With warmer weather well and truly here, white wines tend to take centre stage. This is only natural—they’re light, crisp, and easy-drinking. For some, the thought of sitting down with a glass of red in the sweltering heat is unappealing; for others it is borderline oppressive. When you want to feel refreshed, you don't find yourself instinctively reaching for the closest bottle of Shiraz.
However, if you happen to be in a committed relationship with red wine, you might find yourself out of luck at the next family barbecue— while you’ll find Pinot Gris galore, there won’t be a red in sight.
Who said reds can't be summer wines?
To give your favourite red a refreshing edge, we suggest popping it in the fridge to let it cool down. Once upon a time, you’d often hear that red wine must be served at room-temperature. Such conventional wisdom has well and truly fallen out of favour. Given that “room temperature” can vary hugely from room to room, and country to country—this advice falls short.
Chilling red wine is not the faux pas some make it out to be. The serve-at-room-temp tradition no doubt originated in Europe—where average temperatures are cooler year round. Down under, it’s a different story. Refrigeration is often needed to bring a wine within what would technically be considered “room temperature.”
So… let’s get chilling! Here are a couple of helpful tips and tricks for chilling red wine.
Which Red Wines Are Best For Chilling?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to chilling red wine. At the end of the day, it comes down to individual tastes and preferences. Having said this, certain styles of red wine tend to benefit from cooling more than others. The best candidates often have a light to medium body, high acid, low tannins & alcohol, and a fruit-forward palate. Such wines tend to be young wines.
This is not to say you can’t chill full-bodied/ aged reds, although extensive chilling of robust reds tends to mute a wine’s complexity, subdue sought-after secondary and tertiary notes, and accentuate astringency.
Some of the best varieties to serve chilled include Pinot Noir, Aglianico, Nero D’Avola, Gamay, Garnacha, and Lambrusco. Keep in mind that variety is not the be all and end all when it comes to chill-ability. Focus more on the style and features of the wine—body, tannin, acid, alcohol content, and primary flavours.
How cool is too cool?
Cool—but not too cool. The lighter the red, the colder you can go. I would suggest around 10-14℃ for soft, fruit-forward reds. As I mentioned before, heavier reds tend to lose flavour and depth if they are excessively chilled. Yet complexity can be equally lost if full-bodied reds are served too warm. The wine’s structure will loosen and the taste of alcohol may become more apparent. The ideal temperature for more robust styles is around 16-18℃.