Chilled red wine? You must be...deadly serious


IMAGINE for a moment that the English weather hasn’t let you down, that you’re basking in the sunshine of a glorious late summer (or early autumn) day. You want the refreshment of a white wine but you’re more of a red drinker. You could reach for the rosé but I want to propose something a bit more adventurous – chilled red wine.

As the temperature of a wine goes down, the volatile molecules that comprise the aroma find it harder to escape the surface and find their way to your nostrils, the wine smells less (bear this in mind the next time you ask for your Montrachet ice-cold), at the same time the astringent tannins become more and more pronounced (picture a cold cup of strong tea). A simple rule follows: the more tannic a wine, the warmer to drink it (within reason, no wine tastes good much above 20°). Conversely, a less structured wine can often be served cooler.

Tannin comes from the skins of the grapes as do the related compounds that provide colour, so the depth of colour of a wine is a good guide to how tannic it is and how suitable it is for a spell in the ice bucket.

Enough science, what does it mean in the real world?

Pinot Noir is the perfect candidate; simple Burgundy, Red Sancerre, German Spätburgunder, lighter versions from New Zealand. They all make charming summer drinking (in the case of the Kiwi wines a judicious chilling can tame their sometimes excessive alcohol, too).

Beaujolais works well too, particularly lighter wines such as Brouilly, Fleurie or Chiroubles.

Next time the sun comes out why not pop a bottle of red in the fridge? Don’t be shy about asking the waiter in your favourite restaurant to pop it on ice for you either. Chill out!

Follow Andrew on Twitter @LutyensWine