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A Definitive Guide to Chilled Reds

Crisp whites and fresh rosés are great in the summer, but we don’t have to stop drinking red wine just because the sun’s out.

Chilled red wine is something often written about among wine journos, but rarely seen in a restaurant environment. You certainly don’t see the option advertised very often. But light red wine is in fact best enjoyed at far lower temperatures than you’ll probably have ever been served – making it enjoyable across the year.

This doesn’t mean you should go and chuck your bottle of malbec in the freezer for a few hours though. Or even, for that matter, your pinot noir. Red wine perfect for chilling only needs a few gentle hours in the fridge or in an ice bucket to get it between 10-14 degrees. Any colder and all you’ll taste is tannins and acidity rather than those moreish fresh fruits. But get it right and you’ll have a wine that is refreshing, fruity and can still pair with a red-meat dinner, charcuterie platters or cheese.

Keen to go beyond your summer whites? Here’s everything you need to know.

What To Chill

Most red wine is actually served too warm, including the bolder reds.

“We often drink red wine too warm so a light chilling to just below normal room temp can actually benefit the wine, around 15-18 degrees,” says Dawn Davies, MW. “Warmth increases the feeling of alcohol in the wine and can make it feel unbalanced.”

Going too cold for a big red, however, will only bring up its tannins, so a quick 20 minutes in the fridge before opening will make a big difference, and you’ll find all the delicious fruit and perfume is more pronounced. Served too warm and the alcohol will leap out of the glass, making the flavours taste jammy and indistinct.

“How cool can you go? Especially if they are unoaked, 14C is no problem for lighter-bodied red grapes such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, Corvina, Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc,” writes Tim Atkin in The Guardian.

Add to that list the fresher, young Loire Valley reds, especially a chinon, and you have yourself a comprehensive list of light reds to try chilled. Anything light on tannin and body will work a treat, and if you’re one to enjoy wines in-venue, grab an aperitif while your red chills in a bucket. Easy.

DrinkUp's Guide to Chilling Red

  1. Grab yourself a light red wine, pinot noir or gamay are easiest to start with and where you’ll taste the biggest difference.
  2. Depending on what temperature your wine has been previously stored it may only need 30 minutes in the fridge or 15 minutes in an ice bucket. The best way to check is have a little sip as it chills.
  3. When it’s down to the right temperature and you’re pouring out the glasses, keep it cool for that second helping in an ice bucket with chilled water.