Red light GO
When looking for a wine to drink in the summer, you probably think there are only a couple options: white or rosé. I certainly used to, until I discovered chilled red—and I’m not talking about sangria. I mean a perfectly crisp, lighter-bodied red with a bit of a chill. It may sound off, and I’m sure you have lots of questions, like doesn’t red wine make you warmer? And isn’t red wine was supposed to be sipped at room temperature? Both are perfectly logical assumptions, but neither is necessarily correct.
“Chilled red wine is quite appropriate, especially in the summer,” Francine Diamond-Ferdinandi, Beverage Director at Officine Brera in Los Angeles, told me in an email. “The best red wines to be chilled are fruitier wines with good acidity and less or no tannins.” Diamond-Ferdinandi explained that the best chilled red wines are lower in alcohol and have a refreshing acidity, like a Beaujolais or a light Pinot Noir. Since these wines don’t have to be served cold and are pretty common grapes, starting your chilled red journey with a bottle of one of these is a good start, probably because you may even already have one on hand.
Of course, it’s relatively easy to find a bottle of Beaujolais or Pinot Noir at your local liquor store. However, if you happen to find yourself at a shop that specializes in more off-the-beaten-path wines, you might be able to find a bottle that’s a bit more unique. Noble Hill, a wine estate in Simonsberg-Paarl, South Africa, made their Cruxes Mataro Nova with the intention of serving it chilled. A carbonic macerated red, this wine was made by essentially placing whole bunches of grapes directly into the tank, during which an enzymatic fermentation occurs inside each grape.
“Carbonic maceration is typically used to give wines lighter, fruitier aromas,” Kristopher A. Tillery, Proprietor of Noble Hill, told me in an email. “My idea for Cruxes is to make a chilled red that is refreshing and light.”
If you can’t get your hands on a bottle like Noble Hill’s Cruxes, Tillery (like Diamond-Ferdinandi) recommends chilling lighter bodied wines you can find more readily, like a Gamay or Cinsault. When it comes to drinking a chilled red during the day, Tillery recommends pairing the drink with salty or spicy dishes, like savory french toast, steak with black beans, or vegetable-filled pastries.
Both Diamond-Ferdinandi and Tillery told me that chilled reds make for easy drinking in the summer (Tillery even noted that “alcohol can dominate the palate at hot temperatures”). If you do plan to chill a red and can’t find a bottle of one of the wines already mentioned, simple stick to something fruit-forward and light; Diamond-Ferdinandi and Tillery both advised against chilling higher alcohol wines with oak-contact. Save the Malbec for fall, pass on the frosé, and start making some room in the fridge.