Thanks to my British Buddies for this great article about chilling reds in the summer… which works for this side of the pond as well!
Chilled Red is the New White
by Mark Andrew
When the sun rears its seldom seen head, you will find many a wine drinker reaching into the fridge for their ice cold Sauvignon Blanc or crisp and fresh rosé. And why not? An invigorating dry white or refreshing pink may just fit the bill…..
…..but if you come to my house during the great British summer, there will be something different waiting in the fridge to have its cork pulled – red wine. Chillable reds are all the rage and thanks to the increase in popularity of lighter style red wines, there is a wide choice of perfect candidates for a spell in the ice box before they are opened.
The questions I get asked when presenting my befuddled drinking partners with something cold and purple (ahem..), usually involve why and what? For many people the thought of a cold red wine has never crossed their mind. The answer to ‘why?’ is usually found in the first revelatory sip from the glass, but the basic premise is that whereas whites and rosés do the refreshing part really well, they rarely satisfy the palate in the same way that a red wine can. Chilled reds can reach the parts that other cold wines cannot reach, thanks to their bright succulent fruit and a fuller body than their white and pink counterparts.
Why Chilling Works for Some Reds, and Not for Others
But what should you look for in a wine to know that it will be right for chilling? The main thing to remember is that as the wine’s temperature drops, certain characteristics will become magnified (acidity, tannin, fruit) and other things will become more difficult to discern (nuance, complexity, alcohol and residual sugar). As tannin becomes more pronounced the wine gets more bitter and astringent, but a heightened perception of acidity will make the wine seem fresher and more vibrant (up to a point). The primary aromas and flavours of fresh fruit will have their volume turned up as the temperature drops, while the secondary and tertiary notes that bring complexity will be locked up as the molecular activity in the wine slows down in the cold. For both red and white wines, cold termperatures are the enemy of complexity – but then who needed complexity when its 33°C by the swimming pool? OK, OK, in the UK its more likely to be 23°C and cloudy by the fish pond. Either way, this is not the time or the place to be wowed by the nuances of a mature fine wine – what we want is refreshment!
Choosing a Chillable Red
So, on that basis, we are looking for a young and fruity wine with low tannin. Grapes like Gamay, Tempranillo, Barbera, and young examples of Pinot Noir can all work really well. Increasingly, there are winemakers treating varieties like Syrah and Grenache in a gentle enough way that they can make for great chillable reds. Regions that provide fertile hunting grounds for this style of wine include Beaujolais (perfect for chilling), Loire Valley, Northern Rhone Valley, Jura and Savoie, Piedmont (for Barbera) and Veneto (like Valpolicella – but not Amarone!).
Avoid tannic wines like the plague for this purpose – they will become even more chewy and astringent. So varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Merlot, Mourvedre, Sangiovese and Malbec are to be kept out of the fridge. And stick to brightly fruited young wines rather than your grandfather’s 1961 Clarets….
Next time the sun is out, give it a try – especially if you’ve got some red meat sizzling on the barbeque!
Mark Andrew has worked in the industry with wine merchants for the past 5 years and has a particular interest in French wine. When he’s not online or at a tasting he enjoys football and wandering the vineyards of his beloved Burgundy.