Your expert guide to chilling red wine
Dear readers, I sweat while writing. The cloudy dregs of my iced oatmeal latte condense on my desk. An ice cream truck just drove past my window, practically dripping with soft serve ice cream. Soon happy hour will be upon me. And I can’t wait for a glass of red wine; perhaps a youthful and fruity Tempranillo to take me away from my labors to the greener pastures of La Rioja.
But do I want to lap up a lukewarm drink right now? No I do not have. I wish my goblet of good juice was served cool and crisp – the metaphorical equivalent of standing under a mighty waterfall after a long, steep hike in the high desert. I want my red wine and I want it cold. Or as we say in the industry, ice.
The purists in your life have probably told you that red wines are best served at room temperature, unlike the whites, oranges, rosés and bubbles we more commonly associate with summer. But experts agree: this is a misconception. Or at least a very unreliable rule of thumb. In fact, most if not all red wines could benefit from a little time in the fridge.
Can you chill all red wines?
“You can and you should,” says Kilolo Strobert, wine expert and owner of Fermented Grapes in Brooklyn. Ambient temperature is an unstable benchmark, she says, and varies widely depending on where you live and the time of year. His advice: Almost all red wines should be at least slightly chilled between 57 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to get the most flavor out of your bottle, especially during the summer months. (Too much heat can literally cook your wine, making it less fruity and more like a sickly grape stew.) But that doesn’t mean all reds fall into the “chillable category,” says Strobert, which she describes as varieties that taste best served between 45 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Which wines are best cold?
Typically, when you chill a red wine, some flavors are muted and others are heightened, explains Roni Grinach, owner of natural wine distributor Roni Selects. Fruity notes tend to become more pronounced, while tannins — the bitter, astringent chemicals in red wine — tend to “shut down,” she says.
That means the best reds to drink cold are the lighter, younger varieties, like a pinot noir or a grenache. “These beauties are so refreshing with a thrill and are incredibly easy to drink,” says Josiah Baldivino, owner of Bay Grape Wine in Oakland and Napa, Calif. Additionally, “red wines that are made with less skin contact tend to act more favorably to deeper cooling,” adds Strobert.
On the other hand, heavy, dense, or oak-aged reds—the full-bodied Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignons, or Merlots you want to drink with a hearty winter casserole—are rarely enhanced at very cold temperatures. bass, says Ginach. If you chill reds like this too much, “the wine starts to taste disjointed and incomplete,” adds Strobert. The exceptions to this rule, she says, are bottles “that feature big fruity characteristics to combat muted tannins.”
How to chill wine without a thermometer?
The ideal temperature for a cool red is basically the same as a white, orange or rosé, says Ginach: “Cold but not ice cold.” In a standard refrigerator, leave the bottle for two and a half to three hours before serving.