When the weather starts to sizzle chilling reds can be such a cooling, enriching experience that we should be celebrating far more often
Chilling reds is common on the continent and when the weather starts to sizzle it can be such a cooling enriching experience that we should be celebrating far more often.
Rules of thumb are simple: stick to light-bodied reds with a minimum of new oak and generally youthful ones – stick to wines that are under two or three years old as a general guide.
Another broad rule is to favour pale reds lower in alcohol, generally stay below 13% – Cabernet Franc in the Loire’s Saumur-Champigny has been the traditional go-to choice of mine for years.
However, sometimes you find the odd bottle where the booze is a bit higher yet the fruit and finesse just suit being chilled, such as my Garnacha pick from Marks and Spencer.
Grape varieties that work best served chilled have thinner skins and therefore less tannin to dry your mouth. Chilling reds has the double effect of emphasising fruit flavours as well as tannin, so picking softer reds makes them easier to sip as an aperitif or with the lighter dishes we tend to favour in summer months from tomato and feta salads to ratatouille.
Gamay, the great grape behind Beaujolais, is a scented splendid example. Pinot Noir can be pricey, but pick bottles from Romania and be amazed by the quality to price ratio – chill it to bring out its primary fruity finesse.
Italian grapes such as Dolcetto and Frappato can do the business, along with certain examples of Greek Xinomavro, but my tip for the future is to look to English reds. Light on their fruit with serious quality, I reckon chilled reds should be a future specialism of these shores – as long as the sun continues to shine.