Are you looking for a relaxing wine this summer, but want to steer clear of rosé and are bored of crisp, fresh whites? Chilled red wines could be the answer...
Forget room temperature, sometimes it’s just better to drink red wine chilled.
Lighter styles, such as Beaujolais and lighter Italian reds like classic Valpolicella, can benefit from being lightly chilled – particularly refreshing in the summer months.
Scroll down for 25 top red wines for chilling
Sarah Jane Evans MW says, ‘As a rule of thumb, the cheaper/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.’
Matt Walls said in the July 2017 issue of Decanter magazine ‘For a red wine, much warmer than 18°C is too high; its 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.’
How long to chill red wine for
Evans 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.
Ideally, chilled red wines are served at a temperature around 13 – 16°C (55 – 60°F).
‘But chilling emphasises tannin and oak – so be careful to serve a well-structured red only a few degrees cooler than usual,’ says Evans.
Walls agrees ‘Much below 12°C and aromas and flavours become muted, tannins take on an astringent quality and the wine can feel unpleasantly tight.’
Walls’ quick tips for chilling red wines
- 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 overchilling 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. Alternatively, use a decanter with an ice compartment
- 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
Best red wines to chill:
A beautifully pastoral wine from a stalwart of minimal intervention Beaujolais – joyful, but far from frivolous. Fleshy, textured black cherry and aromatic turned earth flow from this natural and effortless expression of Morgon.
Renán Cancino rejects modern technology while turning his ancient, granite-grown País into a profoundly delicious wine. His lo-fi approach creates an aromatically wild wine with a tight, crystalline, saline finish. For thrill-seekers rather than purists.
Kesseler makes gorgeous Spätburgunders, and 2012 was a great year for German Pinot; his entry level N Pinot Noir is still going strong. Lively cherry fruit and a touch of pine sap; highly refreshing.
A thrilling modern expression of Garnacha from granite soils high in the Gredos mountains near Madrid. A lightly extracted, pale red that shimmers with saline red berry fruits. Elegant, mineral and refreshing.
2015 was a stunning vintage in Crozes-Hermitage. This has appetising aromas of smoky bacon, black olive and herbs – intense fruit, but no heaviness. Beautifully tailored, and cut from exquisite Crozes cloth.
This has discreet red berries on the nose and a most wonderful mouthfeel – smooth like silk pyjamas. Perfectly balanced, authentic and honest. Quietly unforgettable.
100% Mencia from a schistous single vineyard above the river Sil. Fresh and juicy with plenty of impact, despite its lightness of body. The compelling floral/peppery nose is irresistible.
Cherry in colour and flavour, this is a pale, fine-boned, mineral Grignolino. Light-bodied, with fine yet structured tannins, it's bright, vivid and perfectly balanced; as if drawn in red ink with a pin-point fountain pen.
The highest of the 10 Beaujolais crus, Chiroubles can be light, but not this exceptional 2015. Generously fruited, but not over-extracted, this is refined and beautifully proportioned. Fresh and perfectly balanced, pure silk. Great value.
A blend of esoteric local varieties grown on volcanic soils overlooking the Atlantic on Tenerife. Crunchy, spicy cranberry fruit and a tactile textural grain makes this sublimely drinkable and refreshing.
English Pinot Noirs take well to light chilling. This highly successful Kentish example has pretty and defined cherry and redcurrant aromas with underlying herbal freshness. Light, fine and pure.
A lovable biodynamic Pinot produced without any additives by Norwegian ex-footballer Dag Johan Sundby. Bags of juicy Victoria plum and strawberry fruit pepped up with peppery spice.
Closer to rosé than red, slightly cloudy. Made from 60 to 100 year old Nerello Mascalese bush vines grown on Mount Etna. Dangerously drinkable with vibrant acidity and a fine mineral streak, sketched out with great flair.
Agreeably strict tannins help rein in the dark, fleshy fruits here; bramble and black cherry with liquorice and violets. Finishes dry and precise. A very drinkable, well-made Dolcetto – buttoned up and tucked in.
The fruit is pure black cherry, both fresh and in compote. Joyfully uncomplicated, with a light, juicy texture. Vibrant, but balanced, acidity adds to the overall sense of precision. A delicious Zweigelt.
Medium-bodied Syrah, with the flowing silky red fruits indicative of its Bridge Pa and Woodthorpe origins. Aromas of violet, peony, raspberry, cranberry, sandalwood and star anise. Not terribly long, but expressive, vivid and detailed.
Based around the local Souson grape, this is deeply coloured with figgy fruits and fairly dense texture. It's relatively full-bodied for chilling, but it works thanks to the snappy acidity, clarity of plum and blueberry flavour and crunchy tannin.
Unburdened by unnecessary winemaking and clearly an excellent vintage, this Cabernet Franc has strawberry and raspberry fruit with underlying bramble bush. A healthy dose of crunchy, youthful tannin completes the package.
A winning blend of 85% Agiorgitiko and 15% Syrah from unirrigated hillside vineyards. It has a smooth mouthfeel leading to a tapered finish, overlaid with blackberry and blackcurrant leaf aromas. Straight, grippy, harmonious and well-crafted.
Remarkably complex: vibrant and defined ripe black cherry, black olive, liquorice and fresh pear. More foaming than sparkling, with well-balanced acidity and a lasting, authentic fresh fruit flavour.
Between a red and a rosé, this Stellenbosch Cinsault is made by carbonic maceration, producing a light, floral, peppery cranberry aroma, lightweight tannic chassis and just 10% alcohol. A real thirst-quencher.
Refosco is a good option for light chilling thanks to its brightness of fruit teamed with tangy acidity. This has bright black cherry and plum fruit and finishes with a cleansing tannic draw.
A lightly floral Mencia from 80 year old vines in Bierzo, with vibrant raspberry and clove in a supporting role. Just as light and vibrant on the palate with piercing acidity and fine tannin.
Herbal cherry and pomegranate aromas, discreet fine tannins and a slap of fruity acidity make this Nero d’Avola/Frappato blend a great option for chilled summer drinking. Uplifting and refreshing.
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