Yes, you can chill red wine. There, I said it. We are in that transitional period, where it is warm enough that we still want to sip on something cool and chilled, yet we see autumn just around the corner, and want to transition to a wine with a bit more weight. So go ahead and pop a bottle of red wine in the cooler. It’s the perfect time of year for nice, light chilled red wines.
As summer winds down, consider switching from crisp white wines to more refreshing light bodied reds. The key is to think about thin-skinned, low-tannin grape varietals. Not those big Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that you have aging in your cellar, but your lighter red wines.
Who chills red wines? Chill out; it is perfectly acceptable. Many of us stick to the rules and only chill white wines, but some rules are meant to be broken. Chilling a light-bodied red wine can be wonderfully refreshing. It has become fashionable and very much in vogue for winemakers to producer lighter red wines meant for chilling (Matthiasson & Stolpman). Many wine bars across the country serve Gamay and Cabernet Franc chilled.
Not all red wines are created equal, so be sure to look for red grapes varietals that are lighter body, lower in tannins and have a good fruit profile. Sometimes, something as simple as the color is a good indication that it is chill-able. A light-colored red wine often will be.
Another element to consider when chilling your red wine, is to consider how it is made. Some of the best wines to chill are those made with carbonic maceration, whereby whole clusters of grapes are fermented with carbon dioxide. This process gives the wine lightness, freshness and wonderful fruit. How the wine is fermented is also a factor — look for wines that are made in stainless steel or concrete. Chilling a red wine that is made with heavy oak influences will only make the wine more astringent and woody on the palate.
How long should you chill wines? Pop a bottle of red wine in the refrigerator for 45 minutes before serving, or immerse in an ice bucket for 15 to 20 minutes. This will bring out the acidity and fruit profile, making the wine more refreshing. Be sure not to over chill; this will cause the wine to shut down and the fruit flavors become more muted.
Consider a chilled red like Gamay, Pinot Noir, Grenache or a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc. Be sure to avoid big tannic grape varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon or Barolo, as the cooling will only exaggerate the tannins and alcohol:
- Gamay: Gamay from Beaujolais is the OG wine for chilling. Bringing down the temperature of this wine enhances the bright fruit profile that is bursting with berries and spice.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noirs are the most versatile for chilling, choose a Pinot from Oregon and California that is light bodied and fruit forward. With a bit of cooling, notice the enhanced dark cherries and cola flavors emerge.
- Grenache: Grenache from Spain or France are a great choice for chilling. Grenache can be wonderfully aromatic after a light chill.
- Cabernet Franc: Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley tends to be slightly lower in alcohol, making it a good candidate for chilling. Cooling down a bottle of Cabernet Franc makes the wine soft and easy to drink. Cabernet Franc has more structure, so it is ideal for those that want more body in their wines.
You don’t need to limit yourself to just these four varietals; consider chilling Frapatto, Lambrusco, Blaufränkisch, Bonardo, Dolcetto and Barbera, too.