campari adds a touch of complexity and prepares the palate for a delicious meal.


Red wine can be a delightful addition to your pre-dinner routine, adding a touch of sophistication and enjoyment to the apéro. By considering the style of wine, food pairings, and portion size, you can create a balanced and enjoyable way to unwind before a meal. So, uncork that bottle, gather your loved ones, and embrace the art of the apéro!

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