Decanter Best – JULY 29, 2020
Best summer red wines to drink chilled
There are plenty of red wines that you can drink slightly chilled in the summer months, contrary to popular myth. Here is our guide to your options, with expert advice on how to chill wine quickly if you’re pushed for time.
Yes, you most definitely can drink red wines chilled.
This 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.
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
There are many more, of course, and winemaking style is also important. You don’t want too much oak, for instance.
What you need to know about chilling red wine
Sarah Jane Evans MW, co-chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards, said that ‘as a 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 tumblers in Mediterranean bars.’
If price seems a bit of blunt instrument, then consider being wary of tannin and over-use of new oak, in particular. 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,’ said Evans.
One reason why stainless steel vats can be used in wineries, and sometimes also concrete, is to help protect those fresh, primary fruit flavours in at least a portion of the wine.
A pale colour can also be a good indicator, because it suggests lighter extraction in the cellar.
How long to chill red wine for
‘Good summer reds should be served at 10°C-16°C (50°F-60°F)’ says Peter Richards MW, in his upcoming tasting of lighter summer wines, in the September 2020 issue of Decanter.
‘That’s significantly cooler than many a summer’s day, so don’t be afraid to pop them in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving if the weather’s warm.’
Evans also recommends putting a wine in the fridge for half-an-hour, which will particularly tone down the sensation of soupy warmth in a relatively high alcohol red.
Credit: Annabelle Sing/Decanter
Don’t go too far, said Matt Walls, Decanter’s lead reviewer for the Rhône, in the July 2017 issue of Decanter magazine.
‘Cool down too much and aromas and flavours become muted, tannins take on an astringent quality and the wine can feel unpleasantly tight,’ he said.