CHILLED RED WINES

The idea of chilling red wines has emerged as a popular trend across the globe, and it’s not just wine lovers that are getting stuck in. Bar and restaurant terraces are being filled with summer sippers enjoying the delights of aromatic and fresh reds served after a brief dalliance with an ice bucket. Chilling is traditionally reserved for whites and rosés, but red wines are now joining the “cool kids” party as it can highlight the wines’ refreshing and vibrant qualities.

The trend to chill red wines is particularly appealing during the warmer summer months, especially when looking for a crisp and invigorating alternative to room-temperature reds for lunchtime or afternoon drinking. In this article we’ll be covering why this trend is happening now, why it’s actually a very established way of serving red wines, and which red wines in particular work well (and which not so well) with some brief chilling.

While it may seem like a modern trend, chilling red wine has been around since ancient times. The technology we have today to achieve desired serving temperatures, storage, and consumption is influenced almost entirely by how the natural environment was used back then. The ancient Greeks and Romans stored their wines in cellars or amphorae submerged in the ground or in cool water to maintain a refreshing temperature, especially in warmer climates. This often led to the wines being serving at naturally cooler temperatures than we do today, especially during the cooler times of the year.

In the Middle Ages, the monks and aristocrats of Europe stored wines in naturally cold underground cellars or caves. The wines were often served directly from these cellars meaning the wines were being served, almost inadvertently, chilled.

It’s also worth remembering that whether in ancient times or modern, winemakers in the warmer regions of the world have always reached for a refreshing drink at the end of a long day in the vineyards. In areas where the climate is more favorable to the production of red wines, it’s very common to have developed at least one or two local wines that are more than suitable, or rather, designed to be enjoyed cold.

Now we’ve attempted to normalize the chilled red, I suppose we should address the possible uptick in chilled reds. There are a couple of obvious reasons we can point to. Firstly, modern wine drinkers are increasingly open to experimentation with the wines they select and how they drink them. Whether that be innovative or reimagined winemaking processes (e.g. natural, orange/amber, and pét nat wines), or even which glassware to use, anything is up for grabs. As a whole, we are now exploring new ways to enjoy wines. The idea of chilling red wines to enhance certain flavors and aromatics is very much a part of that.

A relevant extension of that is the wonderful explosion and evolution of the food and wine pairing landscape. Chefs and sommeliers alike are drawn like moths to a flame, to the capabilities that chilled red wines offer. From summer salads to white grilled proteins, chilled reds are a worthy choice, and are enhancing their appeal to diners. Serving red wines chilled aligns with this broader trend of flexibility and innovation in culinary experiences.

So now that we know all of this, how do we put it into practice? What wines work well for this type of application? Any wine with low tannin — say Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Grenache — would be solid ground. Not only are they much softer in their tannic compounds, but the fruit characters they offer up work naturally with a little chill. Steer clear of bolder wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, or wines made to lay down/age, as the cold temperatures will only subdue their fruit, further enhancing the bitterness innate to their tannic structure.

And now, this month’s selections:

Le Fraghe, Bardolino, Veneto Italy 2023

All organic viticulture, certified and labeled high quality and easy to enjoy; Employs energy-efficient winemaking practices

What is wine for? I think most wine exists to make food taste good; we’ve forgotten this in the last few years, with the blockbuster era of dark, concentrated, ‘collectible’ red wines. Bardolino is the opposite, a wine for drinking with food, and Matilde Poggi at Le Fraghe makes a very good one.

The Bardolino growing area is between the base of Lake Garda and the hills where Valpolicella is grown, not far from Verona in northeast Italy. Matilde Poggi’s winery is outside the town of Affi. Her Bardolino contains more Corvina than normal at 80%; the remaining 20% being Rondinella (both varieties are indigenous). The grapes are estate-grown, organically, and the two varietals are picked and fermented separately. After being aged in stainless steel tanks, the wine is bottled in the spring. This wine would be overwhelmed if aged in oak, and the transparent winemaking style here is very capably assisted by the dynamic consulting winemaker Federico Giotto

Domaine Rolet, Rouge Tradition, Arbois, Jura France 2020

(60% Pinot, 35% Trousseau, 5% Poulsard)

It was Désiré Rolet who in 1942 began making wine in the small region of the Jura in eastern France. In 1958, his four children all decided to stay in the family business and took over from their father. Since that time, the domaine has risen in prominence in the region and acquired prime old vine vineyards in the appellations of Arbois and Côtes du Jura.

From the beginning, quality farming has been the focus. Today the domaine is undergoing a complete conversion to organic farming, which in their steep-sloped vineyards can be quite difficult indeed. No herbicides or pesticides are ever used, and the soils are constantly ploughed, creating beautiful, healthy vineyards.

Tinto Amorio, Glou Glou Jajaja, Zinfandel, Mendocino 2023

Tinot Amorio was launched with the aim to make natural skin contact wines organically, responsibly, and transparently (they even give you the nutritional values on the website). Made in a far less pretentious way than your average winery in California, they are based out of Healdsburg but source from vineyards throughout the state, and only work with organic-certified farmers.

This Zinfandel is 50% whole cluster and 50% de-stemmed. Half of the juice goes through a carbonic maceration and the other 50% sees traditional fermentation. Zero additives are used in the process, and of course only indigenous yeast is used. The wine is comprised of 95% Mendocino Zinfandel, 3% Colombard from Madera, and 2% Gewurztraminer from Paso Robles. It is neither filtered nor fined, and sees zero new oak, only large used foudres and stainless steel tanks. Lively and fresh, but still retaining the typical peppery warmth you’d expect from Zinfandel. Pair this with anything…..seriously, anything.