Chilling Reds - Should We Do It?

Chilling Reds - Should We Do It?

March 01, 2018

Wine isn’t strictly seasonal which is great for us: when it’s cold we reach for a glass of red - something warming, velvety and luxurious. When hot, we want something juicy, crisp and refreshing - preferably chilled. The good thing is, you can have your wine and drink it too!

It’s true that most reds taste their best when at a slightly cool temperature, but some red varieties can take better to chilling than others. Chilling whites has always been relatively straightforward, being a typical go-to drink on a hot summer's day. Reds on the other hand require a little bit more care when cooling, getting them to the right temperature isn’t quite so easy as chucking them in the fridge! Fortunately there are a couple of tips and tricks to make the process easier. But first, should you really chill any red wine?!

Which reds are best kept cool?

You’ll be surprised by the answer… it’s actually all of them!

You may have heard the myth that red wines should only be served and drunk at room temperature. What does room temperature mean these days, though? Well between 9am and 10pm it means a comfy short-sleeved shirt temp, if you’re indoors. Going back many years, room temperatures coincided with drinking temperatures - the days when we didn’t have central heating, insulation and all the creature comforts of modern living.

For a red wine, anything warmer than 18°C is too high: the flavours become blurred and soupy, its structure softens and alcohol becomes more noticeable. Slightly chilled reds have their flavours come into focus and alcohol flavour becomes less apparent, which results in the wine becoming more refreshing to drink. Over-chilled wines, say below 12°C, the aromas and flavours become muted, tannins take on a sharp quality and the wine can start to taste unpleasant. Though all reds appreciate a little chilling, some do benefit more than others.

Tips on choosing a red to chill  

  • Aim for cooler regions: they are typically a safer bet than hotter ones. New Zealand is a great example of this; others would include Austria, Germany, northern or western France, northern Italy, northwest Spain, coastal Chile, South Africa, etc.
  • Look for the right grape varieties. Winning ones such as Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cinsault, Corvina, Dolcetto, Gamay, Grenache, Mencía, Pinot Noir, and Syrah also do well when on the chillier side of normal.
  • A pale colour in the wine is also a great indicator - it suggests the wine has undergone a light extraction and won’t be intensely concentrated
  • The type of wine is more important than the region or grape, go for a light or medium-bodied styled wine with fresh acidity and fine tannins - and check the label or ask your local wine boutique if you’re unsure.
  • Chilling young wines works a lot better than older ones as they have juicy, fruity ,which work a lot better than savoury notes.  
  • Avoid heavily oaked wines -  oak tannins quickly appear dry and astringent when chilled.
  • The lower the alcohol the better, they tend to be more thirst-quenching by their very nature.  
  • Slightly sweet fruit reds can work well, as the sweetness is lessened at cooler temperatures.

5 quick tips to chilling reds

If you don’t have a dedicated wine fridge (and let's face it, most of us don’t!), use the below guidelines to help you when you’re thinking about chilling a nice drop of red.

  • Place the bottle in a bucket of water with some ice for about 10-15 minutes. Keep in mind you need to be careful not to overchill the wine - so take regular sips (it helps, and is also delicious!).
  • When in a rush, popping a bottle in the freezer for 8-10 minutes could be your solution - but a more gentle method is a far better idea, if you have the time.
  • A cool sleeve can be another great option to keep around. We always have one in the freezer for those picnics or trips out, for white wine, Rosé or bubbles - but can be great to lightly chill a red, too. Pop the wine straight from the rack into the sleeve and you're off.
  • If you have stored your wine at 20°C you can always pop it straight into the fridge for 25-30 minutes. Setting a timer is vital, so you don’t forget to take it out! (And yes, we’ve all been there).
  • Use a plastic or metal wine cooler to keep the temperature at an even low temp once it’s out of the fridge or freezer.

Now you have it! Pick a nice red and try it slightly chilled - we’ll bet that you’re pleasantly surprised. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter to stay in the know with all things vino.


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