Yes, you most definitely can drink red wines chilled. Some styles even taste better with a light chill.
This probably isn’t the best way to enjoy that 2005 claret you’ve been lovingly ageing, but chilling down lighter styles of red that have good primary fruit, a light body and low levels of tannin and alcohol can be a great alternative to whites and rosés in the summer months.
Scroll down to see tasting notes for 20 red wines to drink chilled
Best red wine styles to serve chilled
- Beaujolais and other wines made from Gamay from areas such as the Loire Valley, Oregon or South Africa
- Valpolicella Classico or wines made with Corvina grapes
- Lighter styles of Pinot Noir
- Some Loire Valley Cabernet Franc
- Wines made using carbonic maceration
- Wines made from the Pais grape
- Trousseau or Poulsard from the Jura
Winemaking style is important when considering the best red wine serving temperature, and it’s best to avoid chilling red wines that are significantly oaked.
The list below highlights the perfect red wines to chill in the summer, across a range of price points and from a variety of regions around the world.
What you need to know about chilling red wine
Simple, fruit-forward red wines will take well to being served cool or lightly chilled. Be wary of tannins, which can be accentuated by cooler temperatures, as can overt oak character. The fresher and lighter the wine, the more it will benefit from being served chilled.
A red wine that is pale in colour can indicate that it will benefit from a light chill, because it suggests lighter extraction in the cellar and therefore lower levels of tannin.
Focus on young wines that have fresh acidity and juicy, fruity flavours rather than savoury characters, as a light chill will make them even more crunchy and thirst-quenching.
How long to chill red wine
Summer reds can be served at 10°C-16°C (50°F-60°F).
A bottle with 30 minutes of chill time in the fridge before serving will be immediately more refreshing.
Be careful not to over-chill the wine, as this will mute the aromas and flavours and make the tannins seem more astringent and drying.
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.
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 the flavours come into focus, the alcohol becomes less apparent, the structure tightens up and the wine is more refreshing to drink.
Quick tips for chilling red wines in a hurry
Advice from Decanter correspondent Matt Walls
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 cooling 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.