Chilled Red Wine?!

  • I've written before about my love of rosé, but there's also something about a nice, chilled red wine that, for me, makes a summer's day complete.

Andi Healey

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It’s all too easy (and totally fine) to dip into the staples of summer drinking such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. You can also easily end up spending the whole summer season drinking big, bold Shiraz or Malbecs every time you fire up the BBQ. In fact, that sums up my June to August drinking. But as nice as it is to revisit these old summertime friends, sometimes a change will do you good. 

Yes, you did read that correctly. Chilled red wine!

It probably isn’t the best way to enjoy that 2005 claret you’ve been lovingly ageing, but chilling down lighter styles of red – think good primary fruit and low tannin – can be a great alternative to whites and rosé in the summer months. As a general rule of thumb, the cheaper and/or simpler the red wine the more it will benefit from being served cool or chilled. Think of the refreshing rustic reds served straight from the fridge in Mediterranean bars. Focus on fresher styles with good primary fruit flavours. Chilling emphasises tannin and oak, so be careful to serve a well-structured red only a few degrees cooler than usual. Ideally, at a temperature between 12 to 16°C. A pale colour can also be a good indicator, because it suggests lighter extraction in the winery. 

Red wine styles to think about chilling:

  • Beaujolais plus Gamay wines from other areas if you can find them, such as Oregon or South Africa.
  • Valpolicella Classico or wines made with Corvina grapes
  • Lighter styles of Pinot Noir
  • Some Loire Valley Cabernet Franc
  • Frappato
  • Dolcetto

How long to chill red wine for

Putting a bottle of wine in the fridge for half-an-hour, which will particularly tone down the sensation of soupy warmth in a relatively high alcohol red. But don’t go too far, much below 12°C and aromas and flavours become muted, tannins take on an astringent quality and the wine can feel unpleasantly tight. 

Should you ever chill a full-bodied red wine before serving? 

The short answer is yes, sometimes. Have you ever been served a red wine too warm? It can easily happen, especially in hotter climates. 

Even for full bodied reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, it’s important to stop the wine getting too warm before serving, much warmer than 18°C is too high, flavours become blurred and soupy, its structure softens and alcohol becomes more noticeable. 

Chill it down slightly and flavours come into focus, alcohol becomes less apparent, structure tightens up and the wine is more refreshing to drink.

Quick tips for chilling red wines if you don’t have much time 

  • Place the bottle in an ice bucket filled with ice and some water for about 10-15 minutes, but do take regular sips to make sure you’re not over-chilling the wine. 
  • A cool sleeve, such as the Le Creuset Cooler Sleeve, is less messy. Since most of these can be flattened, they can also be used as a cushion to keep decanters of red wine cool.  
  • If your red has been stored at around 20°C, pop it in the fridge for 25-30 minutes; set the timer on your oven or your phone so you don’t forget to remove it. 
  • If you’re in a hurry, 8-10 minutes in the freezer will suffice, but more gentle methods are preferable. 
  • Use a plastic or metal wine cooler to keep the temperature low once it’s out of the fridge or freezer, or an ice bucket filled with cool water and ice cubes.

Like all things wine related, the only really important thing is that you enjoy what you drink (and do it in moderation) So, clear some space in the fridge and enjoy! 

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