Tag Archives: chilled reds

Chilling Red Wine?

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brouillyDrink white wine chilled, red wine at room temperature.  Isn’t that the first thing every wine lover is told?  But is it always true?  I’d say it’s not necessarily as simple as that.  To start with, you’re the customer – if you prefer your Chablis warm and your Claret straight from the fridge, why shouldn’t you have it that way?  (Just don’t expect me to spend time drinking with you!)

In the main, I prefer my white wines chilled, although not – as some people serve them – so cold that any taste is frozen out of them.  But, as for red wines, I think we need to look behind the idea of serving at ‘room temperature’.  When this suggestion was made – at least a century ago, as far as I can make out – central heating was rare and most living rooms were, as a result, far cooler than we expect these days.  In fact, they were probably around 18 – 20˚C (64 – 68˚F), an ideal temperature to serve most red wine.  That’s not so now when 22 – 24˚C (71 – 75˚F) is, perhaps, more common.  So, you might argue that you shouldn’t serve red wines at today’s room temperature but slightly chill them instead; I say slightly chill them, not reduce them to a typical white wine temperature.

But there are a few reds that, personally, I would choose to drink even a bit cooler than this – and those are reds that are well suited to the very hot, sunny weather we have enjoyed (or not!) in Bristol for the last couple of weeks or so: light-bodied reds such as Beaujolais, Valpolicella, some Loire reds and some Pinot Noirs can all benefit from a half an hour in the fridge to bring them down to, perhaps, 14 – 16˚ C (57 – 61˚F).  I find the chilling makes them more refreshing without masking the flavours.

But, that’s my view.  If you want to drink your reds at present-day room temperature, then there’s nothing wrong in that; as I said before, you’re the customer and the customer is always right! 

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Wines for Summer

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“Can we have a tasting of wines for summer drinking?” a client asked me recently. Of course!  It gave me the chance to concentrate on refreshing, easy-drinking bottles – perfect for that picnic or barbie – or just for drinking chilled on their own in the garden.  And, because wines like these focus more on enjoyment than on deep appreciation of their finer points, they’re not usually that expensive; in fact, I bought all the wines in Majestic and none cost more than £8 (based on their offers for mixed cases of at least 6 bottles).

Summer WinesWe started with a Vinho Verde from northern Portugal: Quinta de Azevedo (£6.99) is a delightfully crisp and fresh white made from a blend of little-known local grapes.  To follow, something more floral and fragrant: Mayu’s dry Pedro Ximenez (PX) from Chile (same price).  This wine surprised me when I first tasted it as PX is more commonly found in Spain’s sherry region, where it’s mainly used for sweetening, yet, here, it shows a completely different (and most attractive) side to its character.

I can drink rosé at any time of year but there’s no denying that sales peak in the summer and so it was an obvious choice for this tasting.  I took along a couple: The Ned Pinot Rosé from New Zealand (£7.99) is an old favourite of mine – full of lovely summer berry fruit flavours – while Cune’s Rioja Rosado (a bargain at just £5.99) is simply a lighter, more delicate version of a young red from the region.

In warm weather, you’re usually looking for something you can serve cool and, of course, you can’t chill red wine – or can you?  I wouldn’t suggest putting your best claret in the fridge (but that’s hardly a wine for a summer picnic, anyway), but lighter reds such as Beaujolais or Valpolicella are actually better for a half hour chilling.  The same applies to Allegrini’s Tenuta di Naiano Bardolino (£7.49), from the next door region to Valpolicella, with its tangy flavours of bitter cherries.

And, finally, to barbecues.  An Australian Shiraz would be the choice of many – and I wouldn’t argue, but why not try a French example of the same grape?  Domaine les Yeuses ‘Les Épices’ Syrah (£7.99) is my choice – similar spicy, peppery flavours and lovely violet aromas.

So there we have it – my selection of wines for summer.  The group I ran the tasting for enjoyed them all, although the Vinho Verde just edged it in the final vote.  Try them – I hope you like them, too.