I love chilling red wines, yet no matter how many times I do it, there’s always a wrinkled eyebrow of suspicion when I serve them to my guests. Until they taste them – then it’s all too easy to revel in the fruity flourishes of lighter, youthful reds served cool – just twenty minutes in the fridge is a gastronomic game-changer.
The effect of chilling draws red wine into focus on a hot day. By the barbecue or on holiday you know what it’s like to sip what feels more like soup than vino – the structure collapses, the flavours feel brackish and the wine slumps into a fug. But dunk the bottle into an ice bucket and revival is rapid. And it makes even more sense when reflecting on the very concept of room temperature which would have been considerably different just a few decades ago before central heating roasted us all into submission. On most of my winery visits, especially to southern hemisphere wineries, reds are served nearer to 16 degrees than 20 and hot holidays to countries such as Greece (whose wines are a pet passion of mine) serving cheap and cheerful reds anything less than cool feels out of place. Of course context has a lot to do with it, but so does the occasion – and the style of wine. If I’m serving a rich red such as Argentinean Malbec or an aged savoury red like a Rioja Gran Reserva I’d avoid chilling. As a rule of thumb, avoid reds above 13.5% alcohol. Look out for lighter grapes such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, Dolcetto, Cabernet Franc and my favourite Greek Xinomavro (you say it Zi-NOH-mav-roe) which all bring out their fruity refreshment after a plunge in an ice bucket. Anywhere between 12 and 16 degrees is the target, any lower and you mute the wine like turning down the volume on your kitchen disco – a crime in my book. And if you’re in a hurry, 10-15 minutes in the freezer is fine, just set an alarm on your smartphone to remind you to rescue it or you’ll end up with a red wineberg. And if your red is very cheap and very cheerful, try making Tinto de Verrano – half red wine, half lemon Fanta, Sprite or 7Up, loads of chopped summer fruits, slices of citrus and bags of ice. Cool, easy and spot on for summer.
OLLY’S PICK OF THE BUNCH
Beaujolais Clerget 2019 (13%) £5 Morrisons: A cherry polished to a mirror, this refreshing red is spot on to chill and savour – incredible for five quid.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bio Bio Chilean Pinot Noir Gran Reserva 2018 (13.5%) £8.50: Sophisticated red that’s rich in flavour – decant this Pinot and cool it in the fridge door to serve with chargrilled tuna steaks.
Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vignes Xinomavro 2018 (13%) £10.95 The Wine Society: From one of the best winemakers in Greece, this is Pinot Noir meets Nebbiolo with a fruity-savoury frisson. Outstanding wine.
Lalama Dominio do Bibei 2015 (13%) £23.95 BBR.com: Stunning fragrance and clove-like depth with a brilliant bitter twist, serve cool with charcuterie and chuckle with glee.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Ca’Viola Dolcetto d’Alba Vilot 2019 (13.5%) £15.50 hhandc.co.uk: Sleek as a puma, finer than silk, this is light vibrant red with a splendid fruity sheen after twenty minutes in the fridge. Irresistibly splendid!