Chilled Red Wine
something different this summer. When you fill the picnic
cooler with beer, wine and soft drinks, toss in a couple
of bottles of red wine — yes, red.
While conventional wisdom recommends serving reds at cellar
temperature (60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit), there are a
host of choices that are delightful when served, like whites,
at 45 to 55 degrees (achieved by about half an hour in
a refrigerator or 15 minutes in ice water).
About ten years ago, a bibulous summer excursion
led to the Loire
Valley. In a region well-known for its
pungent and mineral-tinged whites, a local bistro owner
suggested something different, even though it was July:
the chilled Sancerre red.
was terrific — delicate, fruity but dry, and with
no puckering tannins, reminiscent of Beaujolais, another
red that benefits from cooling. After this, the idea of stocking up on wines for summer came to mind. Despite what many wine professionals say,
white wine does not complement hamburgers, barbecued ribs
or coleslaw. The strong flavors overwhelm delicate whites.
Red is the way to go. Thus began the search for the best
examples of summer reds from around the world.
a few observations. As you chill red wine, especially those
that have aged in wood, the fruit recedes and the tannins
intensify, making it puckery, so look for wines with little
or no wood aging.
In addition, they should be as young as possible and low
in alcohol — less than twelve percent is best. Most
of these come from cooler climates. Grape types for chillable
reds vary, although soft and unassertive varieties are
the best, such as Pinot
Gamay, Dolcetto and Grenache.
surprisingly, the richest crop of chillable reds hails from
France. Beaujolais is a natural. It is traditionally served
a little cool, maybe 10 minutes refrigerated. But if you’re
going to break the rules, you might as well go all out. Leave
it in the fridge for half an hour. Two excellent choices
are the elegant Louis Jadot Fleurie Beaujolais and the Barton & Guestier
Beaujolais. Other French wines to look for are the vibrant
and refreshing 2004 Leon Beyer Pinot Noir d'Alsace and the
drier and more concentrated 2005 Clos de la Lysardière
Many Italian reds are brawny fellows, ill-suited to cooling,
with the exception of those made from the Dolcetto grape,
which is often compared to the Gamay of Beaujolais. Worth
trying is the Marchesi di Barolo Dolcetto D'Alba VI.
Valpolicella, from the cool Veneto region, yields a few
easy-drinking labels like the Bertani Valpolicella Valpantena
There don’t seem to be many suitable light reds from
where high alcohol levels and tannins prevail. One that
can be recommended comes from the always reliable Fetzer — its
juicy Valley Oaks California Zinfandel; in cooler
Oregon, Elk Cove turns out a soft and elegant Willamette
Valley Oregon Pinot Noir.
Zealand, known for its flinty sauvignon blancs and
bright chardonnays, began planting Pinot Noir about 20
years ago, not knowing what to expect; today it threatens
to take over the islands and is garnering high praise.
One to put on ice is the soft and fruity 2006 Oyster Bay
Pinot Noir; and you might want to compare it with the slightly
drier 2005 Oyster Bay Merlot.
So when you are grilling outdoors this summer, reach into
the cooler and serve your guests a frosty glass of red
wine — they'll be as delighted as they are surprised.