Drinking red wines slightly chilled can be a great alternative to crisp whites or rosés during the summer months and, while you might think twice about doing this with a classified growth Bordeaux, there are plenty of options out there.

What are your main options when looking to drink red wines chilled? As a general rule, you’ll be better off with lighter styles of red with a good dose of primary fruit and without too much tannin.

Five styles to consider chilling:


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Sarah Jane Evans MW, co-chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards, says that ‘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.’

If price seems a bit of blunt instrument, then consider being wary of tannin and over-use of new oak. 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.

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).

red wines to chill

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. ‘Much below 12°C and aromas and flavours become muted, tannins take on an astringent quality and the wine can feel unpleasantly tight,’ he said.

He also highlighted other situations that might require chilling a bottle of red wine. Even for full bodied reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, it’s important to stop the wine getting too warm before serving.

‘For a red wine, much warmer than 18°C is too high,’ said Walls. ‘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.’

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 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. 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:

The following wines have been tasted by Decanter’s experts.